Corrections or additions?
These articles by Barbara Fox were prepared for the September 24,
2003 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Mort Collins’ New Venture
One of Princeton’s most prominent venture capitalists,
Mort Collins, has come out of semi-retirement to start a $150 million
venture capital fund focusing on technologies discovered in federal
laboratories. Named Battelle Ventures LP, the fund will develop
coming from laboratories managed by the Battelle Memorial Institute,
which is based in Columbus, Ohio. The fund, however, is
at Carnegie Center.
A not-for-profit organization, Battelle Memorial Institute employs
16,000 scientists and engineers at about 1,000 companies and 800
agencies, including such national laboratories as those at Brookhaven
and Oak Ridge. The varous operations conduct some $2.7 billion in
research and development in about 4,500 projects annually, and they
produce from 50 to 100 patents.
To help him manage the new fund, Collins has enlisted Jim Millar,
Ron Hahn, and Kef Kasdin as partners. Millar had worked with Collins
at DSV Enterprises, Collins’ former venture capital firm. With Hahn,
Millar formed Early Stage Enterprises (ESE) in 1996, and they were
joined by Kasdin. Earlier this month the $44 million ESE fund moved
from the Amboy bank building on Route 518 to the Carnegie Center.
Currently the 8,000-foot office has just six people, including the
four partners, but additional personnel will be hired.
"I have always been stunned by the amount of technology at
and the national laboratories it manages, yet almost no commercial
application of these technologies has ever occurred," says
"It’s like being a kid on Christmas morning, to have all of that
to select from and decide what to choose to build companies."
He will look first for seed, start-up, and first-stage inventions
in the areas of homeland security, life sciences, information
materials, and energy. The new fund could invest up to $12 million
in a single company over its lifetime.
"Mort Collins is a real local hero who did well in business and
went into venture capital and had a host of success stories,"
says Greg Olsen, founder of Epitaxx and Sensors Unlimited. "He
did a lot of due diligence and the vast majority of his deals got
him a return."
Collins, 67, has a chemical engineering degree from the University
of Delaware and a PhD from Princeton. he founded Data Science Ventures
(DSV Partners) in 1968 and helped start such companies as Tandem
the Liposome Company, Transwitch Corporation, Epitaxx (now JDS
and PD-LD in Pennington. He chaired President Reagan’s task force
on innovation and entrepreneurship, served as technology policy
to President George H.W. Bush, and is a former chairman of the
Venture Capital Association.
Hahn grew up in California, the son of a single working mother,
and went to Occidental College, Class of ’66, then earned a finance
MBA from UCLA. After working as an investment banker, he began doing
venture capital in 1974 and joined Commodities Corporation in 1976.
He founded Princeton/Montrose Partners of Poor Farm Road and worked
at a large venture capital firm and merchant bank before joining
at ESE. Millar, one of eight children, grew up in Philadelphia and
South Jersey, where his father was a mechanical engineer and his
was an entrepreneur. After Yale, Class of 1980, he worked as a design
engineer for Texas Instruments, then earned his Wharton MBA and joined
DSV Partners in 1985. He is married to a pediatrician, and they have
Kasdin is a Princeton University alumna who made her mark at 3Com
Corporation in Santa Clara, California, most recently driving key
strategic and operational initiatives. When she moved to New Jersey
she consulted to the Sarnoff Corporation to identify spinoff
and future investment opportunities. She became a partner at ESE in
As they make new investments for Battelle, the ESE partners will
to manage their ESE investments with 11 active companies. Says Hahn:
"It’s very exciting. It’s a great time to be investing in early
stage companies. The values are very good, and Battelle is a premiere
— Barbara Fox
200, Princeton 089540. 609-921-8896; fax, 609-921-8703. Home page:
SimX arrived in America as just an idea. The germ of
the company, which develops software to make programming tasks vastly
quicker and easier, traveled from Moscow to East Windsor with Vlad
Bernstein some 12 years ago.
Bernstein had been an engineer with the Central Heat Energy Institute
in Moscow, an agency from which he also received his Ph.D. Working
on energy power plants, his idea for software that nearly anyone could
use — with little training — for complex tasks had taken hold.
Yet he believed he would have little chance of developing and
such a product in Russia.
"The Soviet system was not acceptable for me, and I was not
for it," he says. "I had this idea, and I started developing
it in Russia, but I saw no future for it there."
Bernstein chose to set up shop in the Princeton pretty much at random,
he says. He knew little of the United States, but had seen Princeton
University. "I was amazed, absolutely," he says of his
of that institution.
Employment was the driving force behind his choice of a new home.
He found a job — actually substantial consulting work — at
CNA Insurance, which has seen been acquired a number of times. Money
from consulting work has fueled the development of SIMX products.
"We are self-funded," says Bernstein, who runs the company
along with his partner, Andrei Afanassenkov, with whom he had worked
in Moscow. Their company, which has its offices at 510 Route 130,
has eight employees — seven software developers, and one sales
and marketing person. Bernstein’s wife, Olga, is the accountant, and
their son, Nikita, age 25, is an employee. Another son, Anthony, is
entering his senior year at Hightstown High School.
There has been no culture shock in the Bernstein family, says the
paterfamilas. No teen-age rebellion, American style. "Somehow
we have kept Russian culture in the family," he says.
While there have been no shockwaves at home, Bernstein is counting
on creating shockwaves with his family of products, called Target
2.0. The first of which, Report Manager Light, has just gone on sale,
and can be downloaded for a free trial at his company’s website,
"It’s called `target,’" says Bernstein, "because we are
changing the audience for software development." It now takes
substantial training, and equally substantial patience, to create
software for a specific purpose, whether that be making charts from
reams of raw data or putting up a website to wow potential customers
— and make it easy to buy.
SimX’s family of products is being developed with an eye toward
programming tasks down to a size that will be embraced by people with
expertise in their chosen professions, but little familiarity with
programming. The idea, says Bernstein, is to take people who know
their business and to "let them do what they need right away,
very easily." His products, he says, "reduces the requirements
for developers dramatically."
His software can be customized and running, he says, "within a
Examples of SimX software at work abound at the company’s website,
and they are amazing. There is a link to a website designed by artist
Vladimir Aituganov after only two hours of training. Front and center
is a bracelet with violet orbs at each side. Hold a cursor on the
bracelet and it revolves completely in every direction. The site also
includes a sort of slide show. Thumbnail prints of pen and ink
sit in a row off to the left. Click on any one, and it comes to life,
in an easy-to-scrutinize size, in the center of the screen. The
website is clean, professional, and full of well-organized sections,
which provide information on everything from the artist’s life to
books and articles he has written.
One example of the work that can be done with SimX’s software is hard
to pull away from. Using its database access capability, SimX has
created a gallery of 3-D objects that are ready to be included in
websites. Pull-down menus lead to an extensive collection of objects,
all of which are just waiting to be spun around and around. Start
spinning the taxi cabs and rotating the salamanders and it is hard
to move on to a more productive task.
On the more professional side, the website includes examples of
a designer used to build "a complex, mathematically intense
in just two days. There is also a quality assurance database
that was put together in three days. All of these times, assures
are a tiny fraction of the standard software development timeline.
Is anyone else doing what SimX does? The answer is sort of. No one
is doing exactly what SimX is doing, and no one is within a couple
of years of catching up with all of the functionality in its software
packages, says Bernstein.
Given this lead, Bernstein says that Simx’s end is clear. The company
will be purchased, he says. No suitor is yet on the radar, but
who has made the transition to capitalism in just over a decade, says
he is confident that one will appear as soon as the company builds
a market for its products.
— Kathleen McGinn Spring
Windsor 08520. Vladimir Bernstein, software engineer. 609-371-8495;
fax, 609-371-5324. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Home page:
A 50-year old manufacturing operation has shut down, putting 160
out of work, the victim of a corporate buyout gone sour.
McLean Engineering manufactured fans and blowers for the
industry at 70 Washington Road in Princeton Junction before it
The firm was bought in the 1997-1998 time period by Minnesota based
Applied Power, a public firm. In December, 2002, Applied Power split
into Actuant Corporation, which is publicly traded, and APW Ltd.,
a private firm which kept the McLean brand, according to an APW
who asked not to be named.
Early this year APW began to close McLean and though it posted the
required announcement with the state labor department, almost no
was taken of the closing until former employees began to show up on
job wanted lists.
"I can’t say why it closed, but it closed," says the
"I can’t say where the manufacturing is being done, but it is
being done. Obviously we don’t enjoy closing facilities."
08540. David C. McCourt, chairman and CEO. 609-734-3700; fax,
Home page: www.rcn.com
RCN has a joint venture with Pepco Communications to provide
and video services to Georgetown University. To be called Starpower
Communications, the joint venture will provide a broadband network
linking the campus with other locations,
Hopewell 08525. 609-466-0267; fax, 609-466-0328. Home page:
Lewis Kassel moved his photography from a commercial space at 17
Avenue, a building that he owns, to his own large home. "I turned
the whole building into an investment property," he says.
Kassel does event and portrait photography with what he terms "a
candid photojournalistic bent," and most of the work is done at
Suite 601, Mercerville 08619. Robert D. Battis, founder, president
and CEO. 609-587-8250; fax, 609-587-9315. Home page:
Laser Energetics moved from 4044 Quakerbridge Road to a temporary
space, 8,000 square feet at 3535 Quakerbridge Road, where it has 12
employees. It plans to expand to a new space this fall.
The company builds alexandrite lasers and laser systems for
military, scientific and medical applications.
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