Point72 Ventures

Meet the new Point72 Ventures Partners – Chris Morales

We are thrilled to announce the recent promotions of Tara Stokes, Chris Morales, Sugam Sarin, and Ishan Sinha to Partners at Point72 Ventures. Each of them plays instrumental roles in leading Point72 Ventures investing in their respective fields of AI, Defense Tech, Fintech, and Consumer. We caught up with them for a conversation about their career journey, their vision for their sectors, and how they plan to continue supporting innovation and founders in their new role.

  • To start, can you share a brief overview of your career journey leading up to Point72 Ventures?

This is a while back, but it really started when I was in high school in Manhattan during 9/11. Seeing the aftermath of that day firsthand, drove me to enroll in the U.S. Naval Academy, where I majored in National Security Studies. After graduation, I served as an F/A-18F Super Hornet Weapons Systems Officer. My tours included a deployment flying missions over Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a couple of years as a flight instructor. After I wrapped up my time in the Navy, I studied law and business at the University of Pennsylvania. My first job out of grad school was as an investment banker at Goldman Sach’s Tech, Media, and Telecommunications group – where I first got a taste of the intersection of tech and finance. The one thing that was missing was the sense of mission I had while serving in the Navy. I joined Point72 Ventures in 2020, where I was able to find that by helping build our Defense Tech practice. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to tie that all together, but here we are!

  • What sets Point72 Ventures apart from other firms and what has your experience been working here so far?

People and Expertise. I find the people who work here incredibly smart, motivated and great to work with. They have fascinating stories. Some examples – Dan Gwak, one of our Managing Partners, paused his HBS education to deploy as an enlisted infantry Marine to Afghanistan. Ryan and Graham on our Defense Tech team both have interesting paths as well. Ryan was a Marine Intelligence Officer who did counter-intelligence work, and Graham’s background spans artificial intelligence, agriculture and natural resources. interesting paths aren’t limited to Defense Tech. For example, another one of our colleagues James, on our digital assets team sold motorbikes in high school to put himself through college.

Each of our teams makes it their priority to know their areas really well, and I’ve found that founders recognize that when talking to us. We can stand behind our investments because of the rigorous work we did validating the market and understanding the companies we back. When founders work with us, it’s often because we’ve demonstrated incredibly strong knowledge of their market, and the ability to be helpful in their journey.

  • What is your area of expertise and what are some of the key trends you are currently observing that excite you?

I focus on Defense Tech, where we’ve seen a pretty a strong shift in both customer and investor sentiment. Four years ago, when we started investing in the space, I would have characterized Defense Tech as a backwater in VC and barely a thought for DoD program offices and buyers. Now it feels like it has gone mainstream on both counts – with more and more VCs investing, and more policy makers in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill making it a core focus. The latest budget passed by Congress sets aside over $1B for Defense Tech, including $900M+ for the Defense Innovation Unit and $200M for an initiative known as Replicator to fund autonomous systems. There’s still much work to be done on the customer side, and those funds still have to make it to the companies building for national security. But I think things are overwhelmingly moving in the right direction.

  • Can you share an example of a project or deal that you’re particularly proud of?

We were the Series A co-lead for Vannevar Labs. When we invested in that company, they had 13 people and many folks were skeptical of start-ups selling software into the DoD. But we thought Brett and Nini, the co-founders, were absolute rockstars. Their primary product, Decrypt, tackles an area our team was very familiar with – intelligence. The team shows up every day and brings it. It’s been very rewarding to be part of their journey.

  • What is your approach to identifying and supporting promising startups in the Defense Tech space?

There are two primary things we look for – first is a team that blends technical and national security expertise. We’re looking for folks who are solving hard problems that an incumbent is unable to tackle for one reason or another. It’s a space that can be difficult for an outsider to sell into – so we look for someone on the founding team with national security experience. Finally, we’re looking for products that we believe have the potential to shift the global superpower balance, and to move the needle enough to break into a historically tough market.

  • Finally, what advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to work in venture capital?

There’s one thing I think every VC values in a new hire – a track record of engaging with a community of founders along with the network that comes with it. There are a lot of ways to do this. You can intern with start-ups, or work for an organization that engages many of them. If you have domain expertise in a given area, you could work as an advisor helping a start-up operate in that area or function. I find domain expertise and network to be generally a winning combination

This is not an advertisement nor an offer to sell nor a solicitation of an offer to invest in any entity or other investment vehicle.  The information herein is not intended to be used as a guide to investing or as a source of any specific investment recommendation, and it makes no implied or express recommendation concerning the suitability of an investment for any particular investor.  The opinions, projections and other forward-looking statements are based on assumptions that the authors’ believe to be reasonable but are subject to a wide range of risks and uncertainties, and, therefore, actual outcomes and future events may differ materially from those expressed or implied by such statements.  Point72 Private Investments, LLC or an affiliate may seek to invest in one or more of the companies discussed herein.