Welcoming Tony “T2” Thomas to Lux

Jan 13, 2020 · 5 min read
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Ret. 4-star General Tony “T2” Thomas

The very best members of the Lux family are able to lead teams through high-stakes situations and deftly maneuver under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

We’ve partnered, through ups and downs, with ambitious founders who’ve been through the good and bad and have seen it all. Some started with grand plans sketched on a whiteboard, were rejected repeatedly and often rudely by unconvinced investors — yet they eventually persevered to prove pessimists and doubters wrong, ultimately going on to gargantuan exits. Others have been hoisted high by the alluring mirage of early surefire success only to falter when faced with misfortune, layoffs, payroll freezes and finally shut down. We’ve seen strokes of clever genius and dumb luck. We’ve seen ego-shattering mutinies against management, graceful leadership transitions to trusted teammates, as well as relentless risers who rallied after being knocked down seven times, but got up on the eighth.

The founders in the Lux family already share their hard-fought lessons with each other. But now, we are thrilled to add a new, distinguished member to the Lux team to impart incredible lessons in leadership: Ret. 4-star General and former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Tony Thomas. Tony will be working closely with the entire Lux partnership and Lux family companies on strategy, team building, leadership, navigating complex and risky challenges, and advancing cutting-edge technologies in markets from commercial to defense.

We all get to sleep relatively well at night — because for 40 years Tony didn’t. We live in the home of the free precisely because of the brave. Tony, known as “T2”, has commanded a force that has fought in every corner of the world, with 90,000 patriots operating in 90 countries — USSOCOM is the most elite fighting force in the world. These were people who had little life outside of protecting our country, operating against bad actors across the globe who wish to do us harm.

We are extremely grateful that we get to do what we do now and in the future because of what Tony has done in the past. His experience puts into perspective that our greatest stresses can seem like child’s play compared to what Tony’s were. A Philly native, Tony not only was entrusted with the command of all U.S. and NATO Special Forces in Afghanistan, but led by example by operating quite literally at “the tip of the spear” alongside the first Ranger contingent into Afghanistan after 9/11. Tony served in Afghanistan and Iraq every year between 2001 and 2013, having survived a head-on car bomb attack on his vehicle in Mosul in 2008, before returning to serve at the CIA, then Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and finally as the commander of USSOCOM.

Tony is a hero, widely admired. General Stanley McChrystal, who preceded him as JSOC commander, praised his “amazing vision, unwavering loyalty and personal courage.” Others have said they admire Tony’s “reputation for pissing important people off” — emblematic of the rebel spirit we seek to back at Lux.

On his appointment The Washington Post described him as an “even-keeled officer [who] is widely known for his candor and [one who], by all accounts, inspires deep loyalty among his subordinates”, briefly alluding to his holding of key posts within the elite counter-terrorism unit known as Delta Force.

Over the past year, we have spent time with Tony, from being embedded at the edge of the formation of Special Operations Forces on the other side of the world to attending briefings at the Pentagon to discussing the many analogies between high-stakes technology venture capital and high-stakes special operations: the power and asymmetry of secrecy and stealth; evaluating risks with low-probability, high magnitude outcomes; the philosophical similarity between our risk-mitigating maxim that “failure comes from a failure to imagine failure” and Tony’s concept of being “left of bang” before a negative event occurs; the gap between sci-fi and sci-fact; the unintended consequences of technology; the trend towards democratization from drones to satellites to sensors and autonomous systems; the power and perils of AI; and the mantra of Special Operations Forces — much like that of any great venture — as “relentlessly seeking advantage in every domain to compete and win.”

As we shared when announcing our investment in Anduril:

Amid the distractions of daily divisive and rancorous politics, we take for granted the grand arc of history towards improving conditions and ever-expanding freedoms, rights and opportunities to ever more diverse people. And we take for granted the history of all those who have sacrificed — in hard-fought wars, foreign and civil — for ideas and ideals greater than themselves to give us progress.

In high-growth technology, from radio and radar to satellites and semiconductors, from lasers and rockets to GPS and voice recognition — we take for granted that so much of it came directly from demands in defense.

Lux has long funded founders and technologists advancing capabilities useful for our defense, including drones on land, sea, and air (Saildrone, Aria, AirMap, Hangar); satellites and rockets (Planet, Kymeta, Orbital Insight, Astranis, Relativity); semiconductors (Mythic, Everspin, Flex Logix); artificial intelligence (Clarifai, Primer); radar (Echodyne); and perimeter security (Evolv).

And we take for granted that everything we and our diverse and often foreign-born entrepreneurs get to do in this country all depends on its very strong defense. We can invent technologies that solve vast challenges in healthcare, energy, transportation, manufacturing, and computing. We can recruit talent the world over. We can rely on a stable currency and the ability to access highly mature and efficient capital markets. We can assemble complex supply chains, while sourcing and selling products in dozens of foreign countries. We rely on rule of law to protect inventions and contracts. All of this is possible because our national security remains steadfast.

We are thrilled and grateful that Tony will be spending time teaming with our entire partnership and many current and new Lux family companies on evolving opportunities (and threats) in cutting-edge technologies and global geopolitics.

Lux Capital

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