In 2015, Dan Kaufman, the director of the information innovation office at the U.S. Department’s fabled DARPA lab, began talking to Google about joining the company in some capacity. Maybe he could work on Android. Or take a job at X, the Alphabet moonshot factory formerly known as Google X. And then another possibility came up: ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects), a Google research skunkworks that was “just like DARPA, but in Silicon Valley,” as he describes it. His reaction: “That sounds awesome!”
At the time, ATAP was even led by Regina Dugan, Kaufman’s former boss at DARPA. But not long after he arrived as Dugan’s deputy, she abruptly left to start a similar group at Facebook.
“She laughed and sort of threw the keys to me on the way out,” he remembers. “And I was like, ‘Holy cow, I now run this place.’”
Kaufman, whose background also includes time at DreamWorks and in venture capital, has headed ATAP ever since. If that comes as news to you, it’s…