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Amid VC slowdown, Boston firm raises new fund to address global crises

Material Impact will back startups in climate, agriculture, and energy

Boston venture capital firm Material Impact cofounders Carmichael Roberts (left) and Adam Sharkawy have raised their third fund for investing in startups working to address global problems.Material Impact

Boston venture capital firm Material Impact announced its third investment fund on Wednesday, raising $352 million to back startups attacking global problems such as water scarcity, climate change, and food shortages.

Carmichael Roberts, cofounder of Material Impact, said the new fund will advance the firm’s focus on solving real-world problems that affect billions of people.

“Fund III will focus on companies that have the collective mission of keeping the world healthy, safe, fed, warm, powered, and secured,” Roberts, who is also on the investment committee for Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures, said in a statement.

Founded by Roberts and life sciences executive Adam Sharkawy in 2016, Material Impact’s previous funds have backed startups such as advanced battery developer Nanograf and AgZen, working to reduce crop pesticide usage. (Roberts ranked first in the Globe’s “Tech Power Players” list in 2022.)


Roberts and Sharkawy look for startups working in the realm of materials science. “We assert that you can trace almost any major disruptive innovation in any market or industry back to an underlying innovation in material science,” the pair wrote in a blog post Wednesday. “Whether it is what alloys have done for automotive, composite materials for aerospace, or what polymers and the element of silicon have done for almost every aspect of our lives, they all exist because of advances in materials.”

The cofounders said they see great promise now from startups in recycling, making “green” ammonia for fertilizer, and uncovering ocean-related materials. “The ocean, in particular, is a vastly unexplored area rich with materials whose applications could lead to significant advancements in multiple industries,” Roberts said in an interview.

The third fund is larger than Material Impact’s $110 million initial fund from 2018 and the firm’s $200 million second fund-raised in 2020. That should help Material Impact support its startups for the five or 10 years required to bring new technologies to market, Sharkawy said in an interview. “We want to make sure that we have enough dry powder to take these companies all the way through,” he said.


The firm also added two new advisors. Former congressman Joe Kennedy III will help startups handle government relations. And former General Electric executive Theresa Peterson will advise on funding sources.

Material Impact’s new fund comes amid a difficult market for venture capital. Overall, VC funds have raised $42.7 billion so far this year, less than one-quarter the amount raised in 2022 and on track to be the lowest total since 2017.

Still, several Boston firms recently have announced new funds. Founder Collective in Cambridge raised $95 million for its fifth fund and Elephant Partners in Boston raised almost $800 million, also for its fifth fund.

Aaron Pressman can be reached at Follow him @ampressman.