Tag Archives: venture capital

Need funds to develop your quantum-based technology for the market?

Qwave or Quantum Wave Fund has just announced its arrival on the venture capital scene, according to a Dec. 10, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

Quantum Wave Fund (Qwave) with headquarters in Boston today announced it has raised $30 million in capital with potential to reach $100 million dollars to fund breakthrough companies that utilize quantum materials and technologies. Quantum Wave Fund is the first fund specialized for companies developing technologies suitable for quantum technologies. Quantum physics is a hot area and quantum particles was the winning topic for the 2012 Nobel Prize for Physics.

The company has a very Russian flavour with the most of the investment team having at least one degree from a Russian post-secondary institution, from the Quantum Wave Fund Investment Team webpage,

Serguei Kouzmine, Managing Partner

Master’s Degree in physics from Novosibirsk State University and Ph.D. in physics from Institute of Nuclear Physics in Russia. Degree in Business Administration from the University of Chicago Business School …

Dmitri Kisliakov, Principal

Dmitri was running CFO role for 12 years. Last years he is working in investment area. He has M.S. degree with honor (Textile Academy, Moscow) and MBA (California State University, East Bay).

Vadim Moroz, Senior Analyst

Vadim has great experience as VP and Senior Trader at UBS, JPMorgan, Citadel Investment Group for last 10 years in Chicago and NY offices. MS (PhysTech), PhD (Northwestern University), CFA

Oleg Svintsitski, Venture Partner

More than 15 years of expertise ininternational [sic] entrepreneurial development and global investment experience; a co-founder and manager of several start-up companies in medical devices and biotechnology, internet services, and wholesale distribution in the United States and in Russia. M.S. (Operations Research) from the Moscow Aviation Institute and M.B.A. at the University of Michigan.

Good luck to them.

Women writing popular science books

It seems to be a week for asking: Why aren’t there more women …

  • on the Royal Society’s Winton Prize for Science Books shortlist?
  • entrepreneurs?
  • leaving comments on VC (venture capital) blogs?

The first question was asked by Jo Marchant in her Oct. 4, 2011 posting on the Guardian Science Blogs. From the posting,

I couldn’t help being a bit disappointed by the shortlist, announced last week, for the 2011 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books. From Alex Bellos’s mathematical adventures to Sam Kean’s poetic tour of the chemical elements, this is an inspiring collection of well-deserving books. But, yet again, all the authors are men.

This made me wonder how many women have been shortlisted for this prestigious prize since it was established in 1988. A quick glance at the society’s website reveals that of 144 shortlisted books – six each year over 24 years – just nine were by women, with two others that had a woman as second author, including a husband-wife team. Out of these female authors, only one has won (the husband-wife team).

Much comes down to the individual tastes of the judges each year. But surely the overall statistics – only around 5% of shortlisted books are by female authors, with just one shortlisted woman in the last five years (me, since you ask) – show that there is a problem to be addressed here.

Marchant suggests that at least part of the problem lies in the fact that most science books are authored by men and so the lists reflect that reality. She does suggest that perhaps the judges could seek out books by women and by various ethnic minorities, which are also under-represented, instead of passively choosing from the male-dominated lists presented to them.

Mark Suster writing for Fast Company asked the question about women entrepreneurs in his Oct. 4, 2011 posting,

I’m often asked the question about why there aren’t more women who are entrepreneurs. On my blog I’ve been hesitant to take the topic head on. Somehow it seems kind of strange for a man to answer this question that obviously comes from a man’s point of view.

The truth is I have been thinking a lot about the topic, I just haven’t been writing about it. And when asked about the topic, I definitely don’t shy away from the topic as you can see in this 8-minute YouTube interview that Pemo Theodore asked me to do on the subject of Women in Entrepreneurship.

My inspiration to become an entrepreneur came from my mom, not my dad. She was the dominant figure in my family and was both an entrepreneur and a community leader. She opened a bakery and a restaurant. She was president of the UJA (United Jewish Appeal). She bought our first computer – an IBM XT with a 10MB hard drive – in order to do her books electronically. It’s how I learned to build spreadsheets. She encouraged me to get a job when I was 14. She encouraged me to take acting classes as a child, which gave me confidence as a public speaker.

I love my dad equally, of course. But he was a doctor and a long-distance runner and cared little about business.

So the role is [sic] a strong woman leader has always been a comfortable idea for me.

Even more interesting is that at GRP Partners (the VC firm where I’m a partner) our two most successful returns from our previous fund [which is ranked as the top performing fund in the country for its 2000 vintage according to Prequin] were both run by women!

But then the truth sets in. My guess is that probably only 2-3 out of every hundred pitches I receive are from women. This certainly isn’t anything conscious on my side. It’s just the facts.

I’m a little confused by Suster’s comment about receiving “only 2-3 out of every hundred pitches” followed by the conclusion that consciousness on his side is required but he has an interesting perspective although he does not venture any answers.

Suster also comments on a recent posting by Tara Tiger Brown where she asked the question about women and venture capital blogs. From her Sept. 22, 2011 posting on her Tara the Tiger blog,

For a long time we’ve all been hearing women in tech complain about being left out of the conversation, yet blog posts are the easiest way to participate. Anybody can comment on a blog post. We know there are women in tech and we know there are women entrepreneurs, so, why aren’t more women commenting on these VC’s posts?

The comments section of any blog post is just as valuable, if not more so, than the actual post. That’s where the real conversation is, and any decent blogger will contribute to that conversation well past the point of hitting publish. These VCs are the guys that give out the money to startups, so people listen to them. The question is, why are mostly men replying back to them?

I did a little Googling and came across the post “The Top 20 VC Power Bloggers of 2010” and decided to put my math skills to the test. I picked out the top VCs from their list that allow for comments (all men, BTW), and their most recent 5 posts (I didn’t include guest posters) and the number of comments by women divided by the number of total comments. If someone was anonymous, I didn’t count them as a woman (would be interesting to know if they are though).

Not surprisingly, hardly any of the comments were by women. It was easily observable that out of all the VC’s blog posts, more women comment on Fred Wilson’s blog but usually the same 3 or 4 women.

She goes on to list some open questions and at this point has gotten over a dozen comments from women about why they do and don’t comment on VC blogs.

I don’t have a definitive answer for women why do or don’t do things so I was never able to answer a boss at a technical company that I worked for who used to ask why women didn’t like his and his partners’ company? Personally, I always thought he was asking the wrong question. I would have rephrased it this way, why doesn’t our company like women? In short, were there systemic and personal issues and or barriers within the company that discouraged women?

As you can see from this posting, women are still under-represented in many situations and I think it’s going to take a variety of strategies, much discussion, and a willingness to keep asking the questions before more progress is achieved.

BTW, I read Sam Kean’s book (mentioned in Marchant’s posting as one of this year’s shortlisted books) about the periodic table of elements and was quite charmed until about 2/3 through the book when he seemed to lose focus. I’m surprised it made the shortlist.

Over 2000 nanotechnology businesses?

Nanowerk has announced a new, free feature: their Nanotechnology Company Directory. From the July 1, 2010 news item,

At the latest count, over 2100 companies from 48 countries are involved in nanotechnology research, manufacturing or applications – a number that keeps growing at a considerable pace.

With more than 1100 companies, the U.S. is home to roughly half of all nanotechnology firms. 670 companies are in Europe, 230 in Asia and 210 elsewhere in the world. Within Europe, Germany is represented with 211 companies, followed by the U.K. with 146 companies.

Over 270 companies are involved in the manufacture of raw materials such as nanoparticles, nanofibers and -wires, carbon nanotubes, or quantum dots. More than 340 companies are active in life sciences and pharmaceutical fields. The vast majority with well over half of all companies are involved in manufacturing instruments, devices, or advanced materials and components.

The news item goes on to provide a definition for what constitutes a nanotechnology company which is timely in light of Dexter Johnson’s June 30, 2010 posting (What Is a Nanotechnology Company Anyway?) at Nanoclast,

I stopped for a moment after reading [in an investment notice he'd received] this term “nanotechnology company” to consider what might actually constitute such a thing. Is Toyota a nanotechnology company as some nanotechnology stock indices have claimed? Is IBM a nanotechnology company because they are doing research into using graphene and carbon nanotubes in electronics? How about all the instrumentation and microscopy companies that give us the tools to see and to work on the nanometer and angstrom scale, are they nanotechnology companies? What about the flood of nanomaterials companies that started making carbon nanotubes in their basements that were going to revolutionize industry?

Despite figures ranging from one to three trillion dollars being dangled in front of people’s faces for the last 10 years, it doesn’t seem to have attracted the level of investment that would really make a difference in advancing the commercial aspirations of nanotechnologies if the recent PCAST meeting is any indication.

So the definition has an impact since entrepreneurs need to attract investment and, as  more than one of the participants in the recent PCAST meeting noted, moving the discoveries from the laboratory to the market place is a labourious process where there is a significant dearth of investment interest for a phase described as the ‘valley of death’ or, as one participant termed it, the ‘lab gap’. (My post about that particular PCAST meeting ‘The Golden Triangle workshop’  is here.)

The same day Nanowerk announced its new nanotechnology company directory, Christine Peterson at the Foresight Institute posted an item about a venture capital group known for investing in nanotech and microsystems,

Small investors who want to invest in nanotech startups have for years turned to publicly-held venture group Harris & Harris Group, which has focused on private companies in nanotech and microsystems.

With the economy down, and initial public offerings (IPOs) more rare, this strategy is changing.

Peterson is commenting on a Wall Street Journal blog posting by Brian Gormley,

In a June 28 letter to shareholders, Chief Executive [of Harris & Harris Group] Douglas Jamison said many of its private holdings are maturely nicely. Even so, volatility and risk aversion in the public markets are making it difficult for these companies [nanotech and microsystems] to go public.

Although the firm plans to continue investing in private companies, “We currently do not plan to make an initial equity investment in a private company until we get increased visibility into the timing of liquidity for our privately held portfolio,” Jamison wrote in the letter.

The firm, which has 31 private investments in its portfolio, expects to gain such visibility later this year. Jamison was not available for comment Monday.

“With the lengthening time between investment and return on investment in private venture capital-backed companies, we need to find a way to generate returns with greater frequency,” Jamison said in the letter.

“As a public company, we should not count on investors to wait five years between liquidity events. We will seek to position our investments so that we can demonstrate positive returns on investments on an annual basis.”

The valley of death or lab gap seems to be getting wider while venture capitalists who do know the industry pull back. Meanwhile, a standard investor is likely to experience confusion about what the term nanotechnology company means and just how much that ‘market’ is liable to worth.

Interview with Dr. David T. Cramb; venture capital and nano and microsystems; NanoBusiness Alliance roundtable; science and artists

March 3, 2010, I posted about Dr. David Cramb, director of the Nanoscience Program and professor in the department of Chemistry at the University of Calgary, and his colleagues. They had just published a paper (Measuring properties of nanoparticles in embryonic blood vessels: Towards a physicochemical basis for nanotoxicity)  in Chemical Physics Letters about a new methodology they are developing to measure the impact of nanoparticles  on human health and the environment. Dr. Cramb very kindly answered some email questions about the study (abstract is here, article is behind a paywall).

  • Is this work on nanoparticles and blood vessels part of a larger project? i.e. Is this an OECD project; is there going to be an international report; is this part of a cross-Canada investigation into nanoparticles and their impact on health?

This is a collaborative project, but the reports that we generate will be available to Environment Canada and Health Canada. We have collaborators from both agencies.

  • In reading the abstract (for the article, which is behind a paywall and probably too technical for me), it seemed to me that this is a preliminary study which sets the stage for a nanoparticle study. In fact, you were studying quantum dots (CdSe/ZnS) and establishing that a particular kind of spectroscopy could be used to track the accumulation of nanoparticles in chicken embryos. Is this correct? And if so, why not study the nanoparticles directly?

A quantum dot is a type of nanoparticle.  So, in principle, we can apply our techniques to any other nanoparticle of interest.

  • What does CdSe/ZnS stand for?

cadmium selenide (in the centre of the nanoparticle) / zinc sulfide (coating on the outside)

  • What kind or kinds of nanoparticles are going to be used for the study moving forward from this one?

Similar but different sizes and surface chemistries. We want to understand what properties affect uptake into tissues and distribution in organs. That way we can predict risk.

  • From reading the abstract (and thanks to the person who wrote the explanation), I have a pretty good idea why chicken embryos are being used. [I'll insert the description from the abstract here with attributions.] In another context, I have come across the notion that chickens in the US at least, I don’t know about Canada, have been so thoroughly compromised genetically that using their embryos for research is problematic. (brief note: I attended a lecture by Susan Squier, a noted academic, who had a respondent [a US scientist] claiming he moved to the UK because he didn’t feel confident experimenting with US chicken embryos.) What are your thoughts on this?

We aren’t doing genetic studies, so knowing the lineage of the embryos isn’t critical for us.

  • Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Nanoparticles are being used in many areas from cosmetics to pharmaceutical to energy. As yet, there is no evidence that the nanoscale formulation adds any risk to these applications. We in nanoscience believe that we must maintain due diligence to asess future risk and to make nanotechnology as green as possible.

Thank you Dr. Cramb for taking the time to explain your work.

On a completely other front, Harris & Harris Group a venture capital group that invests in nanotechnology and microsystems is holding a fourth quarter conference call on Friday, March 12, 2010.  From the Harris & Harris Group website,

With over 30 nanotechnology companies in our portfolio, Harris & Harris Group, Inc., is one of the most active nanotechnology investors in the world. We have funded companies developing nanoscale-enabled solutions in solid state lighting, emerging memory devices, printable electronics, photovoltaics, battery technologies, thermal and power management, next-generation semiconductor devices and equipment, quantum computing, as well as in various life-science applications of nano-structured materials.

We consider a company to fit our investment thesis if the company employs, intends to employ or enables technology that we consider to be at the microscale, nanoscale or smaller and if the employment of that technology is material to its business plan. We are interested in funding entrepreneurs with energy, vision and the desire to build great companies.

From the news release on CNN announcing the conference call,

The management of Harris & Harris Group, Inc. (Nasdaq:TINY) will hold a conference call to discuss the Company’s financial results for its fiscal fourth quarter and full year 2009, to update shareholders and analysts on our business and to answer questions, on Friday, March 19, 2010, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

For details about accessing the webcast, please follow the link to the news release.

Still on business-related nanotechnology news, the NanoBusiness Alliance will be holding its annual Washington, DC roundtable, March 15-17, 2010. From the news item on Nanowerk,

The NanoBusiness Alliance, the world’s leading nanotechnology trade association, today announced that it will convene numerous nanotechnology industry executives in Washington, D.C. from March 15 – 17 for its 9th annual “Washington DC Roundtable”. As in past years, NanoBusiness Alliance members will participate in three days of high-level meetings with Members of Congress, Administration officials, and key staff.

If you are interested in the NanoBusiness Alliance, their homepage is here.

For today’s almost final entry, I’m going back to science and its relationship to art, a topic alluded to just prior to my introduction of the Cheryl Geisler (dean of the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology at Simon Fraser University, Canada) interview. At the time I noted that art, science and technology are interconnected to justify my inclusion of art topics in this blog and, specifically, my inclusion of the Geisler interview. I just read an entry by David Bruggeman (Pasco Phronesis blog) which describes the impact that art can have. From the post,

… McCall’s art is certainly an influence on why I’m involved with science and technology today. You may not know it, but it’s likely you’ve seen his work in connection with reports on space, or in works of science fiction for the page or the screen …

McCall is Robert McCall, an important space artist who recently died. His website is here and Bruggeman provides other links to McCall’s works.

This bit has nothing to do with anything other than I’ve always thought thought Emma Peel was Steed’s (The Avengers) best partner and found this tribute (clips of Diana Rigg as Peel set to The Kinks) on Raincoaster here. (Scroll down the page.)

Nanotechnology and biocompatibility; carbon nanotubes in agriculture; venture capital for nanotechnology

One of the big nanotechnology toxicity issues centers around the question of its biocompatibility i.e. what effect do the particles have on cells in human bodies, plants, and other biological organisms? Right now, the results are mixed. Two studies have recently been published which suggest that there are neutral or even positive responses to nanoparticles.

Researchers at Lund University (Sweden) have conducted tests of nanowires, which they are hoping could be used as electrodes in the future, showing that microglial cells break down the nanowires and almost completely clean them away over a period of weeks. You can read more about the work here on Nanowerk. I would expect they’ll need to do more studies confirming these results as well more tests establishing what happens to the nanowire debris over longer periods of time and what problems, if any, emerge when electrodes are introduced in succession (i.e. how many times can you implant nanowires and have them ‘mostly’ cleaned away?).

The other biocompatibility story centers on food stuffs. Apparently carbon nanotubes can have a positive effect on crops. According to researchers in Arkansaa, Mariya Khodakovskaya, Alexandru Biris, and their colleagues, the treated seeds (tomato) sprouted twice as fast and grew more than twice as much as their untreated neighbours. The news item is here on Nanowerk and there is a more in-depth article about agriculture and nanotechnology here in Nanowerk Spotlight. (Note: I have checked and both of the papers have been published although I believe they’re both behind paywalls.)

It seems be to a Nanowerk day as I’m featuring the site again for this item. They have made a guide to finding venture capital for startup nanotechnology companies available on their site. From the item,

To help potential nanotechnology start-up founders with shaping their plans, Nanowerk, the leading nanotechnology information service, and Nanostart, the world’s leading nanotechnology venture capital company, have teamed up to provide this useful guide which particularly addresses the funding aspects of nanotechnology start-ups, along with answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.

You can read more here.