DIU at SXSW: Connecting Technology and Talent From Around the World for National Security


AUSTIN, TX – As the growing waypoint for where the Department of Defense builds tech sector relationships, investments, and ensures a coordinated outreach to industry, the SXSW 2024 conference in Austin, Texas (March 8-10) will include key events, talks, and opportunities to interact with leaders from the Defense Innovation Unit, the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), National Security innovation Capital (NSIC), and the Defense Innovation OnRamp Hubs, including technology projects, and more.

The week will also include the launch of a new joint innovation space at the Capital Factory. The joint workspace will enable innovation-focused entities to connect and collaborate in support of the DIU mission to rapidly deliver capabilities to maximize strategic impact. 

“Our presence in key technology ecosystems like Austin helps us identify the best technology and talent for national security,” said DIU Director, Doug Beck.

The conference is set to bring together a wide range of senior leaders, technologists, startups and private capital to discuss defense priorities and trending technologies that can help solve national and global security challenges. Events are aimed at helping cultivate and propel the defense innovation ecosystem with allies and partners by creating an uncommon opportunity to converge in the same place, at the same time, and with a shared purpose.

Friday, March 8

Panel: Next-Gen Defense: A Roundtable Discussion on Strategy & Innovation Details: Friday, March 8, 09:30 - 10:30 a.m., Capital Factory VOLTRON

Description: This compelling roundtable discussion brings together prominent leaders from across the defense sector for a thought-provoking dialogue about the next steps in defense strategy and technology. Exploring topics such as the integration of AI and wearables, the development of autonomous systems, and the role of strategic thinking in adapting to new global challenges, the participants — all of whom are key figures in shaping defense policies and technologies — will share their insights on navigating the complexities of modern defense scenarios and the importance of innovative approaches to ensure national and global security. Join us for an enriching and forward-looking discussion where these influential leaders will provide valuable perspectives on what lies ahead for defense innovation and how we can collectively prepare for the challenges and opportunities of the future.


  • Dr. Victoria Coleman

  • Melissa “Mojo” Johnson, Acquisition Executive, US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM)

  • Aditi Kumar, Deputy Director for Strategy, Policy, and National Security Partnerships Defense Innovation Unit (DIU)

  • Maria Proestou, Strategic Acquisition Advisor, Department of the Navy Research, Development, and Acquisition (RD&A)

Panel: AI/Autonomy with Dr. Victoria Coleman, Joined by Operators Panel

Details: Friday, March 8, 14:45 - 15:45, Capital Factory, 8th floor, Captain America

Description: In this keynote address, Dr. Victoria Coleman, Chief Scientist of the Department of the Air Force, will speak about the strategic importance of AI/Autonomy. Joining her on stage will be DAF Operators Major Victor Lopez, Donald Gansberger, Christina Botelho, and Sean Anderson (DIU) for a lively discussion around theory and practice.


  • Dr. Victoria Coleman, Chief Scientist, U.S. Air Force (Keynote)

  • Donald Gansberger, Software Manager, AFWERX Prime

  • Victor Lopez, Robotics Section Chief, AFWERX

  • Sean Anderson, Defense Innovation Unit

  • Ms. Kristina Botelho, Contracting Officer, USAF

Ribbon Cutting Event: Launch of New Joint Innovation Space at Capital Factory Details: Friday, March 8, 15:15 - 15:25, 8th Floor, Capital Factory

Description: Launch of joint innovation space featuring remarks by DIU Director, Doug Beck; founder of Capital Factory, Joshua Baer; the Director of AFWERX and the Chief Commercialization Officer for the Department of the Air Force, Col. Elliott J. Leigh.

Panel: Defense Innovation Community: Connecting the Ecosystem

Details: Friday, March 8, 15:30 - 16:30, Capital Factory, 8th Floor in Captain America

Description: Innovation Leaders share insight into how the Defense Ecosystem is ready to connect with commercial and academic innovators offering novel technology and solutions to address problem sets important to national security.


  • Ms. Karen Roth, Deputy Director of AFWERX

  • Lt. Col. Jennifer Warren, Military Deputy Director of AFWERX

  • Cassie Muffley, NSIN Acting Defense Innovation OnRamp Hub Program Director

  • Aditi Kumar, Deputy Director for Strategy, Policy, and National Security Partnerships, Defense Innovation Unit (DIU)

Lessons from Ukraine

Details: Friday, March 8 @ 4:00-4:45 PM Description: Support for Ukraine has drawn increased interest amongst the international community about the value of commercial technology in national security and military operations including drones, commercial satellite imagery, and more. Hear from operators first hand how commercial technology is reshaping the battlefield and is playing a critical role in future operations and conflicts.

Event: SXSW Startup Crawl at Capital Factory

Details: Friday, March 8, 17:00 - 21:00, 701 Brazos Street

Stop by our table and say hi to DIU, NSIN, NSIC, and the Defense Innovation OnRamp Hubs!

More info: https://house.capitalfactory.com/page/3141246/startup-crawl

Saturday, March 9

Event: DoD Innovation Community Technology Showcase: Transforming Pilot Training

Details: Saturday, March 9, 12:00 - 12:30, Capital Factory.

Description: From concept to cockpit, join us for a collaborative panel on how Defense innovation is leveraging the cutting-edge capabilities, scalability, and accessibility of commercial game engines to deliver modernized pilot flight training. Hear how the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and DET 24 under the U.S. Air Force Air Education and Training Command (AETC) are working with industry partners to better understand how virtual training technologies are playing an essential role in how the DOD maintains readiness. Take a ride in a high-fidelity, virtual aircraft presented by Vertex and Metrea and meet with the platform creators during the event. 

Moderator: Dustin Yee, Program Manager, Human Systems Portfolio, DIU


  • Dennis Wikoff, President & COO, Vertex Solutions

  • Justin Johnson, Chief Strategy, Metrea

  • U.S. Air Force Maj. Brandon “Trap” Wilde, DET 23, AETC

  • U.S. Air Force Capt. Michael “Gandalf” Blumberg, Instructor Pilot, 85th FTS, AETC

DODx "Open Door" Office Hours

Details: Saturday, March 9, 14:00-16:00, 8th Floor, Capital Factory 

Description: DIU and AFWERX host an "open door" for all DOD Office Hours at Capital Factory House during SXSW 2024. Participating organizations, programs, and partners include: DIU/NSIN/NSIC/Innovation OnRamp Hubs, GigEagle, Department of Navy SBIR/STTR, Department of Navy Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP), OUSD (R&E) Innovation & Modernization, Marine Innovation Unit, DARPA SBPO, Vertex Solutions and Metrea, NavalX. RSVP here (optional).

Panel: Venture Capital, What It Means For You, with Mike Dodd

Details: Saturday, March 9, 14:30 - 15:30, Capital Factory 8th Floor, Captain America

Description: SBIR/STTR funds are a great source of undiluted funds; however, often additional monies are needed to grow a firm and/or the development of technologies to get into the hands of the warfighter. Hear how Venture Capital may play a pivotal role in accelerating technology development. Learn how to engage with the Venture Capital community, how to prepare, and what to look for and expect from the relationship.


Sha-Chelle Manning (DARPA)


  • Mike Dodd (NSIC)

  • Graham “Gray” Chynoweth (NavalX)

  • Luke Walter (AFWERX)

  • Nancy Kamei (SBA)

  • Sherman Williams (AIN Ventures)

Sunday, March 10

Panel: Secret Squirrel: The Future of Defense and Intelligence

Details: Sunday, March 10, 10:00 - 10:30, 1st Floor, Voltron, Capital Factory

Moderator: Emily de La Bruyere


  • Doug Beck, Director, Defense Innovation Unit

  • John Beieler, Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Description: Join us to discuss the transformative role of technology in defense and intelligence with Defense leaders Doug Beck, Director, Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and Dr. John Beieler, Director of Science & Technology at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, as they explore the evolving landscape of national defense and intelligence in the age of rapid technological advancement. This session offers a deep dive into new initiatives with insights into how the DIU and the ODNI are collaborating with tech innovators and startups to embrace innovative technologies.

Reverse Pitch Showcase w/ Alex Campbell

Sun Mar 10, 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM CDT (1 Hour) Voltron - Floor 1 Dive in as government teams spotlight three real-world military problems in need of solutions. These interactive sessions remix the conventional pitch format, inviting fresh perspectives from a panel of industry experts on how to approach each challenge. All nine problems presented will then be open to the public, allowing technological innovators a chance to submit potential solutions as part of a funded opportunity.

Panel: “Greatest Innovator in the History of the World”

Details: Sunday, March 10, 11:30-12:30, Hilton Innovation Panel, Hilton Salon K (SXSW Stage) - Tech Industry Sponsor Session

Moderator: Adam Fisher, Author, Valley of Genius, Former editor at WIRED


  • Doug Beck, Director, Defense Innovation Unit

  • Dr. Stefanie Tompkins, Director, DARPA

  • Joe Felter, Founding member and director Gordian Knot Center, Stanford

Description: Defense innovation generates massive return for the country and society, as well as enabling researchers and entrepreneurs to create the biggest, most significant companies in the world. The session increases awareness of those outcomes, understanding of those opportunities, and inspires key audiences to be part of this winning team.

Panel: The Future of Finding, Contracting, and Funding DoD Innovation

Details: Sunday, March 10, 12:00 - 13:00 at Capital Factory, AAL Room, 8th floor

Moderator: Adam Rentschler, CEO, Valid Eval (last year’s host of the Future of DoD Innovation Conference).


  • Cheryl Ingstad, Deputy Director, Digital Platforms & Developer Ecosystem, DIU

  • Andy Yakulis, Director, Investor and Industry Outreach Office of Strategic Capital 

  • Bonnie Evangelista, acting DCDAO for acquisitions

Description: This panel brings together leaders from some of the most innovative programs to share best practices with government acquisitions and innovation professionals to show government leaders : (1) How DIU finds and works with dual-use companies and what lessons can be applied to other government programs; (2) Understand how CDAO has applied a novel approach to OTAs, collapsing source selection to less than a month; and (3), how the Office of Strategic Capital flows funding to winners and how other programs can position themselves to benefit.