||Promod Haque '83
'Midas' winner Promod Haque '83 puts theory into practice as top investment expert
By Matt Golosinski
Promod Haque has the golden touch.
The Kellogg School graduate has parlayed his engineering and business education into a successful career as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist.
Since 1990, he has been with Palo Alto-based Norwest Venture Partners (NVP), where he is managing partner. During that time, he has earned the respect of industry observers, like Forbes, which has repeatedly named Haque '83 to its annual "Midas List" (including the No. 1 spot in 2004) in recognition of his superior wealth-creating ability. Boasting particular insights in the semiconductor and software sectors, Haque was an early investor and board member in Cerent, Siara and Extreme Networks, to name a few.
What drives him is the ability to make a difference, as an investor/owner and as a manager.
"The excitement comes from having a major impact on these companies," he says, recalling his various leadership roles in firms large and small dating back to the 1970s, including as COO of Emergent Corporation and CEO of Dimensional Medicine Inc. "You are starting from nothing. You are looking at what exists and trying to figure out 'How can I do something that's different from what everyone else is doing, and better?'"
Acquiring these skills took strategic thinking on the part of a person who might have chosen a less adventuresome path in the sciences.
Haque, 60, began his academic accomplishments with an undergraduate engineering degree from Delhi University in India, where he was born. Afterward, he worked three years in sales for a medical instrumentation company before coming to Northwestern University. There, he earned a doctorate in electrical engineering in 1976 and his Kellogg MBA in 1983.
A faculty mentor showed him how science and commerce could intersect harmoniously. "I was shaped by John Jacobs [now professor emeritus from the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern]," says Haque, who attended the Kellogg Part-Time MBA Program. "He was more of a researcher, but very product-focused."
From that foundation, Haque went on to Northbrook, Ill.-based EMI Medical Inc., the company that pioneered the CAT scanner. "Sir Godfrey Hounsfield was the inventor and a scientist at EMI Labs in the U.K, and I had the honor of working with him," Haque says. Hounsfield would eventually be awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine.
It was at this point that Haque decided to reinforce his existing management experience with a Kellogg degree. "The people you collaborated with at Kellogg were very diverse, from banking to insurance to brand management," he says. "It was a broad cross-section, and that was very useful."
After graduation, Haque accepted the top job with Minneapolis-based startup Dimensional Medicine Inc., which was developing a medical imaging workstation. As CEO from 1983 to 1988, he led the effort to bring the workstation to market. Eventually the company went public in 1986 and was sold in 1988.
Haque says his broad background opened the door to this leadership opportunity. "They were looking for all those domain skills that I had, which included product development, marketing, sales and engineering," Haque says. "I had a lot of credibility."
When his tenure ended, Haque looked for consulting prospects, one of which led to NVP in 1989. The venture capital firm, which manages $2.5 billion and has funded more than 450 companies, was seeking someone with expertise in evaluating potential technology deals. Norwest was so impressed by Haque's performance that they offered him a full-time job. "I've been there ever since."
As an investor, Haque looks around the globe for opportunities, but he says that innovation within the United States should enable American firms to remain competitive.
"You need to have your core innovation team be close to the market to understand customer needs," Haque says, pointing to Apple as one example of a company that, while using a global supply chain to curb costs, relies on its U.S.-based team for innovation and customer insights. At Norwest, Haque relies on teams with deep specialized knowledge across diverse fields: telecommunications, semiconductors, software and services.
"If a company shows up and says, 'We're building the next, best storage system,' we as an investor need to understand what the storage landscape looks like now and five years from now."