“You have to be a true visionary. It’s something that has to come from within,” said Deepa Pakianathan, the 2012 recipient of the Excellence in Entrepreneurship award given at the Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship annual awards banquet.
Pakianathan, a partner at Delphi Ventures, who leads the firm’s biotechnology investment activities, received her M.S. here, and later, a Ph.D. in immunology, graduating from Wake Forest in 1993. Her nonlinear career path, from bench science to venture capital, with stops in banking and mergers and acquisitions, may not seem like the most traditional, but neither is Pakianathan.
“She is genuinely an extraordinary individual who truly possesses that extra spark,” said Polly Black, director of the Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship. “She worked hard to carve out her own niche to discover everything that she wasn’t familiar with. If one career path didn’t work out for her, Deepa simply, as she says, ‘walked a few blocks down the street’ to discover the next budding opportunity. She sets a wonderful example for our student entrepreneurs.”
This zest and passion for life has earned her much success and respect in all fields. However, Pakianathan credits the scientific research she learned in biology professor Ray Kuhn’s lab as the very reason and foundation for her success.
“Ray’s an extraordinary teacher, and he exemplifies a love of learning, teaching, and the scientific method,” Pakianathan said. “I think it’s more his example, willing to be there for people in his lab. Willing to answer questions, but never telling you what to do. He let people make mistakes and figure out their own way.”
Pakianathan says she is both honored and surprised to receive the award, noting that her role at Delphi Ventures is more about enabling entrepreneurs rather than starting her own ventures. But her mentor, Ray Kuhn, sees an entrepreneurial spark.
“Her evaluation expertise is extraordinary. She took all the scientific background she learned at Wake Forest and learned about investment banking, biotech analysis and how to nurture biotech companies that are going to change the world,” Kuhn said. “She’s on the boards of seven companies now, in addition to her partnership at Delphi Ventures. She created her own niche in the biotech world.”
What can we take away from all of this as entrepreneurs at the front end of this ecosystem? Wake Forest Vice President for Career Development, Andy Chan, perhaps sums it up best of all. “Your career path can take a wave of turns. Your plan unfolds along the way. Always remember that you can be an entrepreneur in anything that you do.” And in the words of the entrepreneurial icon, herself, Deepa Pakianathan urges us to “never stop learning, never stop innovating, and to always keep that entrepreneurial spirit alive.”
The banquet, co-sponsored by the Entrepreneurship Society, also recognizes students and faculty achievements in entrepreneurship, presenting awards in ten different categories. Winners are nominated by their peers.
Russell D. and Elfriede Hobbs Student Award for a Social Entrepreneurial Venture: Students Helping Students
Russell D. and Elfriede Hobbs Student Award for a Commercial Venture: CloudConnect
Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award for an Artistic Venture: Startzee
Johanna Kilbride, Christina Morrison
Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award for a Social Venture: Together Life
Hannah Moredock, Ricky Bierbower, Danny Anghel, Gavin Britz, Jay Coble
Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award for a Commercial Venture: VoyVoy
Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award for a Scientific Venture: Lighthouse Reef Conch Project
Alison Gruber, Maxwell Messinger, Sanders McNair
Service Leadership Award: TEDxWakeForestU Committee
Lucy Lan, Jake Graham, Mariama Holman, Mari Ishibashi, Kristina Durr, Lisa Hong, Mike Papakonstantinou
Hannah Moredock, Jonathan Williams
Freshman Award for Future Impact:
Russell D. and Elfriede Hobbs Faculty Award for Exceptional Support of Entrepreneurship:
Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award for Course Development and Teaching Excellence:
The Hobbs Awards not only recognize the recipient’s work, but also grant $2,500 towards their entrepreneurial venture.