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 Seven

Insight Partners

Major Richard Barnes is a Combat Rescue Officer in the Air Force serving as a program manager at the Defense Innovation Unit in Mountain View, CA working in the Human Systems Portfolio where he helps bring commercial solutions to support the Department of Defense (DoD) mission. This is done primarily utilizing Other Transaction Authorities, providing both DoD partners and vendors greater opportunity to solve problems in a more collaborative and expedited fashion. He graduated from George Fox University and holds a Masters Degree through Air University.

Major Barnes began his enlisted career as a Pararescueman and was commissioned through the Air Force Officer Training School. Assignments include Combat Search and Rescue squadrons; United States Air Force (USAF) Survival School support in WA, AL and FL; Joint Commands in NC and Germany; as well as multiple joint and multinational deployments. He enjoys spending his free time with his family, riding bicycles, parachuting, motorcycle touring, and playing mechanic on his classic Jeep and motorcycles.

Captain Stephen Beaton is a published energy scientist, program manager, avid technologist, and hobbyist programmer. Currently, he manages the energy, biotechnology, and hypersonics portfolios for the Disruptive Technology Team, Air Force Futures. In this role, Captain Beaton scouts and scans industry and academic labs for technologies that will enable the Air Force’s strategy and then connects them to Air Force funding sources. As an active member of the Language Enabled Airman Program for Spanish and Portuguese, Captain Beaton also participates in exercises and translation events to strengthen our alliances with Latin America. Captain Beaton received his commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2015. Directly after his commissioning, Captain Beaton pursued a Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford.

Captain Beaton was deployed to Southwest Asia from February 2019 until September 2019 in support of Operations Deliberate Resolve and Freedom Sentinel. In this deployment, he oversaw 2,000 lab tests of fuel and aviator breathing oxygen that powered over 23,000 sorties as the lab chief of the Air Force Petroleum Office deployed laboratory. He then served as the Deputy Lab Chief of the Energy and Fuels Branch of the Air Force Research Laboratory.


Master Sergeant Jeniveve Beutel is a Flight Chief at the 23d Intelligence Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. Master Sergeant Beutel advises and assists the Commander, Director of Operations, and Squadron Superintendent on matters concerning the training, development, operational engagement, mentorship and readiness of 81 military personnel.

Dylan Brown is an active duty Captain in the United States Air Force. He is the Government Engagement Lead and Division Innovation Chief for Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Detachment 12, more widely known as Kessel Run. Dylan fosters and advises Kessel Run Leadership on strategic government partnerships. He closes information gaps in the DoD innovation ecosystem enabling continuous value delivery to warfighters. While at Kessel Run, Dylan has filled the roles of Technical Product Manager and Agile Acquisitions Program Manager, where he led an acquisitions team and managed a $900M software development portfolio.

Before Kessel Run, Dylan was an Aircraft Maintenance Officer at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Dylan graduated from the United States Air Force Academy with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and a Minor in French.


1st Lt Luke Chen is an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force serving at Air Force Materiel Command, where he analyzes geopolitical events and foreign weapon systems. He also provides intelligence to military acquisitions programs in the 21st Intelligence Squadron at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH. Before moving to Ohio, he completed intelligence officer technical training at Goodfellow Air Force Base, TX, graduating first in his class. Luke commissioned through Air Force Officer Training School. Prior to the Air Force, Luke started his career at JP Morgan Chase where he worked as a quantitative modeling and analytics analyst, developing and programming risk models using artificial intelligence. At Chase, he also leveraged big data analytics to analyze marketing and business strategies.

Luke holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry with minors in Mathematics and Computer Science, graduating magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016. He speaks Mandarin Chinese. A lover of nonfiction and journalism, he is originally from the suburbs of Chicago.


Lieutenant Colonel Caitlin Diffley is a Space Operator & Foreign Area Officer, serving as Chief, Inspection Division 3 with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) in Germany. She leads a Joint team to execute and defend United States treaty rights for the Conventional Forces in Europe, Vienna Document, and Dayton Peace Accords treaties. While on mission, she serves as the senior United States representative and decision authority.

Lt Col Diffley served as initial cadre for GPS Navigation Warfare, Aide-de-Camp for the 7th AF Commander & USFK Deputy Commander, then Director of Operations for the Registrar and Adjunct Instructor of Management at the US Air Force Academy, and Regional Director responsible for the Northeastern US, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa in USAFA Admissions.

Caitlin earned her Bachelors in Chinese from the University of Notre Dame. Subsequently, she earned an MBA, graduated from the Defense Language Institute Basic Russian program, and earned a Master’s in National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School. Her research focuses on Women, Peace & Security and Hybrid/Grey Zone Warfare. At NPS, she chaired the President's Board for Student Affairs. She and her husband shepherd their crew of wild children on active adventures whenever they have the chance.


Sergeant Sergio Escobar is a Command and Control (C2) Operations Specialist in the Air Force, where he focuses on developing policy and procedures to enhance Emergency Management, Emergency Actions, Operational Reporting, and Mission Monitoring capabilities in support of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance efforts fulfilling national objectives. He is currently assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing Command Post on Beale Air Force Base supporting over 7,000 military, civilian and contractor personnel. He leads a team of 20 controllers who coordinate operational requirements with the installation senior leadership, Air Combat Command, and Air Force Headquarters 24/7/365.  Sergeant Escobar has deployed in support of combat, humanitarian, and disaster relief missions.

Sergio started his military career in 2002 in New Jersey. His assignments gave him the experience and drive to identify inefficiencies, streamline processes, and implement continuous improvement procedures. The value earned during travels and eventually as part of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) provided an unparalleled whole of government perspective and highlighted the strategic importance of private and governmental collaboration with international partnerships. His interest now is learning and bridging machine learning or automation capabilities to help solve existing problems.  Sergio currently resides in California with his wife and two dogs.

Two Bear Capital

Lieutenant Colonel Cullen Gallagher is an experienced pilot, entrepreneur, and leader. He currently serves as an Air Force Reserve pilot at March Air Reserve Base, commanding the $202M C-17 aircraft. Cullen has over 5,500 flight hours, including 1,300 combat flight hours on more than 350 combat missions. He is the recipient of multiple Air Medals and served as an instructor pilot, training the next generation of aviators. Since leaving active duty, Cullen has built an extensive career in business. He was Senior Vice President at DJ2 Entertainment where his team produced the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, the highest grossing video game adaptation of all time. Following that, Cullen was the co-founder and CEO of an artificial intelligence company, Reely. In 2020 he became GM at PlayVS, an esports company that raised $100M to bring varsity esports to schools nationwide. Currently, Cullen is the co-founder and CEO of Lunch, a fintech platform building the payment infrastructure for offline industries. Cullen has a Bachelors in Biology from the U.S. Air Force Academy and an MBA in Marketing and Entrepreneurship from UCLA Anderson School of Management. He currently resides in Santa Monica, CA with his dog, Odell Barkham Jr.

Scout Ventures

Captain David Harris, a Dallas, TX native, is a 2017 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy was a four year letterman and team captain on the Division 1 Air Force Football team. Immediately following his commission, David joined Pharos Capital, a private equity firm focused on health care companies, as a summer intern executing diligence potential investments. Previously at Eglin Air Force Base, David worked in the B61-12 Gravity Nuclear Bomb Program Office planning long term sustainment of the updated system and in the Long Range Stand-Off Nuclear Cruise Missile Program Office as the deputy Engineering and Production Phase Team Lead, where he led the strategy development of a $5B manufacturing and Production phase.

Now at the National Reconnaissance Office in northern Virginia supporting the Space Force, David is a branch chief managing a $200M portfolio of satellite software development increasing the intelligence community’s ability to maintain mission awareness, produce accurate long term constellation simulations and assess satellite health. In his free time, David guides strategic initiatives on the executive board of several nonprofits and for-profit companies, aimed at increasing the underserved community’s access to the top undergraduate and graduate programs.

Capt Dalton Hayes is an Acquisition Program Manager in the United States Air Force and is currently assigned to Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate where he leads the Catalyst Accelerator program in Colorado Springs, CO. Dalton is responsible for a government-funded dual-use space technology startup accelerator focused on delivering emerging technologies to warfighters and expanding the defense industrial base. His efforts have aided the 115 Space Force Accelerator portfolio companies to win approximately $146M in DoD contracts & secure $337M in private investment. Prior to joining AFRL, Dalton served as an intelligence officer supporting Space Operations Command where he provided intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support to 72 DoD satellite systems. Additionally, as the Deputy Director of his organization’s innovation team, he led the acquisition and development of six agile software applications that ultimately led to the automation of 21 mission processes & decreased operational execution time by 87%, saving the Air Force thousands of hours per year. Dalton received his commission from the United States Air Force Academy and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Operations Research in 2016. In 2020, he graduated from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business with a Masters of Science in Finance.

Refinery Ventures

Lieutenant Commander Zachery Hoekwater is the Production Lead and Contracting Officer’s Representative at the Polar Security Cutter Project Resident Office in Pascagoula, MS. In this role, he is responsible for ensuring production planning, investment, execution, monitoring, and contractual administration for the $3.2B PSC program, which will deliver the most complex vessel the Coast Guard has ever built. He has 12 years of experience in the civil engineering, naval engineering, logistics, and acquisition communities. He’s held critical roles both afloat and ashore supporting personnel, construction, sustainment, and program and project management for Coast Guard infrastructure and operational assets in Virginia, Alaska, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Mississippi.

As a graduate of United States Coast Guard Academy with a B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering, he further earned a M.S. in Civil & Structural Engineering from the University of Washington. He is a licensed Professional Engineer, a certified Project Management Professional, a Certified Facility Manager, and a DHS Level III Program Manager & level III COR. Lieutenant Commander Hoekwater hails from Cadillac, MI, and is currently raising a new puppy and two small turtles with his girlfriend Lorraine in Ocean Springs, MS.

Refinery Ventures

David S. Jackson is the Wing Process Manager and Chief Innovation Officer for the 512th Airlift Wing, Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. He directs Air Force Continuous Process Improvement, Innovation and Air Force Lessons Learned programs by building and maintaining organic problem solving and innovative solution capabilities. In his position he manages organizational strategic planning, processes, key metrics and data analytics. David plans, develops and facilitates utilization of internal control measures and organizational key performance metrics for 19 assigned units to identify and inform leadership of potential process improvement opportunities. He is an experienced Adjunct Faculty member with a demonstrated history of working in higher education. Currently David is a key member of the Dover Air Force Base Innovation Spark Cell (De Bedrock) driving positive culture change for problem solving and innovation initiatives.


Lieutenant Commander Maryam Khazraee is a U.S. Public Health Service Officer with over 10 years of experience in healthcare from treating patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), developing population health programs in health insurance, and ensuring regulatory adherence to oncology drug development. She currently serves as a Regulatory Health Project Manager at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), where her team is responsible for making sure that these drugs and biologics to treat cancer are safe and effective for the U.S. public. She manages a $1 billion portfolio in gastrointestinal, superficial cutaneous cancers, melanoma, and sarcoma drug and biologic development.

For her military deployments, Maryam deployed over 5 times to multiple parts of the U.S. to remote Native American reservations in support of their healthcare needs. She also deployed for COVID-19 in setting up a testing station in Dallas, Texas with testing over 50,000 residents. She is U.S. Army trained for the medical management of chemical and biological casualties.

Maryam loves learning- besides her Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) from the University of Florida, she also holds a Masters of Business Administration and a Masters of Science in Entrepreneurship and Innovation from Indiana University. Maryam is excited about supporting healthcare focused entrepreneurs in making a positive impact and would like to dive into the venture capital space. As a fun fact, Maryam is also a trained GA pilot through the Navy Flying Club at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, FL.


Steven McKnew is an experienced military senior non-commissioned officer and working entrepreneur who is developing skills in creating and running new organizations, maintaining complex relationships, and understanding how to navigate the governmental environment to meet mission objectives. His positive leadership style focuses on creating a culture of extraordinary performance from cross-functional teams, such as a Force Protection superintendent for a combatant command Inspector General office. He oversaw C2 and fighter security inspections providing oversight to 28 Aerospace Control Alert Force units and joint/bi-national operations. He coordinated with MAJCOM and Air Staffs to develop and enforce United States Air Force and Canadian Security policies and procedures.

In his current role he facilitates innovation training events and advises air national guard wings on contracting requirements to streamline government innovation projects. Steve’s creative and direct take on making innovation really happen has made him a vital resource to his innovation organization.


Major Marshall Nye is a United States Air Force pilot flying the RC-135 Cobra Ball, Combat Sent, and Rivet Joint variants across a wide variety of specialized intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission sets. He is also a former instructor pilot in the Air Force’s only Undergraduate Combat Systems Officer school where he taught the next generation of Electronic Warfare Officers, Navigators, Sensor Operators, and Weapons System Officers. Alongside his flying role, Marshall acts as the Director of Staff for the 38th Reconnaissance Squadron, managing the manpower and careers of over 200 teammates.

In his previous assignment, Marshall identified a training need and worked with PlaneEnglish LLC to develop an app-based radio training simulator, eventually resulting in a $700K, multi-year contract for his group, as well as sponsorship from a host of other training units across his command. This experience fueled his passion for using smart technical solutions to target training deficiencies. Marshall Graduated from The United States Air Force Academy where he received his BS in English, and Creighton where he received his MBA. He currently lives in Omaha, Nebraska. When he isn’t working, he can be found riding his bike, running local trails, or rafting whitewater somewhere.

Beagle Learning

Captain William “Billy” Pugh is a Cyberwarfare Officer in the United States Air Force. He is a highly competent leader with experience in multiple disciplines of cybersecurity managing teams of operators, engineers, and instructors. He is a strong communicator with the ability to effectively breakdown technical problems and cyber technologies to a non-technical audience which he has further honed as a premier instructor at the Air Force Cyberwarfare Training Schoolhouse. He is an efficient project manager that has successfully managed multiple multi-million-dollar Air Force ventures to include the development of 1,050 hours of new curriculum for the Cyberwarfare Schoolhouse.

Captain Marta Rowh, MD, PhD is an Emergency Services Physician and subject matter expert in infectious diseases serving in the Oregon Air National Guard, for the Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRN) Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) of the 142nd Wing. She was deployed as the Medical Director of the mass vaccination roll out in the Oregon Convention Center, overseeing over 75,000 vaccinations in early 2021. Dr. Rowh was a former Emerging Infectious Disease Fellow for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where she was deployed to Singapore for the first SARS outbreak in 2003. She completed medical school with a concentration in Global Health and a PhD in Immunology studying the immune response to radiation at the University of Pennsylvania. She has worked clinically and conducted research on four continents, most recently completing a Master of Public Health (MPH) at the University of Edinburgh.        

Dr. Rowh is a board-certified practicing emergency physician. She served as the Clinical Division Director for the St. Charles Medical Group in Bend, OR, where she oversaw 25 physicians and 9 APPs. She currently teaches Health Policy at the School of Public Health at Colorado State University (CSU) and is the Advanced Science Curriculum (ASC) Director for the CSU branch of the University of Colorado School of Medicine.


Captain Colin Sandor is an active-duty Financial Management Officer serving in the United States Air Force. He is currently working within the Air Force Life Cycle Cost Management Center (AFLCMC) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. As a lead cost analyst for the SCARs program within the simulator division, Capt Sandor is responsible for ensuring accurate cost estimates on a high visibility acquisition of new Air Force capabilities. Upon graduation from the United States Air Force Academy in 2017, Colin’s first assignment was as a Budget Officer at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota. During this assignment he expertly managed and executed an annual budget of over $62 million for the Air Force’s largest B-1 Bomber Wing. Following this tour, he earned a Graduate of Cost Analysis M.S. from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 2021. His Master’s thesis focused on measuring the ability of the AFWERX program to increase regional participation and capture cluster specific technologies through the physical locations of the program offices. In his free time, Colin enjoys running, reading, working out, personal development, and watching college football.


Master Sergeant Moses N. Ssemugenyi is a Health Service Management technician at the 102 Medical Group Detachment 1, Massachusetts Air National Guard  (MDG Det 1, MA ANG), and provides medical administrative support to the 102 MDG. He is also a member of the Massachusetts Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRN) Enhance Response Force Package (CERP) team, maintaining 24-hour readiness disaster response in the Commonwealth of MA and the FEMA region.  

In 2017, Moses was handpicked for a special duty assignment to Joint Force Headquarters Enlisted Force Development program. Furthermore, Moses was selected from a competitive group of applicants nationwide to join the National Guard Innovation Team, an expertise-driven cadre of officers and enlisted members that proposes creative solutions to complex problems directly to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau. This work on the Innovation Team led to him becoming a key player in developing the Massachusetts National Guard Innovation Team.  

As a civilian, Moses has a background in healthcare management and finance. He is a partner at  a small healthcare business, and he assists other small business owners with several business initiatives as a consultant. He previously worked at various healthcare and finance Fortune 500 companies.

Moses has a Bachelor of Science in Food and Resource Economics from the University of Florida and a Master of Science in Finance from Brandeis University. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate degree.

Catapult Ventures

Lieutenant Colonel Paul Tandberg is an Air Force Combat Systems Officer serving as the Direct of Staff for the 53d Test and Evaluation Group (53 TEG), Nellis Air Force Base, NV. In that role, Lt Col Tandberg leads a staff of active duty military, government civilian and contractor employees. As Director of Staff for 53 TEG, he is responsible for operational test, evaluation, and tactics development for all fighter, Combat Search and Rescue, and medium altitude remotely piloted aircraft, as well as air-launched weapons, combat systems and devices, mission planning, select electronic warfare and agile combat support programs, and foreign material exploitation.  

Lt Col Tandberg is a senior rated Evaluator Combat Systems Officer with 2,300+ hours of flying on the C-130E/H, U-28A, AC-208B, MC-12 and HC-130J. He is also a Master Rated static-line parachutist. Paul graduated from the University of St. Thomas, MN, with a degree in Computer Science in 2006. He completed his graduate work through American Military University in 2014. Paul enjoys any and all time spent with his two sons, Boyd (14) and Tate (12), on whatever perilous adventure they find themselves in the middle of.

Hermeus Corporation

Lieutenant Colonel Jeremy Vanderhal is a fighter pilot in the California Air National Guard.  As Assistant Director of Operations of the 194th Fighter Squadron, LtCol Vanderhal’s duties include supervising the training and operations of the pilots in the mighty F-15C Eagle and ensuring the success of the 24/7 West Coast defense airborne alert mission.  In his civilian capacity, Jeremy is a test pilot for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Los Angeles Aircraft Certification Office.  In that role, he flies newly built civilian aircraft and ensures they conform to Federal Aviation Regulations prior to being flown by the public.  

LtCol Vanderhal earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the US Air Force Academy in 2003 (Go Falcons!), a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Alabama in 2011 (Roll Tide!), a Master of Science degree in Flight Test Engineering from the USAF Test Pilot School in 2012, and a Master of Business for Veterans degree from the University of Southern California in 2021 (Fight On!).   LtCol Vanderhal has accrued over 4,000 flight hours in over 20 types of aircraft and has performed combat missions in three theaters.  He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter.