The Cloherty Watchwords
|Since her entry into the venture capital business in 1970, Patricia M. Cloherty has functioned and flourished on the belief that "the essence of effective entrepreneurial initiatives is producing something better, faster and cheaper. You always look for productivity gains, never abandoning quality in the process." Faithfully following that credo, Ms. Cloherty began as a research associate at Patricof & Co. Ventures, a private equity investment firm, and rose to become a general partner, president and co-chairman.
Recently she has downshifted slightly to a position of special limited partner. It's not that she has decelerated her activities, however. "I'm as actively involved as ever in putting venture funds to produce good results," Cloherty said.
She is especially committed to technologically-based ventures. Agouron Parmaceuticals, Lexicon Genetics and Diversa Corporation are three examples of companies she has financed. "They all do good work, involve elegant science and make good money," Cloherty observed, reemphasizing the elements that she believes constitute profitable pathways for new ventures.
Support for the Teachers College Technology Project
This fascination with the compatibility of technology with human endeavors led her to pledge $2,000,000 to establish the Technology Project at Teachers College. The funds initially will underwrite development of a strategic plan to mobilize Teachers College's technological and intellectual capabilities, ultimately to power such projects as distance learning, wired facilities, product development, online teaching, new equipment and electronic upgrades in the library.
"Teachers College has demonstrated it can sustain the quality and rigor of its educational programs while simultaneously controlling costs. In the strategic planning process," Cloherty added, "it is important to factor in cost effectiveness as a discipline in developing the technology to enhance the quality of educational programs of Teachers College."
Cloherty has close connections to Teachers College both as a trustee and graduate. Under a Ford Foundation Fellowship, in 1968 she received master's degrees in Latin American Studies from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, and in Philosophy and Social Science from Teachers College.
The Virtues of Change
Cloherty is especially impressed with the reorganization of Teachers College departments to keep in step with change. "I live on change," she stressed. "Well-managed change can be good. It liberates new thinking. I am mindful that change threatens people and that a focus on technology raises fears that people are secondary. That is a red herring.
"What technology poses for Teachers College is a challenge to employ it to optimize and extend the good teaching already underway. It is not a simple exercise. But I am sure that the fine minds at Teachers College who understand education profoundly will figure out how to apply the technology without surrendering the values inherent in human interaction."
From the Peace Corps to Wall Street
Cloherty entered the field of venture capital investing from an unlikely background. In the early 1960s, she spent two years in Brazil as a Peace Corps volunteer advising youths living on small farms. "In association with 4H Clubs," she recalled, "I ran programs for women in sewing, cooking, health, hygiene and horticulture, and for young men in animal husbandry and agriculture."
From there she pursued graduate education focused on international economic development. After a stint in Mexico organizing seminars for Latin American political exiles, she returned to the United States and worked on a Nelson Rockefeller mission to Latin America for President Nixon.
In the course of her travels, she met Alan Patricof who convinced her to join the venture firm he was starting up. From its early beginnings in the late 1960s, the firm grew from four people who managed $2.5 million to today with more than 200 employees worldwide managing $6 billion in six countries.
Cloherty took a leave from Patricof in 1977 to serve as deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration in the Carter Administration. In 1981, to stimulate entrepreneurship among women, she co-founded the Committee of 200, an international non-profit organization of leading women executives and entrepreneurs.
Appointed by the Clinton Administration, Cloherty chaired the U.S.-Russia Investment Fund with a staff of 80 and $440 million of investment capital. The Fund makes direct equity investments in Russian companies in the financial services sector, in consumer-related industries, in the media and telecommunications and technology field.
Reflecting on the swings and turns of her peripatetic career journeys, Cloherty describes herself as a "rolling stone that gathers lots of moss."
This fascination with the compatibility of technology with human endeavors led her to pledge $2,000,000 to establish the Technology Project at Teachers College.
What technology poses for Teachers College is a challenge to employ it to optimize and extend the good teaching already underway.
Published Thursday, Jun. 13, 2002