1. Epirus is a relatively new company, founded in 2018, and you've already completed three rounds of financing, raising $287 million. What's the idea behind the company?
That’s correct. We closed our $200 million Series C financing round earlier this year and, with a valuation of $1.35 billion, we’ve achieved unicorn status. Needless to say, it’s an incredibly exciting time to be at Epirus.
Epirus was founded in 2018 with a mission of creating innovative power solutions to solve some of the world’s most complex problems. In the earliest days of the company, we set out to develop directed energy systems for the defense sector, to counter the rapidly proliferating threat posed by militarized drone use throughout the world. Traditional, legacy-based directed energy systems require massive scale to achieve the necessary power output, which significantly constrains the systems’ mobility. This lack of portability hinders market acceptance, so Epirus set out to fill this market gap and develop a system that was dramatically smaller, without compromising power output nor effectiveness.
In order to deliver equally strong outputs in a smaller form factor, a new power paradigm was required. A system was needed that could “digitize” power, enabling more efficient use and higher output. This is when Epirus’ engineers invented a ground-breaking component.
Enter the Epirus SmartPower technology platform.
The system leverages machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to gate energy at the nanosecond, only outputting power exactly when and where it needs to. Think of it like an incredibly efficient hose, only putting out water when it’s in the precisely correct location and knowing exactly when to stop to avoid over or under watering. In other words, output the exact amount of power needed at the exact right time, increasing efficiency and maximizing output. With this software-defined approach to power, we have been able to achieve unprecedented power efficiency improvements—a claim that has been independently verified by third party groups. In talking to customers, we quickly realized that what first started as a solution to make our directed energy systems more efficient, quickly became a product itself. A product that spans far beyond the defense sector and can actually transform some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges, like increasing the range of batteries and modernizing the power grid, among other use cases.
Now, SmartPower has become Epirus’ core innovation, powering the directed energy products we initially set out to make—also becoming a product by its own right. With the promise of SmartPower, we see ourselves as a high-growth technology company whose transformative technology will leave a lasting mark on so many industries, both government and commercial.
2. Tell us more about the SmartPower platform, its advantages and how it works.
Well, I’m sure we could talk all day about the advantages of our SmartPower technology, but I’ll do my best to stay brief for your readers.
Our AI-enabled SmartPower technology architecture is a multi-layered management solution for emerging digital power applications. By incorporating a purpose-built portfolio of hardware, software and embedded technology components that are engineered to work in concert, SmartPower-based solutions can deliver unprecedented outcomes in power management, power consumption, energy efficiency and RF amplification.
Our embedded SmartPower technology allows us to develop solutions that stretch energy to its limits. By gating energy at the microsecond level and incorporating AI and ML algorithms, our engineers have achieved unparalleled control over power use.
SmartPower technology enables our Leonidas systems to amplify software-defined RF signals into our innovative phased array—all while keeping systems cool and operators safe. As I mentioned earlier, SmartPower is the real kernel of our innovation at Epirus and a revolutionary technology that will leave a lasting impact across so many application areas.
3. You mentioned Epirus’ initial focus on high-power microwave (HPM) systems, which led to the development of the system you call Leonidas. What are its capabilities and applications?
Leonidas is our flagship product—yes, our ground-based counter-electronics system. Our totally unique approach to HPM at Epirus unlocks a slew, really, of technology differentiators. Leonidas utilizes solid-state, software-defined technology, which, again, is enabled by our SmartPower platform. I like to use what we call the three S’s: Leonidas is smaller, smarter and safer than any other HPM market offering.
Outdated, legacy-based HPM systems are gargantuan. Our Leonidas system can fit in the back of a pickup truck, your average F-150. We’ve really turned what’s known as the SWaP factor on its head: Leonidas is dramatically smaller and more mobile than other directed energy systems, both laser and competitive HPM systems.
Because Leonidas is a software-defined system, we can very precisely control our HPM pulse and electronically steer it to take out an intended target and nothing else. We’ve demonstrated this in a field setting a number of times. Leonidas is the only counter-electronics system with the proven ability to counter swarming drones and execute precision strikes at range. And with its software-defined ability, Leonidas is always learning, always being updated with new target susceptibility data. So the system really is smart—and always getting smarter. That’s the beauty of the multi-function, software-defined approach that we’ve taken at Epirus.
Leonidas is also operator safe, and safety is something we put a great deal of emphasis on at Epirus. Low operating voltages, the lack of ionizing radiation and the ability to software control safe zones prevent harmful emissions to system operators and friendly electronic assets. Leonidas has been awarded HERO, HERP and HERF certifications by National Technical Systems, meaning that the system is safe around ordnance (HERO), personnel (HERP) and fuel (HERF). And again, Leonidas’ beamforming capabilities enabled by its software-definability ensure effects only on hostile targets and mitigate collateral damage concerns that hamstring high-energy laser systems, for example.
Suffice this all to say that what we’ve done at Epirus with our Leonidas systems is unprecedented. It’s one of the most sophisticated directed energy systems in the world—and to circle back to my three S’s, it’s smaller, smarter and safer than anything like it.
4. You’ve just introduced a smaller, more portable version of the system that you call Leonidas Pod. What are its capabilities and applications, and how do Leonidas and Leonidas Pod work together, if at all?
Yes, we introduced Leonidas Pod, the second member of our Leonidas family of directed energy products in February of 2022. I was particularly excited about the launch of Leonidas Pod because it was such a strong testament to the ethos of rapid innovation that defines Epirus, that overarching theme throughout all the work we do as a company. With the introduction of our second market-leading HPM system in as many years, we at Epirus are continuing to prove that lasting innovation does not have to take decades.
Leonidas Pod is a first-to-market, solid-state, multiple shot HPM system with a range of mount options to allow for mission flexibility. Both Leonidas and Leonidas Pod utilize Epirus’ latest software-defined HPM technology that we’ve discussed to unlock really unprecedented electronic warfare capabilities.
The two systems can absolutely work in unison to enable greater power, longer range and the creation of a layered defense network against incoming threats. With its portability, Leonidas Pod can advance directly to where the threat lies, by being drone-mounted, for example. This over-the-horizon counter-electronics capability can then be paired with ground-based Leonidas systems for 360 degree fixed site protection.
5. Discuss the underlying technologies that enable these two platforms. Are you developing them internally or sourcing them externally?
We’re developing the majority of the components for our systems in-house, yes. For components that we do not make in-house, we source solely from U.S. manufacturers. And all of our systems are manufactured at our headquarters. All of our Leonidas systems are powered by our proprietary SmartPower platform and utilize Epirus’ latest solid-state—GaN-based—software-defined technology,
Leonidas’ phased array HPM approach utilizes GaN-based line-replaceable amplifier modules (LRAMs) that offer reliability, maintainability and supportability advantages. This LRAM architecture enables the scalability of Epirus products and is another hallmark of our innovation. Because of our LRAM architecture, we’re able to introduce new form factors, as we did with Leonidas Pod, in weeks and months, not years, to ensure we’re moving at the speed deemed necessary by the evolution of the threats that exist.
Use of the SmartPower platform coupled with Leonidas’ software-defined ability allows for system updates to be rapidly deployed without the need for new hardware. This, in turn, allows us to continuously evolve the system, optimizing its HPM pulse to achieve positive effects against new targets at longer range.
Put much more simply, we’ve achieved revolutionary advances in high power amplifier circuit design, sense and control that enable the capabilities of our systems and will allow us to continue to advance our current systems and introduce new systems with additional enhancements and upgrades.
6. Tell us about your role as Chief Product Office rand the path that led you to join Epirus.
Sure thing. I've worked in and around electronic warfare for the majority of my civilian career, holding positions at companies like Raytheon and MACOM, where I served as Business Area Chief Engineer for electronic warfare systems and high power amplifier product line manager, respectively before transitioning to leadership roles at various high-tech startups. I co-founded Daqri, an emerging technology company that specializes in mixed reality wearables and then co-founded and served as chief executive officer of Real Wear, Inc., the world leader of industrial head-up display wearable systems.
During my time at Raytheon, I worked alongside a colleague named Bo Marr, who had an idea about a better way of building a technology company that could deliver solutions to some of the most complex problems of our time—and move fast enough to outpace the threats of today and prepare for those of tomorrow.
After reconnecting with Bo, who had since co-founded and become chief technology officer of Epirus, I knew immediately that the company was something I had to be a part of. It’s not every day that you have an opportunity to join a brilliant technologist like Bo on a quest to deliver unprecedented innovation.
As chief product officer, I lead an incredibly talented team of engineers in development of Epirus’ dual product lines: our Leonidas family of directed energy systems and our power management solutions that harness our SmartPower technology platform. I’ve had the opportunity to work on many innovative projects with many brilliant people throughout my career, but my time at Epirus has been the experience of a lifetime. The people, the products and the purpose of Epirus are a rare triad, and I couldn’t be more excited to see what the future has in store for us.
7. A company's culture can be an asset or hindrance to achieving its business objectives. Epirus highlights culture as an asset. As a relatively new addition to Epirus, what's your view of how the culture is supporting your business goals?
Culture is of the utmost importance at Epirus and our approach to culture is really pretty simple: we put our people first—always. We recognize that people are the most important part of Epirus and, by contributing to the individual success of each and every member of our team, we’re directly contributing to the overall success of the company.
At Epirus, we are redefining the future of power. But we are also redefining what it means to be an engineer, a researcher, an employee at a technology company. Because we know innovation alone isn’t enough, we need equitable innovation.
We’re proud to say that 40 percent of our employees and 28 percent of our leadership team come from underrepresented backgrounds. But inclusion isn’t just a statistic, it’s a culture and a key pillar of Epirus.
We aren’t a room full of Ph.Ds. in aerospace engineering, although we have plenty of them. We have military combat veterans, supply chain professionals, enterprise software gurus and manufacturing experts in the same room day-in and day-out, brainstorming, workshopping and ideating. We intentionally bring together people with seemingly disparate backgrounds, fields and areas of expertise to ensure that we don’t have a myopic view.
The best ideas are sparked when we don’t have a room full of people who think the same way. But it’s not just about being in the room. Inclusion is being in the room, but also feeling empowered to speak up, innovate and push the boundaries. That’s what defines Epirus.