Fund fact sheet
Size and horizon: €40m total fund size with a horizon of 10 years
- AI and Robotics
- Synthetic biology
- New materials
- Diagnostics and non-biotech therapeutic
Geography: Primarily North America
Maturity/stage: Seed stage
Ticket size: $500K – $1M
Potential lead: Yes! We have led most of our deals, but are also open to following other credible leads. We don’t have particular deal terms but typically invest when a company is raising between $3-7mm. We are a very active investor on the cap table and will take either a board seat or board observer.
Follow on: Yes! We reserve 50-60% of our dry powder for follow-on investments.
Previous Investments: Exo (AI/Healthcare), Terra CO2 (New Materials), Fort Robotics (ML/Robotics), Bleximo (Quantum Computing)
How would you describe your VC and your investment thesis/guiding principles in one sentence?
As a deep tech venture firm, Creative Ventures’ investment interests lie in early-stage companies that are solving significant core structural issues—such as rising healthcare costs, labor shortages, and the causes and effects of climate change.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, the key partners/experts in the team?
As of this year, our team of 12 is currently spread across the US, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand, with most of our gravity in the Bay Area.
Our core investment team is made of 3 General Partners and 1 principal:
Alex Luce–(GP) holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in material science and engineering from the University of California, Berkeley (and a B.S. in engineering physics from the University of Arizona). Before his role as GP, Alex previously led CalCharge, the energy storage subsidiary of California Clean Energy Fund.
James Wang– (GP) spearheads our AI investments, leveraging his M.S in computer science specializing in AI/ML from Georgia Tech. Prior to Creative, he was on the core investment team at Bridgewater Associates, co-founded a health-tech startup, and worked at Google X.
Kulika Weizman–(Principal) serves as an expert in synthetic biology. Most recently, she led an SXSW 2022 panel focused on the obstacle of scale in the space. Prior to her time with Creative, Kulika served as co-founder and CEO of Sugarlogix, a synthetic biology company producing functional ingredients naturally found in human breast milk.
As founder and GP, I serve as our lead investor for the construction automation, housing crisis, and robotics markets. Prior to Creative, I served as Chief Strategy Officer at SHARP Electronics where I headed the digital transformation and technology sourcing effort. I also ran new product development initiatives and supply chain at Jonhson and Johnson.
Why do you think now is the right moment to launch this fund?
We have seen our first fund take off with great success, and the primary (if not only) limiting factor is capital. Our fund is not opportunistic. We are solving long-term problems that will only grow in size and vector over the next several decades. This is just the beginning.
What is your unfair advantage? What do you bring besides money?
So many firms will tell you their investors have all this experience and expertise, but not many have much to show for what that actually means. Our entire team at Creative is truly distinguished by our ability to discern a viable solution worth funding because of how we leverage our dual expertise.
Our firm is uniquely able to discern realistic market fit because we commit ourselves to thousands of hours of research and diligence into market solutions and technologies before we meet with founders or see their pitch deck. We’re able to spot a viable solution worth funding earlier in the process because we are dual-technical operators specializing in at least one or more thesis-related fields who also invest and not the other way around.
What do you look for in entrepreneurs?
When it comes down to it, we’re not interested in the trendiest, newest technologies that are easy to sell. We’re looking for applicable solutions that seek to solve humanity’s most critical crises. Any startup we invest in will share that line of thinking.
This does mean we end up investing in markets that are considered “hard,” but between our thesis-driven approach, a team with deep-seated business and technical experience—not to mention incredible co-investors—we have yet to see investing in these categories as anything other than a unique opportunity to invest earlier than other institutional investors and guide these companies in their earliest stages.
Can you give a few examples of startups you previously invested in and why?
Exo is pioneering advanced, high-resolution portable point-of-care ultrasounds that are 100x cheaper than traditional ultrasounds. Ultrasound has historically been either too expensive to be widely accessible, or the cheap ones are terrible in performance. Exo solves this trade-off and significantly reduces the long-term cost of care by providing early diagnostics to use cases previously prohibited while reaping a 60% margin. The company’s Series C raised more than $200mm, led by RA Capital Management.
Terra CO2 produces low-carbon cement that also solves supply chain issues. Cement is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas (nearly 10% of global emissions). Terra’s proven technologies can reduce carbon emissions by as much as 70% while using an abundant, climate-friendly feedstack. The product has already been proven at scale and used to produce demonstration structures for road surfaces in the US. Terra has recently raised a $46mm Series A led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures.
Fort Robotics enables robotics OEMs and end users to build and operate smart machines safely and securely using its wireless communication protocols. Fort’s technologies cut across multiple applications that are solving labor shortages and offer a platform solution for all automation companies, ensuring their product safety and security. The company just announced a $25mm Series A, led by Tiger Global.
What is the best way for founders to approach you and what will convince you to have a first meeting?
Fancy footwork isn’t going to impress us, but approaching us after reading our blog and knowing what we’re looking for can help. Our team takes the time to research before we meet with founders, so we like to see that same effort from the get-go; tell us what problem you’re solving, make it clear you’ve done your own research, and don’t be deterred if you don’t have access to a warm intro. Those are nice and can certainly help, but they’re not a necessity.
What is the most important advice you would give deep tech founders?
It’s imperative to know the stakeholders you’re selling to. Most deep tech companies will need to convince a champion and several more. Never think of your customer as one single person or entity. There is almost always a group of people whose interests must align in order for your solution to be adopted. For example, if you’re selling to a hospital, you need to convince physicians, payers, the FDA, hospital administrators, nurses, and patients. If any one of those groups is not convinced, you’re not going to have the outcome you’re hoping for.
Who are your LPs and how did you convince them to invest their money in deep tech?
Our LPs are a sovereign wealth fund, fund of fund, and family offices from Asia looking for exposure to the most cutting-edge technology companies. The U.S. ecosystem is most suitable to nurture these companies due to market drivers (10-100x higher labor and medical cost per capita), high concentration of engineering talents at top universities and research facilities, and a track record of successful exits—elements that do not exist in Asia.
What do you think will be the next big thing in deep tech?
We anticipate that over the next few years, deep tech will continue to grow in the wake of the global pandemic and ongoing crises that have thrust it into the limelight.
There’s been more activity than ever in space. COVID accelerated all of our trends as healthcare has searched for solutions at a faster rate than ever. Labor shortages have only become more severe. And finally, climate change is getting more attention than ever. Between all of this activity and the CHIPS Act, we expect that the next few years in deep tech will be busy, and many world-defining companies will be born during that time.
What current trend(s) are you seeing in the deep tech investment landscape?
It’s not necessarily a trend, per se, but we’ve seen a lot of hesitation and broken deals that do not seem to arise out of anything other than sheer uncertainty. And that’s a good thing for us. Valuation has dropped in certain pockets and continued at the same high as in 2021 in others. We’re focusing on opportunities in the former; great deals are available now, as opposed to 2021 and even Q1 of 2022, because VCs decided to pull the plug and stop investing.
There are companies with great fundamentals and reasonable valuations that will still go on to be fund makers, even if the multiple remains compressed in the future as it is today. We do not expect that to be the case long-term, though. The level of dry powder remains at a historic high and will eventually be pushed into the market. But we only count on those companies as tailwinds while we shop for the best possible deals on the market, “being greedy when others are fearful.”
Head to Creative Ventures website for more info.