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Section 32 closes on $525M fund, says there is ‘a zone of commoditization that you have to avoid while investing in AI’

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Section 32, a venture firm founded by ex-Google Ventures CEO Bill Maris, has closed on $525 million in capital commitments across its fifth fund, TechCrunch is first to report. 

A portion of the capital will go toward early-stage investments, while the remaining will be reserved for follow-on opportunities.

The San Diego, California, firm, which now has $2.3 billion in assets under management, has seen a number of notable exits over its six-year history. It invested in a number of startups that eventually went on to become publicly-traded companies, including Crowdstrike, which went public in 2019; Coinbase, which made its public debut in 2021 and Relay Therapeutics, which took to the public markets in 2020.

Section 32 has now backed about 100 startups across a variety of software-driven industries, including infrastructure, cybersecurity, gaming and brand experiences, enterprise, quantum and precision medicine, and computational biology. It’s even invested in EV boat startup, Arc. Most of its portfolio are U.S.-based companies, although it has made some non-U.S. investments.

Some of the firm’s most highly valued portfolio companies currently include Cohere, which is developing an AI model ecosystem for the enterprise and raised $270 million at a $2.1 billion valuation in June;  Scale AI, which was valued at $3.5 billion in late 2020 but had to cut 20% of its staff earlier this year, and HR tech company Gusto, which recently reported that it generated revenue of more than $500 million in its most recent fiscal year after being valued at nearly $10 billion in 2022.

Maris founded Section 32 in 2017 after heading up Alphabet’s venture arm, Google Ventures (GV). The focus of the firm, says CEO and Managing Partner Andy Harrison, is to “invest in software-driven businesses in tech and healthcare that improve the human condition.”

Section 32 raised its fourth fund in 2021. Its target then and now, according to Harrison, was to raise $400 million to $500 million. It raised additional capital, a total of $740 million, in 2021 “given that market environment,” Harrison told TechCrunch.

“This time, we reduced the fund size, given the current market environment, and held the line closer to our upper bound,” he said. It has fully allocated all the funds out of its fourth fund, although all that capital has not yet been deployed.

“Like Google Ventures, we’re broad in terms of stage and tech area,” Harrison told TechCrunch. “We do most of our work around Series A and B and some later-stage investing as well.”

Image Credits: Section 32 CEO and Managing Partner Andy Harrison / Section 32

Section 32 typically makes 20-25 investments per fund, investing $5 million to $10 million in the first round, and then allocating “substantial reserves” against that position.

“As you can imagine, there is pretty significant Google-related deal flow given our history and relationships,” said Harrision, who spent over four years at Google, first as head of business & corporate development there and as a co-founder of Verily Ventures,  or Google Life Sciences. Prior to leaving in 2021, he worked on the executive leadership team at Google X.

There also many investments that were sourced from, or can be traced back to, Alphabet, including Cohere and Inceptive, which were co-founded by architects behind the 2017 Transformer paper; Exai Bio and BigHat Biosciences, co-founded by former leaders of Google Genomics and

“Many people we worked with at Google were working on ML projects at that time,” Harrison said. “Many of those folks have moved on to ML to AI to generative AI….We’re software investors but it turns out that many of the newest developments in software involve the application of AI and the software stack so we have a big focus in that area. And obviously, that’s been a tailwind for the firm and our portfolio.”

Still, he cautions that Section 32 is “very, very careful” about how it invests in the aggressively-hyped AI sector.

“We’re sort of simplistic and disciplined about it. We believe that there’s a zone of commoditization that you have to avoid while investing in AI – the big companies like Google and Microsoft are going to give these capabilities away to consumers.” Harrison said. “So I think that the market in general is going to get access to these tools, either free or through subscriptions to software that they already have.”

As such, Section 32 is “really focused” on the application side of AI, where it could do work in areas like, like cybersecurity the enterprise, computational biology “and other areas that we know the cloud players are not going to focus on, or they’re not going to build for specific verticals.”

So far, Section 32 has made five to six new investments out of its new fund.

In conjunction with the new fund announcement, the firm also shared that it has promoted Wesley Tillu from senior principal to partner. Tillu  joined Section 32 in 2021 from In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the CIA and U.S. intelligence community.

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Greenhouse Gases Are Alerting Oceans ‘Before Our Eyes,’ Says NASA

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NASA has shared a stunning yet concerning visualisation of sea surface currents and how they are being altered due to global warming. The visualisation depicts the average temperatures of ocean currents and how they differ at different locations.

The warmer hues such as red, orange, and yellow indicate higher temperatures, and cooler shades like green and blue represent lower temperatures.

“With 70% of the planet covered by water, the seas are important drivers of Earth’s global climate. Yet, increasing greenhouse gases from human activities are altering the ocean before our eyes,” the agency captioned the post.

According to NASA, 90 percent of the planet’s warming occurs within the ocean. Since modern recordkeeping began in 1955, the internal heat of the ocean has steadily increased, contributing significantly to climate change.

ALSO SEE: World’s Oceans Are Losing Their “Memory” As A Result Of Global Warming, Experts Claim

The heat stored in the ocean leads to thermal expansion, a process where water expands as it warms. This phenomenon is a major contributor to global sea level rise, accounting for one-third to one-half of the increase.

Scientists say the majority of this heat is concentrated at the surface, within the top 700 meters of the ocean. According to existing records, the past decade has been the warmest for the ocean since at least the 1800s, with 2023 marking the highest recorded ocean temperatures to date.

ALSO SEE: Arctic Ocean Warming Started Decades Earlier Than Previously Thought

The warming of the ocean has far-reaching effects. One of the most visible impacts is the rise in sea levels, primarily due to thermal expansion. Warmer waters have also led to widespread coral bleaching, which affects marine ecosystems and the increased temperatures also accelerate the melting of Earth’s major ice sheets.

NASA says that the warming ocean intensifies hurricanes affect ocean health and biochemistry, altering marine life habitats and disrupting food chains.





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NASA Shares Incredible Picture Of ‘Space Potato’ Phobos; It Will Soon Crash Into Mars

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Ever seen a space potato? NASA is here to treat you with one. The agency has shared a fascinating image of Phobos, the larger of two moons of Mars, explaining what makes this object so intriguing.

Meauring just 27 by 22 by 18 kilometres in diameter, Phobos orbits Mars about 6,000 km above the red planet’s surface and it is on a collision course with Earth.

This is the closest any Moon orbits a planet and Phobos might crash into Mars in the future. Scientists estimate that this is likely to happen within 50 million years. Another likely scenario of Phobos’ end will be its potential obliteration into pieces, eventually forming a ring around Mars.

According to NASA, Phobos is nearing Mars at the rate of six feet each year.

ALSO SEE: We May Have Been Wrong About Martian Moon Phobos’ Origin, It Could Be A Comet

Phobos (left) and Deimos (right). Image: NASA

Describing the image, the agency said that it was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been studying Mars since 2006.

Phobos was discovered along with its twin just six days apart by astronomer Asaph Hall in 1877.

ALSO SEE: ISRO’s Mangalyaan Presents Breathtaking Video Of Martian Moon ‘Phobos’

The Moon also has several craters but the most dominant one is the 10-km-wide Stickeny crater which Hall named after his wife Angelina.

The second moon is Deimos which measures 15 by 12 by 11 kilometres and orbits the red planet every 30 hours. Both the moons are named after the mythological sons of Ares, the Greek counterpart of the Roman god. Phobos means fear and Deimos means dread, says NASA. As for their origin, astronomers believe they could be asteroids or debris caught by Mars in the early solar system.

(Image: NASA)





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Rare ‘Gigantic Jets’ Spotted Above The Himalayas, NASA Shares Viral Picture

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NASA recently shared a captivating image of gigantic jets soaring from a thunderstorm toward the Himalayan Mountains in China and Bhutan. This composite image, featured in NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day segment on June 18, reveals four immense jets captured within minutes of each other.

Gigantic jets are a rare and fascinating type of lightning discharge that have only been documented since the early 2000s. Unlike conventional lightning that occurs between clouds or strikes the ground, gigantic jets bridge the gap between thunderstorms and the Earth’s ionosphere, the layer of the atmosphere that is ionised by solar and cosmic radiation, NASA said.

Jets of lightning spotted over the Himalayas. Image: NASA/Li Xuanhua

These jets are unique in their appearance and behavior, differing significantly from traditional lightning phenomena.

ALSO SEE: Webb Telescope Photographs Baby Stars Burping Out Gases For The First Time

Despite their visual grandeur, the precise mechanisms and triggers behind gigantic jets are still under investigation. What is known is that these jets help to balance electrical charges between different layers of the Earth’s atmosphere, playing a crucial role in maintaining the atmospheric electrical circuit.

For those interested in observing this phenomenon, a powerful but distant thunderstorm viewed from a clear vantage point offers the best chance.

As these jets typically shoot upwards from the storm tops into the ionosphere, they can often be seen from hundreds of kilometers away under the right conditions.

ALSO SEE: NASA Shares First Cosmic Image Of 2024 And It’s Exploding With Stars



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