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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Lux on Thursday announced that it raised $675 million for its seventh early-stage fund and $800 million for its first opportunity fund.

Why it matters: Lux Capital is one of the original "frontier" tech venture firms, investing in startups that leverage colliding scientific advancements to create new categories. And now it's got a lot more money in the bank, so it seemed like a good time to check in.

Target areas: Lux co-founders Josh Wolfe and Peter Hébert tell me that they're particularly interested in two sectors:

  • Tech of science: This is hardware enabling breakthroughs, including both tools and instruments, with Lux believing the market will be bolstered by geopolitical competition. A sub-category here is lab robotics and automation — the idea of remote labs with scientists "at the beach" — which could help speed and resolve reproducibility.
  • Space: Sure, this isn't exactly novel in 2021. But I hadn't heard someone before describe the opportunity as succinctly as did Wolfe: "It's railroads turned vertical instead of horizontal."

Peer pressure: While Lux differs from many other VC firms in terms of industry strategy, it's decision to raise an opportunity fund is very familiar: Later-stage sizes are exploding and Lux wants to hold onto ownership positions in its own high-flyers (around 80% of the fund is expected to go to existing portfolio companies).

  • For context, CB Insights reported this morning that there are now more than 700 global unicorns. And we really need a new word to describe the largest VC-backed startups and a new valuation threshold, as the "unicorn" framing no longer cuts it. My inbox is open (dan@axios.com).

The bottom line: Frontier tech investing can have lower hit rates than traditional consumer or enterprise tech VC, or even biotech, but the successes are often more consequential.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Aug 31, 2021 - Economy & Business

Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

Perfect storm brewing for extreme politicians

Data: Axios research; Table: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Redistricting and a flood of departing incumbents are paving the way for more extreme candidates in this year's midterm elections.

Driving the news: At least 19 House districts in 12 states are primed to attract such candidates — hard partisans running in strongly partisan districts — according to an Axios analysis of districts as measured by the Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index (PVI).

Updated 3 hours ago - Technology

3D printing's next act: big metal objects

Chief Scientist Andy Bayramian makes modifications to the laser system on Seurat's 3D metal printer. Photo courtesy of Seurat Technologies.

A new metal 3D printing technology could revolutionize the way large industrial products like planes and cars are made, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.

Why it matters: 3D printing — also called additive manufacturing — has been used since the 1980s to make small plastic parts and prototypes. Metal printing is newer, and the challenge has been figuring out how to make things like large car parts faster and cheaper than traditional methods.