Illuminating the Future
Today Lux Capital announces more than $1 billion in new funds and a new investing partner to shrink the gap between science fiction and fact
The future always starts with fiction. It may be an inkling of an idea, a half-baked hypothesis, a vision, or speculation of what might be. Whether from a company founder, an ambitious scientist or a sci-fi author — it’s all imagination. But imagination is just fiction until it is crystallized in reality through experimentation, proven technology and science.
At Lux, for over a decade we’ve found the greatest psychological reward comes from partnering with unconventional founders and believing in their visions before others even understand. We’ve also found the greatest financial reward comes from backing their cutting-edge ventures that others deem impossible yet we believe to be inevitable. This often puts us out on the fringes, at the edge of the (not yet widely) known. We marvel at teaming with daring inventors and rebel scientists, whose tenacity turns imagination and ideas straight from science fiction into science fact and incredible, real, new technologies and products.
Today we are announcing two new funds dedicated to investing in people inventing the future and further shrinking the gap between science fiction and fact: a $500 million early-stage fund (our sixth), and a $550 million opportunity fund focused on growth-stage investments (our second). These new funds will propel ambitious founders creating the future by turning radical ideas into reality. With a cumulative $1 billion in fresh capital, Lux is now actively managing more than $2.4 billion.
Over the past decade, we’ve expanded from our New York City roots to Silicon Valley, and built a diverse firm of over 20 full-time professionals, with a wide spectrum of technical backgrounds and the versatility to invest at any stage, from $50,000 to $50 million.
Our portfolio is comprised of visionary inventors who are:
- reimagining neural interfaces (CTRL-labs)
- designing and enabling autonomous vehicles on sea, land, air and space (Saildrone, Zoox, Aeva, Applied Intuition, Drone Racing League, Planet)
- harnessing the gut-brain axis to develop new therapies (Kallyope)
- 3D printing complex metal parts on demand (Desktop Metal)
- transforming medicine with AI (Recursion, Visla)
Investing in the rebels of science and technology is working. A string of recent, successful Lux exits demonstrate that unique ventures with lots of technical difficulty and complexity can also produce lots of gains for all stakeholders — not just for our company founders or our Limited Partners (which include major medical and scientific research foundations, children’s hospitals, global non-profits, and university endowments), but also for society at large by improving human potential and reducing human suffering.
It’s already come to fruition for several portfolio companies in the Lux family.
Take for instance:
Johnson & Johnson’s 2019 acquisition of medical robotics pioneer Auris Health for up to $6 billion is one of the 10 largest VC-backed, private M&A transactions of all-time (as well as the largest robotics and largest medtech private M&A deal in history). It also accelerates a future of precise, incision-less surgery to improve patient outcomes. We started our journey with Auris by funding it from Series A and going all-in behind CEO Fred Moll and team, making Auris the single largest investment in our firm’s history.
Cisco’s 2019 acquisition of silicon photonics innovator Luxtera for $660 million is a success story that started as government-funded Caltech research before running through the precarious gauntlet of early commercialization. The unrelenting team ignored naysayers, cut through complex technical challenges and plowed through to the future to now power many of the largest data centers in the world.
The more complex and unappreciated the idea, the more excited we get. Several years back we made a contrarian bet to help field a team, incubate, and fund Kurion, a cutting-edge startup that would develop advanced robotics and state-of-the-art engineering technologies to clean and contain nuclear waste. It worked. Kurion not only solved a very significant problem, cleaning up the Fukushima disaster in Japan, it also provided a more than 34x return for Lux when acquired in 2016 by Veolia for nearly $400 million.
With a diverse, deeply technical and growing team we have expanded the depth and breadth of opportunities we pursue: from backing AI chip pioneer Nervana Systems through its acquisition by Intel for $400 million, to having taken several companies from the cutting-edge of research out of top labs to ringing the bell at IPO in fields ranging from vaccines and infectious disease to advanced memory chips. We are always looking for sharp talent to expand Lux’s ability to serve entrepreneurs.
Expanding the Lux Family
In addition to the new fund, we are also announcing today the addition of a new dynamic Lux investment Partner: Deena Shakir. Before joining us, Deena was at GV (formerly Google Ventures), supporting a portfolio of over 300 companies with their business development and growth opportunities. At Google she helped land strategic partnerships for early-stage products in health care, research, machine intelligence and search, and also led social impact investments at Google.org.
Born in Silicon Valley (before it was Silicon Valley) to immigrants from Iraq, Deena has a maverick spirit and a passion for unique, non-obvious opportunities that break the mold. She has a vast and valuable network spanning a wide-ranging and unorthodox career (relative to her peers at Harvard and Georgetown): from aspiring anthropologist, to journalist, diplomat, aid worker, technologist, and policy advocate. The common thread being bringing people together and building partnerships through diplomacy and public service.
Deena’s understanding of the potential of science to enhance the human experience and the need to balance technological breakthroughs with a thoughtful and ethical approach fits perfectly at Lux. You can read more about Deena here.
Our name, “Lux,” is Latin for light. As in: We strive to shine a light on the unknown, the unseen and the misunderstood. It is in those dark places where you make the most meaningful discoveries. It’s also where we want to shine a spotlight on the technology and technologists making the most meaningful discoveries.
If you are a rebel inventor and want to work with a team outliers and rebels who believe the potential of a transformative venture before others even understand, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear your vision for the future.