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Lux Capital raises $800 million for its first opportunity fund

Lux on Thursday announced that it raised $675 million for its seventh early-stage fund and $800 million for its first opportunity fund.

Why it matters: Lux Capital is one of the original "frontier" tech venture firms, investing in startups that leverage colliding scientific advancements to create new categories. And now it's got a lot more money in the bank, so it seemed like a good time to check in.


Target areas: Lux co-founders Josh Wolfe and Peter Hébert tell me that they're particularly interested in two sectors:

  • Tech of science: This is hardware enabling breakthroughs, including both tools and instruments, with Lux believing the market will be bolstered by geopolitical competition. A sub-category here is lab robotics and automation — the idea of remote labs with scientists "at the beach" — which could help speed and resolve reproducibility.
  • Space: Sure, this isn't exactly novel in 2021. But I hadn't heard someone before describe the opportunity as succinctly as did Wolfe: "It's railroads turned vertical instead of horizontal."

Peer pressure: While Lux differs from many other VC firms in terms of industry strategy, it's decision to raise an opportunity fund is very familiar: Later-stage sizes are exploding and Lux wants to hold onto ownership positions in its own high-flyers (around 80% of the fund is expected to go to existing portfolio companies).

  • For context, CB Insights reported this morning that there are now more than 700 global unicorns. And we really need a new word to describe the largest VC-backed startups and a new valuation threshold, as the "unicorn" framing no longer cuts it. My inbox is open (dan@axios.com).

The bottom line: Frontier tech investing can have lower hit rates than traditional consumer or enterprise tech VC, or even biotech, but the successes are often more consequential.

Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

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Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

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Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

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The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

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"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

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Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

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What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

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