Meet our latest cohort of Defense Ventures Fellows

The future of defense is public-private partnerships
Defense Ventures is an 8-week fellowship that identifies emerging innovators from the Department of Defense and facilitates industry immersions at venture capital firms, incubators, and startups across the United States. Shift runs this program in partnership with AFWERX, the innovation arm of the Air Force, who created this opportunity for members of the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, Space Force, Coast Guard, Reserve, National Guard and DoD civilians.

Companies who host Defense Ventures Fellows gain insight into the mission of the Department of Defense, new perspectives on the federal marketplace, and forge enduring relationships with the military members they host. 

This fall, these fellows will begin a journey to learn “what great looks like” in emerging technology and bring commercial best practices back to the Department of Defense. The Defense Ventures Program allows fellows to engage directly with the private sector, establish meaningful connections, and develop a more in-depth understanding of business models, dual-use technologies, and solutions to challenging problems. 

Visit shift.org/dvp to learn more about the Defense Ventures Program and how to apply.

Meet the members of Cohort Twelve

Shield AI

Lieutenant Commander Katharine Binder is an E-2 Pilot in the Navy. Her previous assignments include deployment with the first E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Squadron onboard USS Theodore Roosevelt in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE where she flew 61 combat missions in the E-2D over Iraq. She is the recipient of an Air Medal and served as an instructor pilot in both the E-2C and E-2D. In 2016, she was recognized as Hawkeye Pilot of the Year.Non-flying tours include Aide and Protocol Officer to the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet (2019 - 2020) and DARPA Service Chiefs Fellow (2018) where she directly contributed to cyber, laser, target recognition, and other classified programs providing valuable input into how the Navy and DoD could leverage emerging technologies. She graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a Minor in Management in 2010.

Starburst Aerospace

Major Kathleen “Katie” Biscotti is a Program Manager for the US Air Force, serving the intelligence, space, and acquisitions community. She currently leads a Space Intelligence program for the DIA’s Office of Space Counterspace, and has established a change-friendly programmatic framework and Acquisition Strategy through an iterative concept of operations developing a novel Family of Systems (FoS) program. Prior to her current position, Katie joined a $9 billion dollar software development program team as the Block 1 lead. The program had previously experienced major cost/schedule breaches and waterfall development issues. Katie supported the successful implementation of agile software development, re-phasing a 40,000+ line sequential project schedule into a series of streamlined capability-based, time-bound releases supported by cross functional DevOps teams. She functioned as the principal action officer for a Congressional Nunn-McCurdy Review, DoD Performance Assessment and Root Cause Analysis (PARCA) review, Air Force Acquisition Incident Review, and Integrated Baseline Review with subsequent reprogramming. Katie is a former Intelligence Officer, certified Mission Operations Commander, and Instructor. Katie is a certified DAWIA Level 3 Program Manager and DoD Agile Team Member. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Business Law from Ohio University and is currently working on her MBA. Katie is a Flight Commander, adjunct AFWERX Technical evaluator, featured DAU guest speaker, and weekly volunteer for elementary STEM labs.

First Lieutenant Jonathan Fan currently serves as a Company Executive Officer for the Los Angeles Army Recruiting Battalion. In his role, he is responsible for managing a talent acquisition company that includes 6 branch offices with 56 recruiters in a 250 sq. mile region encompassing over 30 academic institutions and 25 municipalities. In his previous assignment, Jonathan served as a Platoon Leader in a Counter Rocket, Artillery & Mortar unit in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. His platoon was responsible for airspace management and operating radar-guided weapons systems to protect forward operating bases in combat zones. While deployed, his platoon was recognized for the second-highest number of air defense engagements against enemy rockets in Afghanistan. Following the Maneuver Captains Career Course, Jonathan looks forward to his next assignment as a Tank Company Commander. Jonathan earned his Bachelors of Science in Public Policy & Public Service at Arizona State University. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.

Major Christina Flynn is a Personnel Officer in the Air Force Reserve currently stationed in Germany. She serves in the Headquarters Exercise Division managing policy, plans and procedures for military and civilians to support European and African Joint Exercises. Additionally, Christina serves as the Military Personnel Flight Commander leading 81 personnel across 11 sections supporting 56K military and dependents in the area.Christina was previously an Operations Officer and adjunct professor of Aerospace Studies at the University of Arizona instructing for the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program. She led, recruited, and trained 110 highly qualified college students annually. She taught various topics on leadership and national security affairs while organizing officer mentorship programs to acclimate cadets to their future roles as Air Force officers.

Scale AI

Staff Sergeant Matthew Glinski currently serves as an Air Force Active-duty, Tactical Air Control Party, Strike Team leader. Focusing on the Arctic and Pacific domains, he is currently assigned to a unit where he leads developments in command-and-control networks within contested and degraded environments. Supported by multiple combat deployments to Iraq and Syria leveraging 10 years of Special Warfare experience, Matt is responsible for fostering partnerships within the academic and private sectors. Leading several SBIR projects currently, he has allowed rapid integration of commercial technology within the DoD to support over 2400 Special Operations Airman. Matt also is the technical requirements director for a 200-million-dollar naval research project leveraging machine learning leveraging the electromagnetic spectrum. While primarily working within the DoD, Matt has employed his background to assist the public safety community at large with development of situational awareness tools (Team Awareness Kit) within the law enforcement and wildland fire departments. He is currently enrolled full time at The University of Arizona, pursuing his BAS in Computing with an emphasis on Network Design.


Master Sergeant Chad Hardesty is the Commandant for the Edwards Airman Leadership School at Edwards AFB. He has spent 14 years and 2 special duties in the security forces and enlisted professional military education communities. He develops entry level supervisors through a five week leadership development course. Additionally, he is driving digital transformation through the education lenses while building an innovation ecosystem across the Air Force within the educational community. Chad manages many initiatives focused on human performance, talent management and emerging technologies within the tech industry.Since 2016, he has worked with multiple universities and industry partners nationwide to address education challenges across the Air Force. His work with AFWERX has spurred multiple solutions that have scaled across the U.S Air Force and Army. Chad has also launched many products and prototypes focused on human capital and micro-transportation.Chad holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Sports & Health Science.


First Lieutenant Olivia Jarvis is an Acquisitions Officer in the U.S. Air Force serving as the Deputy Program Manager for Upgraded Early Warning Radar Modernization at Hanscom AFB, MA. She directs acquisition planning and execution for $51M across three programs which support Missile Warning, Missile Defense, and Space Domain Awareness capabilities for five radar sites.Prior to her current position, Olivia was a project manager for the Integrator Tactical Warning Attack Assessment Integrator, responsible for coordinating integration efforts between air, missile, and space warning systems. She also served as the Innovation Project Lead for the Strategic Warning and Surveillance Systems Directorate, managing 35 small business partnerships across 8 organizations.Before commissioning, Olivia studied Economics and Finance at Samford University. As a student and cadet, Olivia interned at the Air Force Association and National Defense Industrial Association to support her capstone research as Brock Scholar on Defense Acquisition Reform.

Scout Ventures

Commander Paul Knittle is a Commander in the U.S. Navy with 17 years of experience as a Surface Warfare and Intelligence officer. He currently serves as a Deputy Department Head in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, managing a number of maritime portfolios supporting the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Council staff. In 2017, he was recognized as the U.S. Central Command Intelligence Directorate Senior Officer of the Year and in 2019, he served as the Director of Intelligence for a deployed Joint Special Operations Task Force. With experience as a Surface Warfare Officer and Intelligence Officer serving in the Intelligence Community and Joint Special Operations, Paul brings a breadth of experience in team and strategy development, defense acquisition, and innovative problem-solving.As a surface warfare officer, he served aboard USS COLE (DDG-67), specializing in undersea and air warfare and on the Chief of Naval Operations Staff in the Surface Warfare Directorate, managing war fighting requirements for a number of U.S. Navy ship classes. As an intelligence officer, he served as an Intelligence Collection Manager at the Office of Naval Intelligence, as a branch chief and an executive assistant at U.S. Central Command, and as Chief of the Analysis and Targeting department at Special Operations Command Central. Paul graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science in International Relations. He is also a graduate of the Naval War College Command and Staff college and holds a Masters Degree in Defense and Strategic Studies.

Decisive Point

Chief Petty Officer Gary Landuyt is an enlisted, active-duty Navy Chief with 16 years of experience in Naval Special Warfare. Stationed in Virginia for the last 13 years, he has completed multiple joint and interagency deployments in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. He has experience leading cross-functional teams in complex environments in support of national security priorities.After overseeing the selection and training for the National Mission Force, Gary seamlessly stepped back into an operational role, helping to lead a high-performance team tasked with research, development, testing, and evaluation of equipment and tactics for the US Navy. Gary is a graduate of Excelsior College and is a current MBA candidate at the Colorado State School of Business.

Decisive Point

Technical Sergeant Shea Martin is the Chief of Innovation at the Draco Spark Innovation Cell, 818th Operations Support Squadron, Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina. As the Chief of Innovation, Shea is directly responsible for innovating and managing requirements for the Tactical Air Control Party’s next generation of joint all domain command and control technologies. Previously he worked as the Air Force Special Warfare Dismounted Systems Program Manager. Located at the Special Operations Forces, Personnel Recovery, and Special Warfare Program Office, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Representing 2,400 plus warfighters, his work supported all acquisition and life cycle management for Guardian Angel, Special Tactics, and Tactical Air Control Party requirements across three acquisition category III programs valued over $900 million.In addition to program management, he liaised with the Air Force Research Lab where his innovation and experimentation led him to being awarded two U.S. Patents. During his tenure in the Program Office Shea also acted as the program office representative at Joint Staff J6 Interoperability Division. Working with Joint Staff he provided Subject Matter Expertise to ongoing Engineering Change Proposals and Allied Force interoperability test events.Shea has a Degree in Strategic Operations Management and is currently working on a second degree in Physics.

Labrock Ventures

Major Avery Merriex is a Space Force Acquisitions Officer with 12 years of active-duty service. He is currently stationed in the National Capital Region, where he leads a development team delivering IT Service Management capabilities for an Intelligence agency. Prior to his assignment in the National Capital Region, Avery spent time in Los Angeles, CA and Colorado Springs, CO where he served as a program manager for space systems development spanning all phases of the acquisitions life cycle.Avery was commissioned from the United State Air Force Academy in May 2010 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Management and a minor in Mandarin. Additionally, he holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management with a concentration in Finance and Tech. Avery also completed the inaugural United States Space Force Supra Coder Program, a 6-month software immersion designed to build proficiency in technology to enable the digital transformation of the force.


Tara Murray currently works in the Weather Operations and Policy Branch as the Weather Planner and Functional Area Manager at Headquarters United States Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. She is the subject matter expert for the planning and coordinating of weather requirements and resources for contingency operations and exercises within the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of responsibility. She has an integral role within the command to collaborate with other service components and host nation partners to advance METOC support for the AOR. Tara is an Air Force veteran and was an Airfield Management Shift Lead while on active duty. Following her active duty service, she continued her government service with consecutive civilian positions at the Department of Veterans Affairs as a Claims Intake Assistant and an Insurance Specialist. She reentered the United States Air Force as a civilian as the Executive Officer for the Chief, Operations Support Division, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, assisting the division through a yearlong staff optimization realignment. Seeking a new challenge, she was hired in 2020 into her current position. Tara has completed studies in Business Administration concentrating on a Marketing Focus, earning her Doctorate degree from Walden University, her Master’s degree from Keller Graduate School of Management. She resides in Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she enjoys spending her free time traveling.


Matthew Niemiec is a USAF Experimental Flight Test Engineer currently serving as the experimentation lead for autonomy efforts within the Air Force Research Laboratory. He directs a campaign of experiments to determine the operational utility and competitive advantages provided by autonomous aircraft to drive strategic technology investments and transition decisions for Air Force autonomy efforts. Matthew began his career working as an acquisition program manager for several classified efforts, before joining the test community and leading developmental and operational test efforts on the F-16, F-15, and A-10. A civilian graduate of the USAF Test Pilot School (Class 17B), he has 11 years of experience in sensor & AI system development, modeling & simulation, hardware/software integration, test execution, data analysis, & reporting and is motivated by a desire to turn research into reality and deliver combat capability to the end user. He is a graduate of Cedarville University with a BS in Electrical Engineering, and went on to get a MS in Electro-Optics from the University of Dayton.

Coactive AI

Senior Airman Ian Pierce is an F-22 Raptor maintainer stationed at Edwards AFB. Ensuring safety of flight with collaboration and coordination with multiple shops, Senior Airman Pierce identifies, isolates, and fixes any discrepancies noted before, during, and after flight. Concurrently, Ian volunteers his time as the Esports Advisor to the Air Force Services Center. He assisted in building the Air Force Gaming program from 300 people to global community of 23.6K Airmen/Guardians. Originally leading the Call of Duty esports team, SrA Pierce transitioned to lead the whole "shooters" program, and eventually advising leaders at the AFSVC about esports potential. Through the AFG program, SrA Pierce has also found a passion for innovation, gamification, public speaking/presenting, and learning how he can help accelerate change on a wide scale.

Refinery Ventures

Major Jorge Ramirez is an Acquisition Program Manager in the U.S. Air Force and currently stationed at Eglin AFB, Florida. In his current assignment he leads the redefinition of Air Force agile software development for embedded systems, is pushing the bounds of networked, collaborative and autonomous munitions, and is optimizing challenge-based acquisition for modular systems. He is also a critical enabler of the Armament Directorate’s outreach initiative to shepherd novel technologies and non-traditional industry partners into programs of record. His 14-year active duty career is underscored by the rapid delivery of multiple combat capabilities. Jorge is well versed in small satellite design and launch, capability delivery to Special Operations Forces, non-kinetic warfare, and advanced munition development. He has served on multiple deployments and long-term temporary duty across CENTCOM and INDOPACOM.Jorge is a graduate of Texas State University where he earned his commission in 2008 via the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).


Lieutenant Commander Mark Rapisardo is an active duty Navy Information Warfare Community officer with 9 years of experience in operational intelligence analysis and planning. He is currently enrolled in the Daytime Masters in Business Administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business as part of the Fleet Scholars Education Program. Prior to this assignment, Mark served as a program manager at Navy Program Support Group West in Los Angeles, California.Throughout his career within the Information Warfare Community, Mark has directed intelligence operations and analysis to provide Intelligence Community leaders with timely and relevant information related to maritime domain awareness and transnational threats.Mark holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of South Carolina.


Captain Louis S. Tobergte is a Special Forces Detachment Commander in 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), where he leads 12 Green Berets in training partner-nation Special Operations Forces throughout the Western Hemisphere. Formerly an engineer officer, Captain Tobergte’s next assignment is at Carnegie Mellon University, where he will study chemical engineering, artificial intelligence and machine learning. His studies at Carnegie Mellon will build upon his undergraduate in chemical engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated first in his class. Following his master’s studies at Carnegie Mellon, Captain Tobergte will go on to teach chemical engineering and chemistry at West Point, where he looks to continue innovating through research and partnerships across the DoD, academia, and the private sector. Captain Tobergte also holds a master’s degree from the University of Leeds, England, where he studied Water, Sanitation and Health Engineering, including conducting research in Zimbabwe.


Captain Garrett Turley is an Air Force Defensive Cyberspace Operator, currently assigned to the 805th Combat Training Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base. He is an Officer in Charge of Plans for Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) working to enable the Joint Forces to both utilize and act rapidly on information across the battle-space using automation, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and machine learning on a resilient network environment. He both plans opportunities for Joint Forces and partners to collaborate, while also operating as a software engineer.Prior to being stationed at Nellis he worked as a Crew Command in multiple Cyberspace Operations Squadrons at Scott Air Force Base. There he operated on and led teams in missions defending global critical cyber assets in the cloud and on-premise, which were reported on at levels up to the President of the United States.Garrett holds a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from the United States Air Force Academy and is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Computer Science, specializing in Machine Learning, from Georgia Institute of Technology.