Introducing Material Impact.
By Carmichael Roberts and Adam Sharkawy
Material Impact is a venture capital fund that invests in building companies which transform materials technologies into products that make an impact on real-world problems… hence the name Material Impact.
As a general partner at North Bridge Venture Partners, Carmichael Roberts carved out a niche for himself as the “materials investor;” investing in companies that stood out from the primarily software-focused North Bridge portfolio. As a corporate executive responsible for the innovation engines of several publicly traded Fortune 500s, Adam Sharkawy has brought value to the marketplace with many successfully commercialized products. Since he has acquired several companies and has had companies acquired several times, he understands both sides of exits. Over the past 20 years, they have been good friends and collaborators on multiple companies. They have even been on boards together, but never in one firm. Today they have evolved and combined their respective and collective experiences into a single firm, building a portfolio of companies with tangible, manufactured products that are designed to solve some of the most important unmet needs in society. Two good friends finally working together—aspiring to make a Material Impact!
A Letter from the Founders
We’re pleased to announce we have raised a $110M fund to transform materials into companies and products that make an impact.
Why impact and why materials?
We invest in technologies that keep the world healthy, safe, warm, powered, fed, and secure. These categories transcend fads—they have always been and will always be important. They are spaces that really make a measurable and sustained difference to human lives.
The most significant quantum leap advancements in technology are enabled by innovations in material science. A 2012 study by MIT found that the contribution of material science innovation to overall technological progress is staggering. For example, two-thirds of the total progress in computation over the last 40 years has been due to materials/process innovations, and its impact is growing. That impact can be seen across a breadth of industries, including water and food supply, healthcare, clean and renewable energy, transportation, and industrial productivity.
Material science entrepreneurs turned investors.
You don’t often hear about funds investing in material science, and that’s because it’s difficult to do unless you’re an expert. We are those experts.
Back in 1999, we were the only young entrepreneurs to find ourselves on the Duke Biomedical Engineering Advisory Board. We stood out from the other board members as the two entrepreneurs, each building companies that centered around materials innovations. Over the next 15-20 years, we would work together on a number of companies that were each started by one or the other. From our entrepreneurial roots, Carmichael would eventually go on to become a VC, Adam a C-level life sciences executive. But our friendship remained strong, our complementary strengths serving us each well as we built, scaled and led small, medium, and Fortune 500 enterprises.
Today we are those same entrepreneurs and operators, we just happen to be slightly older (on paper anyway) and VCs. We are passionate about developing products and companies out of unique material technologies. We’ve done it as grad students, as postdocs, as entrepreneurs, as executives and as VCs. However, we like to think we are not traditional VCs but rather two company builders who have a venture fund. Today we’re on a mission to empower other materials entrepreneurs and to transform their ideas into high impact and valuable companies.
Building companies is a team sport.
When it came time to assemble the team for Material Impact, we looked to the people who had helped us build companies along the way. Our team has unique domain expertise in materials blended with experience as operators, product developers and dealmakers. We will never write a check and walk away from our investment. Our team has the operational manpower required to guide scientific founders and entrepreneurs as they build successful enterprises from the ground up. Our strategy of inception-stage investing means we will often become involved before a company is even formed. In some cases, a team member and the inventor will work together as entrepreneurs to define the business before the Series A investment. When we are involved with a company in which there are three people in the garage grinding it out, we are one of those three people—shoulder to shoulder.
We encourage you to read more about our rock star team here.
Who and what we look for.
We chose to lay our roots in Boston, largely because it has many of the raw materials needed to create and grow successful companies: a vibrant university ecosystem, a growing network of large companies, and a thriving tech startup community. But we aren’t solely focused on making Massachusetts-based investments. We aim to find brilliant founders that are solving some of the world’s most important problems with material science. An individual or team seeking the expertise, track record and connections to transform an idea into a valuable company with a strong competitive advantage.
We will only invest in a select group of startups each year to ensure we have the bandwidth to support them on an ongoing basis. Check out our portfolio companies Soft Robotics, Zero Mass Water, Amastan Technologies, and Fusion Coolant Systems to get a sense for who and what we’re all about.
We’re on a mission to discover the next great materials inventors and innovations that will change the world. And we’re just getting started.
Carmichael’s board seats at North Bridge portfolio companies will continue unchanged. He appreciates all of the support that all of his partners at North Bridge have given him to launch this new fund and firm. In addition to his role at North Bridge, Carmichael is also a member of Breakthrough Energy, a mission-oriented group committed to changing the world by creating and building companies that address the threat of climate change and long-term sustainability of the planet.