MIT Venture Fund Backs Startups in Biotech, Renewable Energy

  • The Engine raised $200 million, finances 7 companies
  • More than 500 startups submitted proposals for funding

A venture fund started by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology called The Engine has financed its first seven companies after raising $200 million from investors.

The selected companies are working in fields such as aerospace, advanced materials, genetic engineering and renewable energy, The Engine said Tuesday in a statement. The firms are: Analytical Space; Baseload Renewables; C2Sense; iSee; Kytopen; Suono Bio; and Via Separations. The goal is to fund and support 60 startups, providing them with space, equipment, and technical support in addition to capital.

Katie Rae

Source: The Engine

“We’re investing in these companies and trying to grow them into very large businesses,” said Katie Rae, chief executive officer of The Engine, which is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, near the MIT campus. “Most of them are in early phases.”

Outside Investors

Large family offices and endowments invested in the venture fund and the fundraising surpassed an initial goal of $150 million, Rae said in a phone interview before the announcement. MIT invested $25 million, though the money came directly from the university rather than the investment management company overseeing the elite school’s $14 billion endowment. The Engine launched in October and opened offices in May.

The types of companies that received funding often have struggled to emerge from labs and attract traditional venture capital, Rae said. The company founders come from MIT as well as other schools in the area, such as Harvard University. More than 500 startups made proposals seeking support from The Engine, she said.

“It’s an embarrassment of riches,” Rae said.

Baseload Renewables will receive an initial $2 million to prove its battery chemistry can store wind and solar energy longer, and at lower cost, than lithium-ion. MIT Professor Yet-Ming Chiang said his aqueous sulfur design will be able to store more than a day’s worth of energy at a fraction of the cost of lithium ion.

“It has to be more than a day,” Chiang said. By using sulfur, a byproduct of the oil and gas industry, most of the materials’ costs are eliminated. “We have the platform of a technology that can do that.”

— With assistance by Chris Martin

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