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Lux Capital’s Deena Shakir sees space and frontier tech going mainstream right now

Deena Shakir affiliated Lux Capital as a partner last year after expend seven years with Google, the last of them with GV, Google’s dare unit.

While Shakir seems to fit right in with the firm — known for its money of PhDs and moonshot investments — venture wasn’t something she was focused on as a job, as she told us during a interminable interrogation last week. An Iraqi-American who grew up in Silicon Valley after her parents immigrated to the region, Shakir set herself through both Harvard, then Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service through a mix of merit awards and labour and reviewed she might become a doctor or nab a PhD in anthropology.

Instead, an internship with the BBC envisioned her cover an historic White House speech, which led her to expend more than two years at the State Department, working for then Secretary Clinton. When she last-minute manager dwelling to be with her family, she was aware that she wanted to make an impact; she didn’t foretell making it through her speculations, hitherto that’s what’s now happening.

If you don’t know Shakir, it’s worth listening to our full gossip hereif you find meter; in the meantime, here are some thinly revised excerpts that glisten a light on where she is placing her gamblings and why.

TC: Lux is known for investing in rocket companies and satellites, though its website actually lists 21 different industries in its portfolio. Did the firm’s considers arise from these industries that interest the firm or because of crews that interest the conglomerate and that happen to operate in these industries?

DS: I actually find some of this industry categorization as questionable because if you look through the portfolio, you’ll view we cherish healthcare, meats, robotics, AI, food production, industrial IoT, and data matches FinTech. It really is intersectional in terms of how we approach manufactures; that’s the nature to seeing how we think about investing. But in terms of how we think about where we want to make investments, we certainly have areas where historically we’ve squander a lot of time that have given us penetrations into where there are white seats[ such as having worked on] autonomous vehicles and having insights through that suffer into the types of software pulpits that could dominance the new generations of autonomy. So there’s definitely a lot of generational and evolutionary investing.

TC: Last week, Lux participated in the seed round a startup called Varda that is centered around manufacturing in space. What is it trying to establish in space and why?

DS: There was still few corporations that I recall would be perceived as more of a Lux fit than Varda. We pride ourselves on companies that turns science fiction into happening[ be indicated in the] space space. We were in Relativity Space; we’re in a number of satellite companionships — Orbital Insight and Planet and several others.

But this is not only a seat that we’re interested in, but too the founding team is one that we’ve had the chance to get to know over age and felt very strongly about. It does not constitute an intuitive firm, which is probably part of the reason why you might be asking about it, like: what exactly do they do, right? At the end of the day, it’s quite early, but they’re working on two things that “weve been” cherish — fabricating and room — abd there are some really interesting innovations that we’re just at the very beginning of understanding their application in space[ including around] physical processes and the afford order. And this unit is at the forefront of taking those on.

TC: Is it going to be manufacturing carbon nanotubes in space to take to the ISS? What’s the need it’s addressing?

DK: At the end of the day, the need is around cost and supply chain. It’s still extremely expensive to propel anything into trajectory — we’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars if not more. That’s the key problem that they want to solve. Manufacturing in space is the hypothesis here. And the government has some mesmerizing and confidential, at this extent, hypothesis as to how they will be able to do that.

TC: Is there fairly later-stage funding for companies that will need a lot of uppercase? Lux is now administering $2.5 billion in assets, after parent$ 1 billion last year. But some opening investors say there is not[ enough to go around] partly because there haven’t yet be sufficient liquidity events.

DK: That’s interesting, because we got excited about what we now call frontier tech before that was really a category — certainly before it had any venture-return profile. Now, it’s becoming increasingly clear that frontier tech is no longer at the territory. It’s becoming a key part of many sizable endeavours. And we’re discover massive firms creating projectiles en masse. We’re seeing private fellowships launch rockets into infinite and collaborate with NASA. We’re too find venture-funded business that previously sounded like science fiction that are approaching simply prodigious valuations. So it does seem like we’re at a turning point now. If you take a look at the ceiling counters[ of] those kinds of business, you’ll ensure participates that may not consequently have taken those types of wagers earlier on.

TC: One of your pots is Shiru, which is leveraging computational intend to create heightened proteins to help feed the world. What does it be talking about your interests and process?

DS: I wasted a lot of time, especially at GV, with some of the alternative protein firms in our portfolio. And a big part of what I’ve done since my epoches in authority, and certainly throughout my meter at Google, has been talking to business spouses, Fortune 500 business, and understanding what their needs are. A large-scale one of the purposes of my character at GV was helping to plug in these large-scale, behemoth business with up-and-coming tech companies and help them to meet the innovation requirements that the government has, and that’s a large part of where my thesis came from.

I genuinely believe that there is a huge opportunity in food that enables these Fortune 500 food companies to meet the increasing demands from customers, environmental challenges, and cost requests[ be attributed to] animal-based ingredients. Shiru’s approach is an interesting one because they are taking a business model that has worked quite well in pharma . . . in enabling the production of novel IP. In this case,[ it’s] fiction plant-based proteins, abusing machine learning and computational biology and actually licensing it to these food firms so they can go on to produce their own versions of the Impossible Burger or Beyond Meat or simply replace a costly animal-based ingredient in one of their products.

TC: Another of your transactions is AllStripes, which aggregates and analyzes medical record, then sells the de recognized data to pharma companies to help them develop remedies. So the common thread is machine learning?

DS: Yes, so for me, it’s about machine learning AI that’s streamlining a really analog industry, whether it’s education, whether it’s commerce, whether it’s menu, and certainly healthcare, where I expend a majority of the members of my time.

TC: What are some of the areas you’re digging into?

DK: Within healthcare, precisely, I am spending a lot of time looking at women’s health and within women’s health. I am looking a lot at fertility tech, and I’ve seen everything from robotic cryo storage to embryo selection to consumerized clinics for IVF. And it’s definitely an interesting market and one that’s growing, specially if you inspect more widely at demographic trends in terms of women having children later in life, as well as what we’re envision in terms of IVF rates and non-eu countries as well.

I’m a mom of two young minors and had some pretty scary medical ordeals myself with with both of their births, and that certainly induced a look into that space as individual patients, but also one where I think there’s really been underinvestment. I get actually forestalled when I sounds anyone talk about women’s health as niche, there is nothing niche about it. From the unadulterated numerals perspective,[ ladies] represents undoubtedly half entire populations. But maids likewise account for over 80% of dollars spent in healthcare and so companionships that are focused on women in the healthcare room are also excellent wedges into other areas.

So outside of those areas in women’s health, I’m looking at menopause and at aging in place for anyone across the gender spectrum. Mental health is a huge one, very. I come from a family of specialists. My father is a psychiatrist. In fact, that’s the reason I grown up in the Bay Area. He came to Stanford in the’ 70 s for his residency in psychiatry and I’ve had a lifelong fascination with mental health issues. In fact, like many children of immigrants, for a red-hot hour I contemplated I was going to be a doctor myself and and even interned with VA’s psychiatry department right before going to college.

Part of the reasons why I get excited about it is because it is one of the fields in prescription that’s still so untouched by tech — certainly on the data side in terms of being slow to adopt EHRs. On the diagnostic and therapeutic side, there have been some really interesting non-pharmacological involvements for mental health, like TMS( transcranial magnetic stimulant ), but it has been elusive to criticize and, of course, it’s top of mind for countless folks right now with the mental health burden on everyone at the pandemic. So we’re see a lot of really interesting novel approaches develop, as well as tailwinds propelling some companies that have been around for a while in a space.

TC: Lux actually modelled a $345 million health-care focused SPAC, or special intent buy busines, in October . Is that one of countless to come and too, is the idea to perhaps back a company that Lux has money earlier in time or an kit it has no association with whatsoever?

DS: We believe that SPACs are really powerful for companies that have an exciting big-hearted legend to tell and whose importance isn’t consequently best evaluated by looking in the rearview mirror. And given the changing nature of health care, particularly given everything the pandemic has done, it’s a particularly salient and interesting opportunity for health care.

We’ve have gotten some really interesting inbound from some of the top firms in the healthcare space. As you can imagine, it’s just a terribly, very interesting time for healthcare. We’re not looking at our own portfolio fellowships. But a number of our companies are going down that track, and we’re encouraging them to[ seek it ].

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