"walk-before-you-run" product strategy for the electronic use of biomolecular, an emerging field in technology, should yield a profit margin for Nanosys, a startup company in the portfolio of ARCH Venture Partners.
In her own athletic program, ARCH managing director Karen Kerr '89 goes for a higher burn rate, tolerating only the most rapid growth rate. Having exceeded her personal goal in the Chicago Marathon last October, she qualified for Boston, which she will run in 2004. This year she plans to run the Berlin Marathon and has begun to think about training for triathlons.
Kerr ran the 26.2-mile Chicago race in 3 hours and 39 minutes, placing 6,076 out of 31,106 finishers. "I had three goals: to finish the race, to finish in under four hours, and to qualify for Boston," she said. "I would have been happy just to accomplish the first goal, very happy to do the second, and am really pretty ecstatic about hitting my third stretch goal of 3.40. I could have run less conservatively and pressed more of an 8-minute-per-mile pace, which is at about what I train."
A chemistry major with a Ph.D from the University of Chicago in physical chemistry, Kerr runs ARCH's New York office and concentrates on seed and early stage investments in life science, information technology, communications, and semiconductor companies. Introduced by a fellow Ph.D candidate to the world of startups, she worked at ARCH as a consultant while finishing her dissertation, and at Patricof & Co. Ventures in New York as a fellow of the Kaufman Foundation for Entrepreneurial Leadership before joining ARCH in 1996 as a vice president.
She says she puts the lessons about competing, leadership and teamwork that she learned as varsity tennis captain at Bryn Mawr to work building entrepreneurial teams at startups. Kerr, who also headed the Honor Board at Bryn Mawr, constantly seeks the higher, next level, says those who work and play with her. Not much time elapses between her interest in an idea and push for its implementation. She sets impressive goals and seeks out athletes and trainers who have information about achieving them.
"I used to meditate in high school," Kerr said. "I no longer do. Running is my meditation; when I'm chewing over problems with a portfolio company, I go for a run. After 15 miles, I've usually arrived at a plan of action." She likes to run alone to train or destress, although she also runs with Robin Newman '89 and other members of the New York Flyers runners' club.
Kerr wastes little time, giving her complete attention to the matter or person of the moment, then moving on to the next item on her schedule, always with her BlackBerry wireless handheld.
She is Representative to the Executive Board of the Alumnae Association for Class Programs, which include activities ranging from the welcoming of freshman and the Senior Boite to Reunion. She is also a member of the committee of Bryn Mawr's Caroline McCormick Slade Society, created by the College's Board of Trustees to encourage and recognize gifts to the Annual Fund of $2,500 or more. This summer, she hopes to spend some time with ARCH colleagues repairing trails in Yellowstone National Park.
What about those biomolecules? "The new, new thing in VC is nanotechnology, and I'm not sure where the whole industry is going to go," she told members of Bryn Mawr's undergraduate Business and Finance Society. "ARCH was one of the early investors, before the current buzz, in Nanophase Technologies Corp (NANX), a company that made nanometer-sized metal oxides. The company uses titanium oxide nanoclusters as dispersion agents in sunscreens and the like-the sunblock is transparent but still blocks UV radiation because of very technical aspects of the interaction of the particles with light. Nanophase also uses nanoparticles for chemical and mechanical polishing in the semiconductor industry. Nanosys, which is creating simple biosensors made of silicon, is our latest foray into nanospace. Its technology is based on the work of co-founder Charles Lieber of Harvard, who has created nanometer-sized wires made from semiconductor materials. This will have huge implications for the electronic industry."
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