A new early-stage investment firm named after a star in the constellation Canis Minor has made a trio of investments since starting up earlier this year. I’d heard rumblings about the existence of Procyon Ventures a few months back, but didn’t get founding partner Millie Liu on the phone until yesterday.
Liu, who graduated in 2012 from MIT’s Sloan School of Management, says that her “overarching theme is data — data processing, analytics, algorithms, machine learning.” And that investment theme also encompasses databases and security software. Her first fund, $10 million, comes from “successful business leaders in China.” And so part of her pitch to entrepreneurs she may invest in is that Procyon can be “the bridge between startups here in the U.S. and their global market, more specifically, the Asia market.” Liu, who speaks both Mandarin and Cantonese, says she travels to China regularly and works to help startups forge business relationships there.
Liu says that Procyon, based in Kendall Square, invests between $50,000 and $500,000 in startups, reserving additional money for later funding rounds. The firm will focus on seed and Series A deals. Liu has already made investments in three startups: Infinite Analytics, which uses social network profiles to help e-commerce sites understand their customers; Seven Bridges Genomics, which helps researchers manage genomic data; and Contastic, a new web-based sales automation tool. The first two are based in Cambridge; Contastic is in Palo Alto. “We don’t have a specific preference of East Coast versus West Coast,” Liu says.
Liu’s Twitter profile describes her as an “investor by accident,” and she had previously been working on her own algorithm startup, Twithinks, with several colleagues. But in talking with prospective China-based investors about Twithinks, Liu discovered that they had a broader interest in getting “early access to early stage startups in the U.S. I thought this was a fundraising conversation with my startup, but instead of raising $500,000, I got $10 million,” she says. Liu calls this first $10 million an “experimental fund,” and says she hopes to put together a larger fund in the future.
Liu, still in her twenties, is definitely one of the youngest VCs in town, and she says that helps her connect with collegiate entrepreneurs, and those who have recently graduated. She is also the latest in a string of women who have started their own venture firms in Boston (others include Katie Rae at Project 11 Ventures, Maria Cirino at .406 Ventures, Nicole Stata at Boston Seed Capital, and Nina Saberi at Castile Ventures). I’ll have more on that topic in my Sunday Boston Globe column this week…
Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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