The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) allocates its $3 billion budget to foster new technologies that will "maintain the technological superiority of the U.S. military and prevent technological surprise from harming our national security by sponsoring revolutionary, high-payoff research bridging the gap between fundamental discoveries and their military use," according to the DARPA website.
It sounds a little like a venture capital firm in that it invests in new technologies and entrepreneurs.
To that end, DARPA just appointed a former venture capitalist, Arati Prabhakar, as Director of the important agency, according to reports in Wired. Prabhakar replaces Acting Director William Edward Lehr.
Until last year, Prabhakar was a partner in the IT and energy practice at USVP. USVP's portfolio includes battery maker Contour Energy Systems, combinatorial R&D player Intermolecular, and at least in the past, solar and political black hole Solyndra. According to the same article, quoting a "senior defense official," “Dr. Prabhakar, who underwent extensive vetting, had no involvement in the federal loan guarantee for Solyndra and wasn’t involved in the restructuring of the loan.”
Prabhakar has an impressive CV. She holds an MS and a PhD in Applied Physics from the California Institute of Technology, served at DARPA from 1986 to 1993, and was head of National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) from 1993 to 1997. She spent a decade as a VC at USVP. Prabhakar looks to have been the only woman partner and only Indian-American at the estrogen-challenged firm, which includes Partner Irwin Federman.