In the midst of pandemic and recession, there’s still money out there for higher-risk venture capital investing, and Boston’s Material Impact has just raked in $200 million of it.
The venture capital company on Wednesday said the money will seed its new Material Impact Fund II to invest in companies making products from new kinds of materials. Investors include the Harvard and Princeton university endowments, as well as foundations, wealthy families, and other investment funds.
The company’s previous fund raised $110 million and invested in companies such as Soft Robotics of Bedford, which makes robotic hands that can pick up delicate items without damage, and Zero Mass Water, an Arizona company that makes a system that extracts drinking water from the air.
“We don’t really invest in fads,” said Material Impact’s marketing partner Elyse Winer. “We invest in these problems that aren’t going away.”
Since the onset of the pandemic, Winer and her partners have been forced to conduct virtual meetings, denying them the face-to-face interactions they’d prefer when millions of dollars are at stake.
“Meeting a team in person is really critical,” Winer said. “It’s challenging, man. I’m not going to lie.”
Still, Winer said there’s money out there for companies developing solutions to the most challenging problems, what she calls “tough tech.” Many of these problems can be solved by creating new kinds of materials that can do things impossible for existing substances. Winer said that Material Impact is particularly interested in synthetic biology products, such as artificial meats. She also sees a major opportunity in using DNA and other molecules to store digital data, as an alternative to today’s hard drives and flash drives.