Kevin Kimberlin discovers and supports big ideas. Pursuing this approach, he co-founded or first funded several companies that have changed the healthcare landscape and revolutionized global communications.
The Internet — Five months after the public release of the World Wide Web, Mr. Kimberlin teamed up with Dr. David Huber to create high-capacity optical networking systems. Kimberlin and Huber filed their corporate charter and issued the founders shares for Ciena Corporation on November 12, 1993.
Ciena then patented the dual-stage all-optical amplifier, which enabled the firm to build and commercialize the first Dense Wave Division Multiplexing (DWDM) system. This invention powered the Internet explosion of the 1990s. As the common basis of virtually all high-capacity optical networking around the world — metro, regional, national, intercontinental, and transoceanic systems alike — DWDM serves as a foundation of the Internet today.
The Human Genome — Mr. Kimberlin co-founded Myriad Genetics with the scientists most responsible for creating the technologies that drove the Human Genome Project. They were brought together by Kimberlin’s vision of systematically discovering gene mutations that cause major diseases. He subsequently raised the private capital, and secured the underwriters for the Company’s initial public offering.
Myriad received international acclaim for discovering the breast cancer gene, BRCA1. Steering the team away from diagnostic products, Kimberlin focused on building the reference laboratory that became the core business of Myriad. This testing service has given predictive insight to over one million women, most notably Angelina Jolie. In addition, Myriad invented the first FDA-approved genomic test used in treating DNA repair deficiency. By understanding the fundamental role that genes play in human health, Myriad has become the world leader in transforming medicine from treating symptoms, to predicting and preventing the very cause of disease.
Mobile Telephony — Kimberlin backed Millicom Inc., the firm that led the global roll-out of mobile communications. As both investor and advisor to the CEO, he structured the first private financing for Millicom when it had only five employees and $131,000 of paid-in founders capital. This financing was the impetus for the joint-venture named Vodafone, in recognition of Millicom’s development of the Voice and Data phone. Starting with the announcement of this first cellular award during a planning session in Mr. Kimberlin’s office on December 16, 1982, Vodafone grew into the world’s largest communications firm. Today, the dozens of cellular operators set up by Millicom and its joint ventures cover Africa, the Americas, Europe, and Asia, serving in aggregate, approximately 10% of the human race.
Non-infectious Vaccines — The success of Millicom gave Kimberlin the credibility to start his company with renowned polio hero, Dr. Jonas Salk. As the founder of The Immune Response Corporation, Kimberlin drove the strategy, recruited the management and scientific teams, and brought together its major corporate partner to advance Dr. Salk’s groundbreaking immunotherapeutic vaccines.
Immune Response cemented Kimberlin’s reputation as a high impact entrepreneur when it became the best performing U.S. stock in 1991. The Phase III trial on 2,527 HIV-infected patients vaccine (the largest immunotherapy trial conducted to that point) unfortunately failed to meet its clinical end point, a devastating personal loss to Kimberlin. Yet he derived some comfort by exchanging the rights to the company’s B-cell lymphoma patents for stock in a startup backed by Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen. This discovery was a key element in the first FDA-approved cancer vaccine.
Stem Cells — Another major medical landmark occurred in 2012, when Kimberlin startup, Osiris Therapeutics, received the first-ever regulatory approval for a stem cell drug. Kimberlin founded this company with Dr. Arnold Caplan of Case Western Reserve, the scientist who discovered the mesenchymal stem cell. Osiris turned Dr. Caplan’s laboratory observation into cellular matrix products for treating chronic and crippling wounds such as diabetic foot ulcers, acute burns, bone, ligament, and cartilage injuries. After two decades of trail-blazing the field of regenerative medicine, Osiris is now widely respected as a preeminent tissue regeneration company.
Broadband Communications — Kimberlin was hired in 1998 by General Instrument Corporation (GI) — his corporate partner at Ciena — as the sole General Partner and manager of an engineering team making high-speed Internet access gear. The Limited Partners were Liberty Media, Forstmann Little, and GI, which collectively invested $525 million in Next Level Communication LP. Their confidence in Mr. Kimberlin was rewarded after he took Next Level public, creating a market value of $17 billion. Motorola subsequently acquired 100% of both GI and Next Level.
Health Care Transformation — For 15 years, Kimberlin fought to place hard evidence at the center of patient decision-making. This evidence-based medicine movement, started by Dr. Jack Wennberg of Dartmouth College, is the lodestar for Health Dialog, Inc. in which Mr. Kimberlin was a pre-A round investor and a long term director. In that role, Kimberlin introduced several of Health Dialog’s key initiatives: its Series A funding; the financial guarantees required by its early customers; and an innovative “one-day IPO” that yielded $170 million for shareholders. These efforts sustained Health Dialog as it grew into one of the fastest growing healthcare companies in America.
From this success, Health Dialog paid royalties of $110 million to support the application of Dr. Wennberg’s research, which became the impetus and economic rationale for The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
High Impact Investing — In addition to launching new ventures de novo, Mr. Kimberlin also supports the ideas of other bold entrepreneurs. Here are some of his noteworthy discoveries:
The first funding for Intervoice came from Kimberlin’s efforts with the Bass Brothers-controlled Gtech Corp. Intervoice designed and marketed a pioneering artificial intelligence voice-computer system called “the Robot Operator.” Convergys acquired Intervoice in 2008 for $335 million in cash.
He was also an original investor in the Hispanic superstore chain called El Super. Partnering with the billionaire Chedraui family, El Super grew from start into a firm with 4,000 employees, serving 2 million customers and generating $1 billion in top-line revenues a year.
Mr. Kimberlin also bought into and brought together the funding to launch ShopNBC (ValueVision), an Internet and TV convergence pioneer. Thanks in part to an additional investment by NBC and GE totalling $222 million, ShopNBC has generated a cumulative $10 billion in revenues.
Kimberlin was not so fortunate with Nolan Bushnell, the man who launched the video game industry with Atari. The company Mr. Kimberlin backed was named Irata, which is Atari spelled backwards. At first it grew rapidly, but when the auditors caught the CEO looting its treasury, Irata collapsed virtually overnight. At the time, Bushnell said that losing Irata felt worse than missing out on Apple Computer, the company started at Atari by his three employees — Ron Wayne, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.
On a more positive note, Kimberlin’s focus at Aperture Technologies helped turn that firm into a leading supplier of data center software to Fortune 100 companies. As its major investor and director, he pushed Aperture into the heart of cloud computing — energy and infrastructure management for data centers. Emerson Electric acquired Aperture and its top competitor, turning the combination into the dominant player in data center management software.
Kimberlin was also invited into the founding partnership of Corvis Inc., an optical networking firm. After securing $400 million from Cisco, Kleiner Perkins and others, Corvis raised $1.1 billion in the largest IPO for a pre-revenue start-up ever. At its public debut, the $38 billion valuation of Corvis was higher than General Motors — the #1 firm in the Fortune 500 at that time,
Social Impact — To further promote social progress through science and technology entrepreneurship, in 1991 Mr. Kimberlin assumed control of Spencer Trask & Co. Here he supports high impact entrepreneurs, scientists, and technology leaders. He also gives to a variety of civic organizations including Harvard University (for its innovation lab), BeyondPolio and the Jonas Salk Legacy Foundation (for their efforts in supporting the eradication of polio worldwide), the Audubon Society (for its citizen-science and conservation programs), and Yaddo, the creative artist community, where he is an Honorary Lifetime Member in recognition of his support of writers, choreographers, dancers, playwrights and composers.
Mr. Kimberlin graduated from Indiana University and earned his masters from Harvard University. He makes little fanfare about his activities, secure in the conviction that — to quote Mr. Spencer Trask — what matters are “Deeds, not words.”