Thursday, May 22, 2008

The DNA of Entrepreneurship: Lessons Learned Across the Generations

We work with the MIT Enterprise Forum, so we attend a lot of their events. One of my favorites is the end-of-the-school-year event, which always features seasoned entrepreneurs, sharing their wisdom with attendees.

This year's event has a twist: It features a father/daughter team and a father/son team from the Hatsopoulos and Schmergel families, respectively. Doug Banks, editor of Mass High Tech, will moderate the session.

Since my husband used to work at Thermo Electron, now ThermoFisher Scientific, I was very familiar with the story of George Hatsopoulos, the legendary and highly respected founder of Thermo. Dr. Hatsopoulos provided his distinguished leadership at Thermo as chairman and CEO from the time of its inception in 1956 until his retirement from those positions in 1999. Under his direction, Thermo Electron innovated and acquired its way to become a powerhouse in multiple markets, and a multi-billion dollar pillar of the local economy.

I've also had the pleasure of hearing his highly articulate daughter, Marina Hatsopoulos, speak at the Nantucket Conference a few years back. She is best known as the founding CEO of Z Corporation, leading it from 1994 to its sale in 2005 for multiples of revenue. The company is a leader in 3D printing. These days, she's a director at GSI Group and Tea Forte. (Haven't we all bought their tea -- in their fancy little silk tea bags - like French lingerie for tea -- as gifts at one time or another?)

I was less familiar with the Schmergel family, but that's only because I was late to the life sciences party around here. Gabriel Schmergel is known as a biotech trailblazer, having led biopharma pioneer, Genetics Institute, Inc. from 1981 until its acquisition by Wyeth in 1996. He holds an honorary doctorate of engineering degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Schmergel's son Greg is president and CEO of Nantero, a red-hot nanotech company using carbon nanotubes for the development of next-generation semiconductor devices. The company has raised $31.5M in funding to date. The younger Schmergel is a serial entrepreneur, with hot Web properties like About Inc. and ExpertCentral in his pedigree.

Even if the rest of us feel like underachievers by the end of the night, this promises to be an evening of good business and management lessons. And who knows? Maybe the parents among us will get some tips on guiding our progeny to prosperous, fulfilling careers.



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