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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Axios reported last week that two former 500 Startups partners are raising a $50 million to invest in startups at the pre-seed stage. Then came an announcement that a new pre-seed fund called Afore Capital was launching with a $47 million debut fund. But what is "pre-seed" and why is the term showing up more and more?

Short answer: Today's seed rounds are yesterday's Series A rounds, and pre-seed is the old seed.

More: Investors tells Axios that pre-seed rounds typically total less than $1 million, sometimes replacing what used to be fundraising from friends, family or individual angels. They come before more formal seed rounds that now often raise $2 million or more.

Other players include K9 Ventures, XFactor Ventures and Notation Capital.

Why now? VC firms have been raising larger funds (both seed and early stage), there are many more copycat startups (making it harder for investors to pick one) and investors taking longer to write checks (even if that means writing a bigger one to seal the deal). Moreover, seed investors want to see more evidence that a company and its idea are viable, increasing expectations of budding startups.

  • In Q2 2017, the median U.S. seed deal was $1.6 million, up from $0.6 million in 2014, according to research firm PitchBook.
  • Those increased check sizes put more pressure on seed investors to make sure startups are viable before investing.
  • The seed stage has become pretty crowded, so pre-seed is an area where new firms can find some open space.

Go deeper

Updated 24 mins ago - Sports

MLB enters first lockout since '95 as deal expires

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred (L) and Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark. Photo: Matt King/MLB via Getty Images

Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement expired at 11:59 p.m. ET Wednesday without a new deal in place.

Why it matters: With no CBA, the MLB is in a management lockout — the first work stoppage since a 1994-95 strike led to the cancelation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years.

Media giants back Bannon's bid to release Jan. 6 documents

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon at the FBI Washington Field Office in Washington, DC., in November. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

A coalition of news outlets including the Washington Post is supporting Stephen Bannon's campaign for the release of documents related to his contempt of Congress charges, WashPost reported Wednesday.

Why it matters: WashPost, the New York Times, CNN, NBC, the Wall Street Journal's parent company and others filed a motion arguing that a proposed protective order seeking to prevent the documents from being released violates the First Amendment, per the Daily Mail, which first reported on the news.

Symone Sanders leaving VP's office

Vice President Kamala Harris and her press secretary Symone Sanders. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Symone Sanders, senior advisor and chief spokesperson to Vice President Kamala Harris, is leaving the VP’s office by the end of this year, three White House officials told Axios on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The VP has faced an onslaught of criticism in her first year centered on her leadership and staff, adding to the suggestion, she’s not the Democratic Party’s preferred nominee for 2024.