Join us online at COVERGENCE OCT 22-23
The University Tech/Startup Gap Fund and Accelerator Summit
- 20 in-depth gap fund/accelerator program reviews
- Breakout and group discussions on common challenges
- Corporate and Investor partnering panels
- Networking web-site and associated materials
Lux Capital, a New York-based venture capital firm, has raised more than $1 billion across two new funds to back companies on “the cutting edge of science.” The firm raised $500 million for its sixth flagship early-stage fund and another $550 million for an opportunity fund focused on growth-stage investments. Limited partners include global foundations, university endowments, and tech billionaires.
Lux also announced a new hire: Deena Shakir, formerly of GV (Google Ventures), has joined as an investment partner.
To the regular person, Lux’s investments are considered moonshot. The firm has backed entrepreneurs that are working on everything from neurostimulation to nuclear energy to synthetic biology. During my last interview with co-founder and managing partner Josh Wolfe, I actually called one of his portfolio companies “freaking crazy.”
But to Wolfe, they’re anything but. “We’re interested in founders who are scientific rebels,” he told me. “They are focused on shrinking the gap between sci-fi and ‘sci-fact.’ In other words, these are things that were once conceived in someone’s imagination and are now being crystallized into reality.”
CTRL-labs, which is developing a non-invasive neural interface, is one such company. What does “a non-invasive neural interface” do exactly? To put it more simply, CTRL-labs is building a device capable of translating electrical muscle impulses into digital signals (see it in action here).
Wolfe was an early backer of the company, and he hinted that his firm will be making an even more meaningful investment in the near future through its newly-raised funds. I confirmed that CTRL-labs, which has raised more than $67 million in total funding, is currently in the midst of raising a fresh round of capital.
“We’ve had some important technical breakthroughs in the last six months that have put us in a position to raise more substantially,” said CTRL-labs CEO Thomas Reardon. One of those breakthroughs, he added, is the ability to non-invasively observe the human motor nervous system at the level of an individual neuron.
Wolfe believes Reardon’s technology isn’t just limited to the obvious medical and biotech applications. He describes a world in which people will tap their fingers together to turn on Spotify and swipe to the left in the air to change the next song. “Josh is just relentless,” Reardon says. “I can’t tell you how many times he’s had to remind me just how big this company could be.”
Other companies in the Lux portfolio include Desktop Metal, Planet, Rigetti Computing, and Auris Health (acquired by Johnson & Johnson for $3.4 billion in cash). The firm will be beefing up its investments in sectors including digital health with the addition of Deena Shakir coming on as an investment partner.
“What was previously frontier tech is now available to the masses,” Shakir told Fortune. “You can sequence the human genome and get the data on your phone. That’s both a challenge and an opportunity.”
Technology is evolving at a pace faster than ever before, and Shakir believes that rapid innovation could be a double-edged sword for venture firms investing in moonshot companies. “There are ethical challenges we’ve never seen before, and it’s not something that can be ignored anymore. Investors are responsible for helping foster those ethical standards in their companies during the earliest days.”