Deep tech VC First Star plots a $40M third fund

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First Star, backer of deep tech startups like Plus One and Fyto, aims to raise as much as $40 million for its third venture fund, TechCrunch has learned.

Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, First Star typically backs robotics, blockchain, AI and machine learning-focused startups at the early stage. The firm has not disclosed a first close for its planned third fund, per a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, but if it goes on to raise the projected amount, it would represent a serious leap from First Star's earlier funds.

In 2014, the VC launched a debut $10 million fund under a different name (Procyon Ventures), and it followed that up with a $25 million second fund in 2019, according to PitchBook. Its founding partners, Millie Liu and Drew Volpe, share ties to both MIT (as researchers) and MassChallenge, the Boston startup incubator (as mentors).

First Star did not immediately respond to a request for additional info on its plans for the new fund, but the investor's recent deals offer a hint on where it's focusing its energy lately. Deals the VC participated in this year include a $7 million seed round for ChiselStrike, which makes tools for back-end software developers, and a $12 million Series A for Zanskar, which aims to decarbonize the U.S. power grid by spotting geothermal resources with AI. Like Zanskar, First Star-backed Fyto could also be considered climate tech; the MIT-founded startup intends to cut water waste and greenhouse gas emissions by using robots to grow "ultra-sustainable" feed for cows.

Cantos, another deep tech VC with an early-stage focus, recently launched its own $50 million third fund with a more extrinsic focus on responding to the climate crisis.