Looking for the next unicorn: software that anticipates needs

When he talks about his work, a big smile appears on his face. Jeans and a T-shirt: Alberto Cresto has the curious look of someone who likes to innovate. His leadership path is characterized by a personal search characterized by impatience and the desire to go beyond the present, seasoned with a very strong team spirit. All ingredients that led him to find it Lunar activitiesThe fund is always on the lookout for the latest technological unicorn: “The basic idea is to identify innovative software that has the potential to change the world, not so much at the product level, but as a fundamental property at the other The 31-year-old native of Turin completed his studies in economics, administration and finance at the University of Turin and then completed a master’s degree in management at ESCP Europe, with which he studied in Paris and London. He says that his experience with many internships began while he was still in college, “until I realized that I wanted to finance and invest in companies that were producing very advanced technology.” This was followed by a stay at a strategic consulting firm for acquisitions and investments in technology startups, a very educational experience: “I worked closely with top executives of the most important American technology companies. One of these managers in particular was of fundamental importance to me: I learned the craft from him.

Alberto Cresto. ©Robert Lehmann

When he left, I was put in charge of the company’s direct investment department, a big commitment: we created a vehicle that invests the company’s resources directly in startups, and then we opened a fund that manages third-party capital. “Then the meeting with those who became his three partners, all united in the intuition of creating an investment fund with many fundamental technological capabilities. “One of the problems with venture capital is that there are a lot of investors who come from investment banks and strategy consultancies: they are interested in technology, but are not experts in the field.” Hence the foundation for Lunar Ventures.” His three traveling companions, Mick Halsband, Elad Verbin, Luis Shemtov, Israelis, trained in the Research and Development Department of the Israeli Intelligence Service, with a doctorate in computer science or advanced studies in mathematics, physics, software architectures and product development skills. «There is a whole generation of founders and entrepreneurs who come from a similar background to us. He wants ambitious projects from a technical perspective and then he gets into discussions with investment funds that make electric scooters or food delivery. There is nothing wrong with investing in companies of this type, but there is also a need for something different.” Not yet thirty years old, Alberto Cresto found the complementarity he was looking for in his partners: on the one hand, the joy of experimentation typical of scientists, on the other his experience in transactions and financing of technology startups. “It was very long and difficult to set up Lunar Ventures because we were a diverse team. In the eyes of a fund investor, we did not fall into an already familiar pattern: we gave the idea of ​​a hybrid, something like “mad scientists”. We started fundraising, it took almost a year to raise 5 million euros in donations. We were more or less a 7 million fund for 12 months, then Covid came. We invested the initial funds quite well and continued the fundraising: the results came at the end of 2021, when we closed the collection with 40 million euros of capital, almost twice as much as we had proposed.” And with important numbers: “Several founders of Ethereum We are supported by more or less all European funds – institutional investors with a structured approach who have recognized the value of our strategy – the European Investment Fund and the Italian Compagnia di St. Paul.” And some individual investors with large portfolios, including Italians. “A huge amount of work for four people. “As the fund has reached an adequate size for our goal, we have hired exceptional people,” Alberto continues. Like Morris, the new partner machine learning expert; Peter, a chemist with a PhD in biotechnology; Cindy, bioinformatics; Benjamin, PhD in quantum physics. The aim of the Berlin-based team is to structure itself through more and more competencies in related areas: “From our initial focus on software infrastructure, mainly IT, we are expanding into all disciplines that are currently in use.” revolutionized by software » . In 2020, three years before the release of ChatGpt, Lunar Ventures focused on Deepset, which uses machine learning models to enable large companies to use artificial intelligence in their databases: at the beginning of 2020 it had a valuation of less than ten million euros, After a year, it received an investment from Google and increased its value tenfold. Another investment from Lunar Ventures is Zama, a company that has developed a new homomorphic encryption framework to analyze data during encryption and provide a mathematically correct but also encrypted result. Alberto explains: “It’s called fully homomorphic encryption and it’s a topic that computer scientists have been dreaming about for 40 years: today it’s a reality.” Zama has grown thirty-fold from an initial single-digit valuation in less than two years. Alberto smiles: “Our hope is that it will become a unicorn and therefore be worth more than a billion.”

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