Air Street Capital Raises $121 Million from Backers Including Spotify Head Daniel Ek, Preps Investments in ‘AI-First Companies’

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Air Street Capital, a London-based venture firm with backers including Spotify head Daniel Ek, has announced a $121 million second fund, capital from which is expected to reach artificial intelligence companies.

Three-year-old Air Street, which was founded by “State of AI Report” co-author Nathan Benaich, just recently revealed the close of its second fund. Between 2019 and last year, the firm’s initial fund supported a variety of AI and “life science” companies, among them multiple lab-grown meat operations, AI image creator and editor ClipDrop (which now belongs to Stability AI), and AI drug-discovery startup Allcyte (which Exscientia owns).

But Air Street’s second fund, which is specifically equipped with $121,212,121, will back “AI-first companies” in particular, according to Benaich. Public interest in artificial intelligence has “exploded” since last summer, Air Street’s founder emphasized – also underscoring that the technology is “in its early real-world deployment phase.”

In closing, the founder Benaich took the opportunity to thank his firm’s angel investors – including (besides the aforementioned Daniel Ek) Google DeepMind chief scientist Jeff Dean and professionals associated with ChatGPT developer OpenAI.

“I think the opportunities for AI are genuinely global,” Benaich said during a Bloomberg interview regarding the second fund. “What’s fascinating about Europe is it has this very strong academic and research base. For many years, many of the major contributors to landmark AI research papers that kind of underpinned the technology that works today had their early careers in Europe.

“I’m investing both in Europe and in North America. I’ve been particularly interested in pharmaceuticals and drug discovery, where I think AI is one of these amazing native languages to explain biology. I’m also interested in enterprise software and automation, and also emerging sectors like robotics and national security and defense,” he continued.

Expanding upon the latter point, it’s worth noting that Air Street is teeing up an investment in a business specializing in “defense systems,” according to its website.

In November of 2021, Ek – who didn’t seem to have commented publicly on Air Street’s second fund at the time of this writing – invested (via his Prima Materia company) a cool €100 million in AI-powered defense business Helsing.

More recently, the Stockholm-born billionaire – whose backing of Helsing elicited criticism for a time – scored a $65 million Series A for his AI-focused preventative-health company, Neko Health. And when it comes to Spotify and the broader music space, the 40-year-old hasn’t hesitated to express his ambitious vision for AI.