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Early-stage startup scores billion dollar contract

Hey y’all! In this issue:

  • a defense-tech company scores a gigantic Pentagon contract

  • electric car charging that doesn’t suck

  • an Austin-based company building ADUs you can actually afford

A billion dollar contract with one of the biggest buyers on Earth 🇺🇸

Well, $950m to be exact. Picogrid announced this week that they’ve been awarded the $950,000,000 JDAC2 IDIQ contract from the Pentagon.

I wasn’t super familiar with JDAC2 or what exactly an IDIQ contract was before I started researching this story. But before we get to decoding the acronyms, let’s dive into Picogrid and what they’re building.

Picogrid is an early-stage defense-tech company based in El Segundo, California. Their platform is a combination of custom hardware and software that allows military personnel to easily deploy and interact with a wide variety of sensors and devices.

The Lander (pictured above), is a hardware device powered by a solar array and a battery system with up to 14-days of power. It’s just one of Picogrid’s catalogue of devices for powering and controlling remote sensors, cameras, and autonomous systems. The Lander also ships with an onboard AI-ready NVIDIA GPU and integrates with external devices via the Picogrid API.

Picogrid is building rugged hardware capable of withstanding harsh environments, but they’re also building a world-class API to pair with it. Their API will allow external companies, or “capability providers”, to easily integrate their own specialized cameras, sensors, and other devices into Picogrid’s deployed platforms.

Using Picogrid, capability providers will get to skip the hassle of trying to go direct with the defense industry and shortcut their own time to deployment. As more capability providers build on top of Picogrid’s custom hardware/software stack, the value prop of using Picogrid only becomes stronger.

The company is only 2 years old but has already accomplished an insane amount, with hardware deployed at four separate military bases and now a $950m IDIQ contract.

 So what are all these acronyms anyway?

JDAC2 is the Joint All Domain Command and Control initiative. This is an effort from the Department of Defense to connect sensors from all branches of the military into a unified network and to power them with AI.

IDIQ contract is an Indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract. You can think of these contracts as a bucket of funds aimed at a particular cause (in this case, the JDAC2 effort). IDIQs are awarded to multiple vendors, who then receive task orders out of the bucket of funds.

The JDAC2 IDIQ contract is a $950m vehicle and it’s one of the defense departments top priorities. It will likely award hundreds of millions in task orders over the next few years.

Zane Mountcastle (cofounder / CEO of Picogrid) told me that, as far as they can tell, they’re the youngest and smallest company to have been awarded the IDIQ contract. (The other awardees include gigantic defense primes like Raytheon, billion dollar startups like Shield AI, and mega corporations like AT&T).

If you’re interested in the Picogrid mission, check out their hiring page!

Electric Car Charging that doesn’t suck

Just do a google search for “car charging sucks” and you’ll see an incredible amount of stories, videos, and posts about the lackluster charging experience for electric cars.

So when I first came across Quincy Lee on twitter, and saw that him and his team were tackling this problem, I immediately started following along.

Quincy and team at Electric Era are building car charging that doesn’t suck. I’m not sure if they’d put it that way, but I think it’s a great tagline.

They’re a bunch of ex-SpaceX engineers and they’ve just raised a fresh $11.5m Series A round, announced this week.

Their approach is unique, combining car charging with on-site batteries to reduce strain on the grid and provide a more reliable charging experience.

They’re also building world-class software (PowerNode-OS) to make the experience easy for customers to refill their car and for operators to manage their car charging business.

Electric Era is hiring! Also, they post a ton of cool behind the scenes pictures on their twitter if you want to keep up with what they’re building.

ADUs you can afford

In February, I wondered why all the companies building ADUs (accessory dwelling units) were making structures that cost more than my entire house.

Where were the ADUs for the every-man?

Then I met Ritwik.

Ritwik Pavan is the founder of Krava, an Austin-based company manufacturing ADUs that start at $30,000. After starting the company earlier this year, Ritwik quickly secured a facility for the team to work out of and they immediately got to work building the first prototype and beta production units.

Just a bit over 200 days since starting the company, Ritiwk announced that Krava has launched pre-orders for their first ADU, the K1.

The K1 is a 120sqft ADU that ships with lighting and climate control and can be setup in a single day.

Krava builds their ADUs in Austin and ships them in flat panels to customers and then assembles them onsite. The K1 comes with free installation for folks near Austin (within 50mi).

See you next week 🫡
Hope you enjoyed the first issue of Hard Startups.

Let me know what was good, or what parts you didn’t like! Just reply back to this email with your thoughts!

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