AI-focussed venture capital firm Air Street Capital announced the close of a $17 million fund, targeting early-stage founders in Europe and the US who combine AI expertise with sector-specific knowledge.

The VC brings its own AI expertise to the table, as well. The London-based firm is led by founder and general partner Nathan Benaich, an investor with a PhD in experimental and computational cancer research. In 2015 he founded the event RAAIS and the community London.AI, which connect AI practitioners from large companies, startups and academia. A venture partner at Point Nine Capital, Benaich also co-authors the annual State of AI Report.

“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,” he says. “Air Street Capital invests from day zero onwards, frequently before companies enter the strike zone of generalist venture firms.”

Benaich’s prior seed and early-stage investments include Mapillary (acquired by Facebook), Tractable, LabGenius (which just announced a $15 million Series A yesterday), Thought Machine (recently closed a $125 million Series B round) and Jukedeck (acquired by ByteDance, which also owns TikTok).

The new fund’s limited partners include Twitter, Vitruvian Partners, Google Senior Fellow Jeff Dean, Supercell co-founder Ilkka Paananen and Point Nine Capital co-founder Christoph Janz. Current investments include Allcyte, Anagenex, Graphcore, Intenseye, LabGenius, Mission Barns, V7 Labs and ZOE.

In addition to Benaich, Air Street Capital’s is made up of several AI-native operating partners: industry execs who have built their careers in the early days of AI-first software. These include Phil Keslin (Niantic), Julien Cornebise and Gabriel Dulac-Arnold (Google Research, DeepMind), Gaile Gordon (TYZX, acquired by Intel) and Jan Erik Solem (Facebook, Mapillary), amongst others.

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