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Atlas Ventures Closes $265 Million Fund

Latest in a string of venture funds focused on seed and early-stage biotechs.


The Burrill Report

“In the dot-com bubble, we like many venture firms strayed from our early stage focus.”

Atlas Venture closed a $265 million fund, its ninth, which will focus on seed and early-stage investing in life sciences and technology companies. first reported the closing of the fund and Altas Venture partner Bruce Booth expanded upon in it a blog.

The closing of the new fund follows a difficult period for the venture firm where it downsized and retrenched. The difficulties the firms faced led to a strategy to fund seed and early-stage rounds.

“In the dot-com bubble, we like many venture firms strayed from our early stage focus. Atlas raised too much, too fast, and attempted to scale the venture business,” writes Booth. “We had six offices and a couple dozen partners, three layers of them in fact. It’s clear to us that early stage venture capital doesn’t scale.”

Atlas is not alone in raising new funds for start-ups and early-stage biotechs. In January, Wellcome Trust announced the formation of a $326 million fund to finance biotech start-ups. That same month, Hatteras Venture Partners announced a $125 million fund to seed and finance early-stage drug companies and Rock Spring Ventures raised $79 million for early-stage European life sciences and health technology companies. Third Rock Ventures in March announced the largest of these new funds with a $516 fund for biotech startups. It plans to invest in up to 16 new companies.

In his blog entry on the new fund, Atlas’ Booth says the firm’s strategy has evolved into being “seed-led.” Typically, the firm will make an initial investment of $500,000 to de-risk future investments, validate academic findings, recruit a team, and secure intellectual property, he says. The firm will them make a series A investment in those projects that prove themselves and provide indications of success.

“As we begin deploying Fund IX, we’ve assembled a set of life science seed projects that we’ll be launching into new companies spanning a broad range of therapeutic categories: oncology, neurology, metabolism, muscle regeneration, cell therapy, antibiotics, in silico chemistry, novel angles on epigenetics, metabolism, unique antibody approaches, immuno-oncology, inherited ataxias, etc…,” he writes. “All of these are ‘high innovation quotient’ startups. A good number of them won’t graduate out of the seed phase – which is part of the model – but we expect more than a dozen new life science startups to grow into our full lifecycle portfolio.”

May 03, 2013

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