Raj Shah, the Indian American leader of the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), quietly left his position on Feb. 22 after approximately two years, according to a Federal News Radio report.
Shah’s position is currently being held by Navy Capt. Sean Heritage until the company can find someone else to replace him.
Shah was pivotal in building up DIUx under the direction of former Defense Secretary Ash Carter and took over the leadership position when DIUx was about to tank as it tried to fulfill its mission of reaching out to small, innovative and traditionally nondefense companies to partner with the Pentagon, according to the Federal News Radio report.
Venture capitalist Shah replaced George Duchak when Carter decided to reboot DIUx.
“DIUx right out of the gate was really trying to get its legs under it, really trying to figure out what it was. It had a tough mission because it immediately had metrics imposed upon it for success and for execution,” Stephen Rodriguez, the founder of One Defense told Federal News Radio in 2016.
“It was also compounded by the fact that when you engage these startups the best way to have credibility is to have your own balance sheet, your own capital fund, so people actually know you have money to invest,” he added saying that “[DIUx] just sniffed around, they’re not an actual serious customer.”
By May 2016, DIUx had put no money on contracts and Carter decided to restart the program putting Shah in charge of the company and sure enough, a lot more was being done just within four months.
“Raj [Shah] and his team are already bringing in game-changing technologies that will benefit America’s warfighters. They’ve closed five deals in the last three months, totaling $3.5 million. It took an average of just over 50 days after they first interacted with a company to award these funds and they have another 22 more projects in the pipeline, for an additional $65 million,” Carter had told Federal News Radio in the fall of 2016.
DIUx then opened up campuses in Austin, Texas and Boston, Massachusetts awarding tens of millions of dollars in contracts and even ran out of money in the middle of 2017 because it was awarding so many contracts.
DIUx was given $30 million in 2016 and $10 million in 2017, though DoD requested $45 million that last year.
Shah had previously stated that the company it receives $3 in investments from customers for every $1 it invests, but after President Donald Trump took office last year, DIUx’s future has been ‘up in the air.’
The DoD’s acquisition office is also being split in half to encourage more innovation and now DIUx will have to report to newly confirmed Defense Undersecretary for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin who will most likely have a major say in who will be replacing Shah long-term, according to the Federal News Radio.