The world of nanotechnology is a little poorer today with the passing of Charlie Harris, founder and chairman of the publicly traded VC fund, Harris & Harris.
Out of all the people buzzing around in the early days of nanotech, Charlie was one of the few people who got it, who understood that technology takes time to mature and that to make money you need to play a long game.
Charlie’s legacy of course includes Harris & Harris, (NASDAQ: TINY) but also some great memories.
I spent many pleasant evenings in a variety of wine bars around New York’s Rockefeller Plaza with Charlie and his long time partner Mel Melsheimer discussing where nanotechnology would take us and how to exploit it. I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of VCs, there are plenty of arrogant know it alls in the business especially ten years ago, but Charlie was different, very different.
Out of all the investors I have worked with over the last decade, Charlie was one of the best, perhaps because he came from the old school of investing, or maybe because he had a deep passion for science and served as a trustee of Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory, or perhaps because he was a genuinely rounded individual, and conversations would range from nanotechnology to his passion for thoroughbred horses. Perhaps at the core it was just because Charlie was a decent person, who’d made some money, had nothing to prove, and while every other investor circling nanotechnology was out to prove how much (and in fact how little) they knew, Charlie had the sense and the patience to sit and listen to experts before he made his decisions.
Charlie’s family are planning a memorial service which will be announced at some point in the future. In lieu of flowers, Charlie suggested contributions to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory or the Center for Nanotechnology Science at the Koch Institute at MIT.
Rest in Peace Charlie. I never thought I’d say this about a VC, but you were a decent honourable man, and a true friend to science.