Carmichael Roberts Brings Scientific Expertise to North Bridge Venture Partners, Launching New Startup
Carmichael Roberts says he has avoided taking the traditional path during his career as a scientist and entrepreneur. And he’s now taking a path that will lead North Bridge Venture Partners from its traditional emphasis on IT to a larger mix of investments based on breakthroughs in chemistry and materials science. He even let me in on a stealthy new startup he’s recently launched to commercialize stretchable silicon for multiple industries such as electronics.
Roberts, a 40-year-old general partner at North Bridge, was brought to the Waltham, MA, firm in fall 2007 largely because he has scientific expertise that none of the other partners have. He’s the only person at the firm with a Ph.D. (it’s in organic chemistry), and the only one that focuses exclusively on investments in chemistry and materials science. He says he likes it that way, as opposed to being one of several Ph.Ds at a venture firm. (Examples of the latter would include Polaris Venture Partners and Flagship Ventures.)
“As an entrepreneur, what you do is pick areas where there’s a big void and there’s an opportunity,” Roberts says. “And, by definition, if you dare to step into that area there will be a little competition—but for the most part there are few incumbents.”
By focusing on chemistry and materials science, Roberts expects to make investments across several industries, including life sciences, energy, and electronics. This is familiar territory for him. I recently spoke with him just before he gave a talk at a clean technology meeting at Harvard Business School, and he wore his biotech hat last September at Xconomy’s life sciences forum in Cambridge, MA. As was noted at the forum, Roberts is chairman of nonprofit Diagnostics For All, which is developing paper-based diagnostics to provide low-cost options to patients in developing countries. He is also chairman of North Bridge portfolio companies Arsenal Biomedical (formerly WMR Biomedical), a stealthy medical devices firm based in Watertown, MA, and 1366 Technologies, a North Lexington, MA, firm with technology to produce low-cost silicon solar cells.
Less than two years into his job at North Bridge, Roberts (an Xconomist) is already steering the firm towards investments in more science-driven companies. He says he’s begun a startup in Waltham, tentatively dubbed MC10, to commercialize … Next Page »