Material Impact isn’t exactly typical, both because of its founders, and because of its thesis, which stands out amid many other firms that seem to be chasing almost exactly the same opportunities.

Co-founder Carmichael Roberts spent nearly a dozen years with the firm North Bridge Venture Partners, where he led deals and helped build companies that create new products by applying chemistry, materials science or materials engineering.

The men say they’ve been collaborating ever since, but Material Impact is among their biggest undertakings to date.

Sharkawy points to one example of a material developed for feminine hygiene products whose properties lend itself to another use and thus is at the center of a new spin-out that Material Impact is behind.

A third way that Material Impact is approaching startups is by taking ideas that universities have been tinkering with and turning them into companies, giving the universities a stake in the company and the promise of upside if the companies take off.

Material Impact is targeting 20 percent on average, but that number could also be as low as 5 percent and as high as 50 percent, depending on exactly how involved the firm is.

Bigger picture, says Sharkawy, the firm’s biggest differentiator may simply be its relentless focus on materials science: “If you trace back any quantum leap, whether in electronics or healthcare or aerospace, you can trace back those advancements to material science innovation,” he notes.