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Entrepreneurs: Jacobson weaves healthcare, technology, ventures
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This story accompanies our story today on the new Tri-Star fund and planned PE fund, here.

As a member of the board of directors of Merck & Co., Harry Jacobson, M.D., observes the shifting healthcare scene from the vantage of a major pharmaceutical company.

The view might be very different than that afforded by his long tenure, now complete, as Vanderbilt University's vice chancellor for health affairs, or his recently announced role as co-founder of TNInvestco venture fund Tri-Star Technology Fund LLC.   Merck recently acquired Schering-Plough Corporation, in a deal valued at about $41 billion to shareholders, and is reportedly still on the acquisitions trail.  The two pharmas commenced unified operations last week, prompting SEC filings that provided some information on Jacobson's holdings in the company.

What may have been Jacobson's opening entrepreneurial gambit came several years after he joined Vanderbilt, when he invested as an Angel in a startup – then known as Contact Software International and based in Dallas.

When Jacobson invested, CSI was on the cusp of commercializing its lead product, which became the hugely successful Act! software for tracking activities and contacts.  Not long afterward, CSI raised A-round capital.

Then, in 1993, CSI was sold to Symantec in an all-stock deal that Jacobson said Friday was ultimately worth "more than $50 million" to the owners, thanks in part to the stock's substantial runup in the years immediately following the transaction. One source refers to the booked value of the transaction at $47 million, involving 2.1 million shares.

Jacobson's former associate in ACT! was Pat Sullivan (at left), who was CSI's co-founder and the creator of ACT! Sullivan is now running a wellness-oriented company – Jigsaw Health – as well as leading a tech venture centered on Flash programming tools. (Act! is now owned by UK-based Sage Software and is in version 12.0.)

See our related story on Informatics Corporation of America, here.

Among Jacobson's other ventures was EBM Solutions, a Nashville-based evidence-based medicine startup, which enjoyed the backing of the Vanderbilt Chancellor's Fund, Global Life Sciences Investments, and Nashville-based Solidus Company, among others.  At one point, EBM bought struggling Help4Life, previously owned by Solidus.  Help4Life provided systems to help pediatricians and educators monitor children with attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorders. EBM sold most of its assets to EBSCO Publishing in 2005.

There were bigger deals, of course:  By 1995, Jacobson had become co-founder and initially chairman of the board of Renal Care Group.  Renal Care was sold to Fresenius Medical Group completely in 2005-06, with Jacobson and other shareholders sharing about $3.5 billion in cash.

Jacobson has also earned board seats that have afforded him valuable insight into different industries. He is, for example, a member of the Ingram Industries board of directors; and, is chairman of the board of Newnan, Ga.-based CeloNova Biosciences, which manufactures materials and devices, including stents, for treatment of coronary problems.

He is also on the board of San Antonio-based and NYSE-listed Kinetic Concepts, Inc., which presented its story to analysts this morning at the Grand Hyatt in New York City. The company serves the wound care, tissue regeneration and therapeutic support system markets. ♦ 

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