Air Street Capital closes USD17m AI fund

Artificial intelligence

AI-focused VC-firm Air Street Capital has closed a USD17 million fund, targeting early-stage founders in Europe and the US who combine AI expertise with sector-specific knowledge in the enterprise, consumer and life sciences sectors. 

Founded by general partner Nathan Benaich, Air Street Capital aims to partner up with professionals in the AI community in order to apply technical expertise to spot new talent and “cut through the hype” to source AI applications, according to the newly founded firm.

Benaich’s prior seed and early-stage investments include Mapillary -which was later acquired by Facebook- Tractable, LabGenius, Thought Machine, Starship, Ravelin, PolyAI, Jukedeck, and Numerai.

The fund’s investments include Allcyte, Anagenex, Graphcore, Intenseye, LabGenius, Mission Barns, V7 Labs, and ZOE. “Everyone knows that there is a huge opportunity in AI investment, but far fewer investors know what great AI companies look like in their earliest days," said Benaich. 

Air Street Capital is supported by LPs including Twitter, Vitruvian Partners, Google Senior Fellow Jeff Dean, Supercell co-founder Ilkka Paananen and Point Nine Capital co-founder Christoph Janz.

Benaich, who has also founded RAAIS and London.AI, commented: “Our LPs have seen enormous opportunity in investing at this stage, as the applications of AI move beyond SaaS into new areas like life sciences, in which we have a particular edge. Here, the importance of having an investor with specific subject matter expertise and industry insight is critical.” 

Benaich said supporting AI-native founders at the seed stage is particularly critical in Europe, where almost one-quarter of the top global AI talent earns their undergraduate and graduate degrees.

The European ecosystem offers fewer specialist investors than the US, however, and is further from the big industrial research labs. Recent deals featuring European AI companies at the later stages include Sequoia investing in Graphcore, and Facebook acquiring Mapillary.