Innovator Stories

Venture Feature: William Allen ’14GSAS, Harpoon Ventures

Join us as we catch up with venture capitalists in the Columbia alumni network who are defining the next generation of investments.

 

What is the focus of Harpoon

Harpoon is an early-stage venture capital firm that exclusively co-invests with top-tier venture firms in commercially-focused Seed through Series B enterprise tech startups with federal market applicability. Having closed nearly half-a-billion dollars in government contracts for our portfolio, Harpoon has built a reputation on Sand Hill Road as the go-to fund with federal insights. We have ~$200MM AUM and are investing out of Fund III.

What made you interested in starting a fund? 

As a veteran US Marine Officer, I saw the failures of government technology deployed at scale overseas, first hand. In response, I decided to raise a venture fund with my co-founder, Larsen Jensen, a veteran Navy SEAL himself, in 2018 because we both saw a massive disconnect between the government and Silicon Valley. For example, the government says it wants access to best-in-class American entrepreneurs and technologies, but a vast majority of its multi-trillion dollar budget goes to the same handful of incumbents that it has gone to for decades and decades. As a result, the government is now known for having inadequate and grossly overpriced technology that damages the pockets of taxpayers and needlessly risks the lives of American personnel overseas. Larsen and I saw an opportunity to bridge the gap between the two spaces in bringing together companies that otherwise don’t think of the government as a customer until much later in their growth cycle, and government buyers who are desperate for new and creative solutions.

What is an emerging trend or investment area that’s particularly exciting to you right now?

The new space industry is exciting across the board. Key innovations are being made in launch and recovery, navigation, payload and space travel, which up until this point was exclusively the domain of the federal government. Personally, I am keen on advancements in additive manufacturing and propulsion, or said another way, 3D-printed reusable rocket engines and fuel cells. An equally exciting area of interest is sustainable biochemical research and the proliferation of green industrial chemicals. Next generation chemical production from venture-backed startups is solving some of the largest contributing factors to climate change.

What is a company you’ve invested in that you are very excited about, that others should be excited about too? 

Solugen is a Founders Fund and Harpoon Ventures-backed green chemicals company that is using synthetic biology to make specialty chemicals at industrial scale. Aside from a humble and extremely capable founding team, Solugen has built a technology that has changed the paradigm in chemical manufacturing; customers no longer have to choose between efficacy and environmental impact. As an investor, it’s easy to get excited for founders and businesses whose positive impact on the world is so clear.

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