If anyone knows how to build an entrepreneurial team, it’s Kef Kasdin. Ever since moving to Princeton with her family in 1999, Kasdin has been a high-profile business leader and educator. She led Battelle Ventures’ green technology investments and started several companies, including Proterro, a biotech firm that converts waste carbon dioxide into useful products for agriculture and energy.
Kasdin, a 1985 Princeton University alumna who got her MBA at Stanford in 1989, began her career at 3Com as a product manager, rising through the ranks to become a general manager of a $1 billion division and the company’s first executive in residence in the office of the chairman.
Currently Kasdin works at Princeton University teaching an entrepreneurship course at the Keller Center for Innovation in Engineering Education. Kasdin will appear at the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, July 19, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at the Nassau Club. Tickets are $40, $25 for members. For more information, visit www.princetonchamber.org or call 609-924-1776.
Kasdin has a long history with technology and business. She was born in Israel, where her father was an IT executive. She has a photo of herself at age two, posing with her father in front of a room-sized mainframe computer. (U.S. 1, February 9, 2005.) She was an early adopter of computer technology in her personal life, too, and even used computers to prepare her papers as a high school student in the 1970s.
Her research as a university student in the early 1980s focused on how universities could use computers and word processors to enhance education. She was correct to predict the rise of educational computing, but admits she was “way off the mark” because the explosion of personal computing in the 1980s happened faster than she could have predicted.
As a 3Com executive in the 1990s she was one of only a few powerful women in the tech industry at the time. She eventually came to become manager of the company’s lucrative network interface card division, which made equipment to connect PCs to networks.
She left Silicon Valley in 1999 when her husband, Jeremy Kasdin, accepted a job at Princeton teaching astrophysics. She started a consulting company to advise early stage companies, and later joined Ronald Hahn and James Millar in their company, Early Stage Enterprises.
In 2002 the ESE team became part of Battelle Ventures, a venture capital fund that focused on technology companies. One of her early jobs as a Battelle partner was to join the board of directors of PowerZyme, a Battelle investment and Sarnoff spinoff in Princeton Corporate Plaza that was working on a replacement technology for the lithium-ion battery for mobile devices.
But early stage tech companies are a high risk proposition, and PowerZyme folded in 2005. Kasdin’s own career has fared better, and lately she has shared her entrepreneurial expertise in many venues, as a lecturer at Princeton, a frequent speaker, and as a member of nonprofit groups such as ARC Innovators, which contributes expertise to alumni projects.