"At San Antonio Startup Week, John Goodson, the co-founder and CEO of Darkhive, enlightens the audience about his company's remarkable achievement of clinching $13 million worth of U.S. government contracts for drone and related technology development."

Following a series of initial triumphs, the CEO of Darkhive generously imparts invaluable insights to startups in San Antonio.

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In the pivotal year of 2021, John Goodson found himself at a crucial crossroads in his professional journey.

For the past two and a half years, he had been immersed in the operations of CTI, a compact yet dynamic software and systems development firm catering to the U.S. military. During his tenure, Goodson had delved into various facets of the defense contracting realm, acquiring invaluable expertise along the way.

However, when CTI embarked on a quest to secure a private equity partner to fuel its expansion plans, Goodson and his colleague, Steve Turner, confronted a defining moment: should they remain and contribute to the company’s growth, or embark on an independent venture of their own?

In that moment, Goodson reflected, “Steve and I had engaged in a diverse array of projects within the Department of Defense, spanning systems integration for crewed and uncrewed aircraft, application development for mobile and web platforms, as well as data processing and machine learning.”

Their departure from CTI marked the beginning of a journey without a predetermined destination. Returning to San Diego, where Goodson had concluded his service with the U.S. Navy in 2016, proved instrumental. During his time there, he had provided support to the Navy’s West Coast SEAL team, offering valuable insights.

Goodson and Turner embarked on a mission to identify the most pressing challenges faced by the SEAL team, eventually zeroing in on a familiar obstacle encountered during Goodson’s deployment in Southern Afghanistan: the cumbersome nature of large drones.

Today, Goodson serves as the CEO while Turner assumes the role of Chief Technical Officer at Darkhive, headquartered in San Antonio. The company is dedicated to developing a compact, cost-effective autonomous drone tailored for military and public safety applications. Additionally, Darkhive has diversified its portfolio to encompass software development solutions.

Recently, Goodson spearheaded a panel discussion at San Antonio Startup Week, shedding light on the intricacies of launching a defense tech startup. This endeavor coincided with Darkhive’s announcement of securing a $1.25 million contract with the Air Force Research Laboratory. The contract aims to advance a voice-enabled command and control system designed for smartphone-based tactical information dissemination, analytics, and visualization.

Furthermore, Darkhive achieved a significant milestone by securing four additional contracts totaling nearly $5 million with AFWERX, a component of the Air Force Research Lab. These contracts are geared towards the development of resilient, cost-effective autonomous drone swarming technologies.

Through two federal initiatives, namely the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, Darkhive secured significant contracts, aiming to foster innovation and commercialization within small U.S. businesses.

In total, Darkhive has amassed over $13 million in government contracts, catalyzing an additional $4 million in recent seed-round funding from investors.

Goodson underscored the significance of SBIR/STTR grants for startups. He highlighted that the grants for “phase 1” projects, which validate the technical feasibility and commercial potential of research, typically range from $50,000 to $250,000.

Reflecting on their experience, Goodson emphasized how their phase 1 grant swiftly transitioned into phase 3, yielding substantial returns. While acknowledging the meticulous process involved in securing these grants, including extensive documentation and garnering support from potential customers and investors, Goodson emphasized their transformative impact.

Among Darkhive’s investors is Capital Factory, discovered through online research for startup resources in Central Texas. Capital Factory’s support extends to startups showing traction and seeking venture capital and institutional investor funding, with aspirations for scaling and eventual IPO.

Martinez, a senior venture associate at Capital Factory, outlined their selective approach, seeking companies poised for growth and offering long-term support throughout their journey. Capital Factory’s involvement often entails taking a stake in the company in exchange for access to their network of funders and mentors.

For Darkhive, this partnership with Capital Factory facilitated access to their Center for Defense Innovation, enhancing their growth prospects. Martinez highlighted the vibrant startup ecosystem in San Antonio, with organizations like Geekdom providing foundational support and Capital Factory guiding startups towards scaling and expansion.

As Darkhive transitions into its next phase of growth, acquiring its standalone space in the Lone Star District, the focus remains on fostering an open environment conducive to innovation, particularly in their drone development endeavors.


With a current workforce of 15 employees, the company is in the process of relocating six individuals to San Antonio by the start of 2024, anticipating the transition into the warehouse by then.

Reflecting on his relocation to San Antonio in 2020, Goodson expressed his long-standing desire to immerse himself in the local startup ecosystem. Initially feeling ill-prepared, he now believes that his accrued experiences have equipped him to contribute meaningfully.

“Now, we’re reaching a stage where we possess a substantial foundation, enabling us to actively support the community,” he remarked. “I owe a great deal of gratitude to the remarkable mentors and friends who have generously devoted their time and expertise to aid in our growth. Without their invaluable support, none of what we’ve accomplished would have been possible.”

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