Investing is a way of life for Kef Kasdin. Whether it involves money for a tech startup, expertise and time for a social cause, or self inquiry for making a career change, it comes down to investment on one level or another.
Based on her work as a venture capitalist and civic leader, Kasdin will share ideas about ways you can invest your experience and knowledge in companies and causes that matter to you. At an upcoming appearance in Princeton, Kasdin will talk about transitioning from tech to social entrepreneurship and mid-career changes, drawing on her experience in several roles at Princeton University as the ARC Innovators Program Leader — a program of Princeton AlumniCorps that provides pro bono professional work for nonprofits — and as an Executive in Residence for the Office of Technology Licensing. She is also a lecturer for the course, “Foundations of Entrepreneurship,” which is based on the premise that your success is related to creating value for the benefit of others.
Outside of the university, she is an active member of Rachel’s Network, Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County, and Ben Franklin Technology Partners in Pennsylvania.
The event includes networking and refreshments, and takes place Thursday, January 21, 6:30-9:30 p.m. at Tigerlabs, 252 Nassau Street, Princeton. The talk is free to Tigerlabs members. General admission is $15 plus a $1.59 fee. To register online, visit the Princeton Startup Grind website and click on the view details link: www.startupgrind.com/princeton or call 609-285-3420. This chat is co-sponsored by Ellevate, a community of professional women focused on advancing in the workplace, both for themselves and the greater good.
As a board member and the program leader of ARC Innovators, she works with alumni who contribute their expertise and perspectives to organizations that need their particular skill sets for advanced, short-term projects. ARC – an acronym for its mission: Apply expertise; Renew commitment; Create change — promotes civic leadership among alumni across generations.
Kasdin has been with the program since the fall of 2010 when it was just forming. It has grown from a local pilot program to include about 15 innovators working with partner organizations in several cities in New Jersey, New York City, New Jersey, and Washington, DC. Some of the New Jersey programs include SPLASH – The Floating Classroom; Good Grief; Sourland Conservancy; Pocono Environmental and Education Center; Literacy Volunteers of Mercer County; Westminster Community Life Center; and the Petey Green Prisoner Assistance Program.
In addition to her work with the AlumniCorps, Kasdin is an active board member of Rachel’s Network. Named in honor of naturalist and author of “Silent Spring,” Rachel Carson, the network comprises a community of women dedicated to the stewardship of the earth. In one of her roles with the group, Kasdin co-led the network’s Sustainable Agriculture Learning Circle. A recent post on the network’s blog reports that misuse of antibiotics on farm animals is a cause of drug-resistant bacteria in humans, a problem that leads to over 20,000 deaths and costs Americans up to $26 billion per year. Partnering with the group “As You Sow,” members are pressing corporations like Burger King, Hormel Foods, and Wendy’s to adopt responsible antibiotic-use policies through shareholder resolutions and investor education.
Related to her work with Rachel’s Network, Kasdin is a trustee board member of Third Way, a centrist think tank whose mission is to advance moderate policy and political ideas in the U.S.. In her role with Third Way, Kasdin focuses on environmental issues and, in particular, climate change, leveraging her experience in evaluating and funding clean energy technologies.
She is a frequent speaker to audiences seeking advice on how to get funding from venture capitalists. At a recent boot camp on funding options at the State University of New York, Kasdin advised start-ups to think about their product as a solution to a problem. You should be able to tell a potential funder how you are solving the problem differently and better than everyone else, and how your solution is a real breakthrough, something that’s markedly different from the alternatives. You need to show an investor that you have a sound plan for bringing your product to market and that you have a team that can execute the plan. Ideally, you’ll have someone on your team who has past experience with the process, she says.
Kasdin was born in Israel and moved to the United States with her parents when she was five. Named Rakefet, she is known today as “Kef.” Her father was an executive in telecommunications and information technology for SUNY-Stony Brook, and her mother was an active community volunteer.
She received her BSE degree from Princeton University in 1985 in what is now Operations Research and Financial Engineering, with a certificate in Science and Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School; and an MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business in 1989. In the early stages of her career, Kasdin held management and marketing positions at 3Com Corporation.
After moving to Princeton with her family in 1999, she worked as an independent consultant to several startups in communications. She led Battelle Ventures’ investments in cleantech and started several companies based on Department of Energy Lab technologies and founded Proterro, where she served as the company’s CEO for several years. Proterro is a biotechnology company that converts waste carbon dioxide into products for its partners in the food, feed, and energy industries.