$135M ‘Deep Tech’ Fund by Bison Investors

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust and the Gates family investment office have seen two former investors open a $135 million investment fund that targets startups that are utilising “deep technology” to address some of the most challenging problems facing humanity.

The fund is called Bison Ventures and is based in Seattle. Ben Hemani and Tom Biegala, the company’s founders, were employed by the Gates at Cascade Asset Management Company.

The four investors in Bison Ventures, which also include Ari Wright and Caleb Appleton, the company’s principals, are all engineers with three having experience in climate tech and one in biomedicine.

Hemani said in a statement, “With diverse engineering backgrounds, we are not afraid to deal in the physical and biological world.” “We are comfortable supporting bold companies early in their lifecycle when technical risk still exists, as we know that the best solutions come from technology integration from different industries and applications.”

A subset of startups known as “deep tech” rely on innovative science and engineering to solve issues.

Using artificial intelligence (AI) and other cutting-edge engineering to biology, food and agriculture, hardware, transportation, and digital connectivity are among the fund’s main focus areas.

Bison Ventures has announced investments in six startups:
  • Allonnia: harnessing naturally occurring enzymes, proteins and microbes to address pollutants and waste.
  • Frontera Health: using artificial intelligence to improve behavioral health.
  • InnerPlant: deploying technology that can visually detect signals from plants that are stressed by drought, pathogens or fertilizers.
  • Juvena Therapeutics: using AI to identify the therapeutic potential of proteins released by stem cells.
  • Zyphra: engineering what aims to be dramatically more efficient AI training.
  • Unnamed stealth company: developing generative AI.

According to Hemani, “most venture capital funds today continue to chase pure software companies.” But the cutting-edge technologies that made today’s advancements in artificial intelligence and synthetic biology possible were NVIDIA’s GPUs and Ginkgo Bioworks’ microbe engineering platform, respectively.

The fund supports businesses with diverse leadership: according to Bison Ventures, 80% of the CEOs are from groups that are “traditionally under-represented in venture-backed companies,” including three female CEOs.

Leave a Comment