Some days ago, Harpoon Ventures, a San Diego, CA-based early-stage venture capital firm, announced the launch of its third $125m institutional fund. In conjunction with the launch, Larsen Jensen, the founder and GP of the firm, replied to our questions about himself, the firm and their strategy, and a lof ot many other things.
FinSMEs: Hi Larsen, can you please tell us a bit more about you? What’s your background?
I’m Larsen Jensen, the founder of Harpoon Ventures, a venture capital firm that specializes in backing early-stage technologies with applications in both commercial markets and the U.S. government.
A bit about my background—I am a former Navy SEAL, a two-time Olympian, having earned silver and bronze medals in swimming, and the current American record holder in the 400-meter freestyle.
After my Olympic and military career, I had the privilege of learning from industry heavyweights such as Andreessen Horowitz and Lightspeed Venture Partners—both of whom were instrumental as the first investors in our inaugural fund years ago. Moving into the venture world was a natural progression as it focused on the same intangible attributes: unrelenting work ethic, teamwork, discipline, focus, risk management, and determination. This mentality is my core driver and it taught me that there’s no sidestepping the hard work.
FinSMEs: Can you introduce Harpoon?
Harpoon Ventures is a venture firm founded in 2018 in Southern California. We pride ourselves on being in the trenches with our founders, putting in countless hours to uncover market intelligence, manage risk, and evaluate business strategies.
We recently announced the launch of our third institutional fund—a $125 million raise. Our latest fund brings us to an AUM (assets under management) of $300 million. As an enterprise Seed and Series A-focused venture capital firm, this drives forward our investments in AI, deep tech, cyber security, enterprise infrastructure, and more.
FinSMEs: What is your overall strategy?
Markets shouldn’t have a single point of failure and neither should venture capital. The lack of companies going public slows the fundraising cycle—but the opportunity is there for companies and portfolios to grow in the private and public sectors.
Investors are tightening their belts and looking for the “outlier advantage” to ensure their capital is invested in the opportunities of today, not yesterday. Harpoon was designed with bear markets in mind, acknowledging that while investing is straightforward in bull markets, it’s the outliers connected to the evolving flow of capital that holds a strategic advantage. Our unique approach emphasizes diversity and adaptability as core strengths in navigating the dynamic landscape of venture capital.
We’ve played a crucial role in securing approximately $500 million in new customer deals from Fortune 500 companies and government clients for our portfolio. Additionally, we’ve directly facilitated the syndication of nearly $1 billion in follow-on financings, showcasing our commitment to the sustained growth of the companies we support.
FinSMEs: Beyond capital, how do you support startups?
While being an active teammate might sound like a cliché in the world of venture capital, at Harpoon, we embrace it authentically. We thrive on collaborating closely with our founders, working side-by-side. This approach not only keeps us attuned to evolving trends but also allows us to deliver tangible value to our portfolio.
There’s no shortcut to success, and even before formal partnerships, we willingly invest numerous hours to uncover market intelligence, manage risks, and assess business strategies. Our commitment goes beyond rhetoric.
FinSMEs: What do you like to see in founders? What don’t you like to see in them? Is there something that impresses you at first glance?
We are deeply committed to supporting the next generation of technology that will positively change the fabric of the world. When evaluating founders, we seek individuals who share this vision and are driven by a passion to bring about transformative change. We value founders who demonstrate a keen understanding of shifting trends and a commitment to putting in the hard work necessary for success. Our ideal founders are not just innovators; they are collaborators who thrive in the challenging landscape of the tech industry.
FinSMEs: Tell us a bit more about the portfolio. What are five startups that have made you particularly proud?
Our portfolio includes standout companies that we’re incredibly proud to have supported early on. Five notable startups are Astranis, Solugen, Genesis Therapeutics, Robust Intelligence, and Material Security.
- Astranis: A trailblazer in satellite technology, Astranis is developing small, cost-effective telecommunications satellites to connect the four billion people on Earth without internet access.
- Solugen: Solugen is making waves by manufacturing bio-based solutions that replace traditional chemicals derived from petroleum and natural gas, contributing to a more sustainable future.
- Genesis Therapeutics: At the intersection of AI and biotech, Genesis Therapeutics is dedicated to discovering groundbreaking treatments for patients facing severe and devastating conditions.
- Robust Intelligence: Specializing in AI risk management, Robust Intelligence provides end-to-end solutions that proactively address security, ethical, and operational risks.
- Material Security: Focused on reducing risk in critical areas within Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace environments, Material Security offers unified email protection, risk analytics, and data loss prevention.
These startups showcase the diverse and impactful ventures within our portfolio, each contributing to positive change in their respective fields.
FinSMEs: Which sector/s would you bet 2 cents in the next five years?
- U.S. defense tech: the market is expected to grow as the U.S. government has significantly increased funding for defense science and technology programs. This investment focuses on emerging technologies crucial to defense, such as artificial intelligence, microelectronics, hypersonic, and directed energy systems. Despite these investments, the lack of production contracts for early-stage defense tech ventures may cause investor unease. This is because while funding for research and development is robust, transitioning these innovations into operational and commercially viable products remains a challenge.
- Robotic learning: this area is rapidly advancing, with various teams approaching the problem from different angles, hinting at the possibility of general-purpose robots. The integration of AI, including generative AI, is critical in this development, although the hardware for general tasks is still evolving.
- Generative AI tools: we’re already seeing explosive growth that has led to its adoption in a variety of business functions, with organizations increasing AI investment. The growth of multimodal AI, integrating voice, video, and text capabilities, is transforming business operations, offering growth opportunities across the generative AI stack. Multimodal AI is evolving from cognitive search and recommendation to more creative and generative capabilities, allowing it to tackle more complex tasks and provide holistic solutions.