Drew Senyei, the VC behind the Movie on Hungary’s Class of ’56

10/17/08Follow @bvbigelow

The long journey that Drew Senyei began in 1956 presently ends in San Diego, where he is well-known as the managing director of Enterprise Partners Venture Capital.

As a physician and erstwhile biomedical researcher, Senyei holds more than 20 patents and specializes as a venture investor in emerging life sciences companies. (He also is an Xconomist.)

Senyei, 58, was the key patent holder and founding investor in San Diego’s Adeza Biomedical Corp., which sold last year for more than $400 million. He also counts Carlsbad, CA-based Genoptix, with a market valuation of more than $540 million, and Complete Genomics, a privately held startup in Mountain View, CA, among his noteworthy deals.

For all his success, though, Senyei is mindful of the path not taken—and the person he might have been—if he had not escaped during the waning days of Hungary’s October revolution in 1956, before Soviet troops regained tight control of Hungary’s border.

“Each person has some kind of seminal event in their life that is like a major fork in the road, and this is about as major as it could be for me,” Senyei says. “Otherwise, I would probably be serving goulash somewhere.”

Among his earliest childhood memories is the exotic Christmas present he received from his parents when he was five. It was an orange.

Even today, Senyei says, “when I peel or bite into a fresh orange I can imagine myself when I was five in our small apartment, biting into an orange for the first time. Keep in mind this was Eastern Europe in the middle of winter, so anything like an orange had to come from the black market.”

For these and a host of other reasons, Senyei became involved three years ago in the making of Torn From the Flag, a documentary film about Hungary’s 13-day uprising and the historic and international consequences of the Soviet Union’s brutal response.

Filmmaker Klaudia Kovacs has scheduled a special screening of the 95-minute film at 8 p.m. this Sunday in the Hall of Nations at San Diego’s Balboa Park.

Senyei, who has returned to Hungary many times since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, says everything he has accomplished here was made possible by the escape he made with his parents when he was just 6 years old.

“It really opened up an opportunity for me that I never would have had if I had not … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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