Campbell-White -- one of the first biotechnology analysts on Wall Street and a pioneering woman in the male-dominated world of startup finance -- is in an expansive mood these days.
Last year was the Emeryville VC firm's best year to date -- although it was the worst period ever for venture capital. TheraSense, an Alameda medical- devices-maker she helped start, was one of the strongest IPOs in 2001, a dismal time for new stock issues.
Now, as other VCs are shutting down or returning money to investors, the scrappy Campbell-White and her tiny firm, MedVenture Associates, have an IPO and two mergers in the pipeline, and about $90 million of new money in the bank.
To be sure, health care is a popular sector right now -- but MedVenture's success has little to do with luck. "Annette has an uncanny knack of seeing opportunity in situations that many VCs might not gravitate to," said David Douglass of Delphi Ventures.
"A lot of VCs are accused of having a herd instinct, but she is absolutely not a follower."
Campbell-White, 55, provides a distinct counterpoint to the roller coaster of hype and hoopla, crashing and burning, that has marked the VC world in the last five years. She has never fit into the clubby male world of venture capital -- and she doesn't try to.
At board meetings in a sea of khakis, she stands out in green velvet trousers and lavender eye-glasses. During a recent business pitch in her office, she engaged a Russian scientist in conversation about the poet Alexander Pushkin. Her study houses a renowned collection of literature by the Moderns (Hemingway et al), which she has spent decades assembling.
Campbell-White's values were shaped, in part, by two bouts of breast cancer she suffered in the 1980s.
"When you have a serious illness quite young, your priorities change," she said. "Your bull-- tolerance falls to zero, for one thing. You focus on being a human being and maximizing your time on Earth."
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