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Cornell Venture Capitalists

Michael Zak

BS '75

Charles River Ventures (Waltham, MA)


Mike Zak's recent projects have been in the area of alternative energy and fuel technologies where he has made investments in Celunol Corporation (biomass to ethanol conversion) as well as Rive Technology (petrochemical systems).

Mike joined the firm in 1991. Over the past fifteen years he has made investments across a range of industries including voice and data communications equipment, networking software, applications software and services, optical communications equipment, network monitoring and analysis software, semiconductors, and wireless communications equipment. Teams of entrepreneurs, for whom he was an investment sponsor or co-sponsor, included Agile Networks (acquired, 1996), American Internet Corporation (acquired, 1998), Broadbus Technologies (acquired, 2006), CIENA Corporation (IPO, 1997), Concord Communications (IPO, 1997; acquired, 2005), Cport Corporation (acquired, 2000), Floware (IPO, 2000; merged, 2001), ON Technology (IPO, 1995; acquired, 2004), Sonus Networks (IPO, 2000), and SpeechWorks (IPO, 2000; acquired, 2003). In 2002 he was awarded the Venture Capitalist of the Year Award by the Massachusetts Telecommunications Council.

In addition to his activities with the firm, Mike has had a longstanding interest in international affairs. For the past three years he has been the founder and primary sponsor of a new program in US-China relations at Cornell University called the China & Asia-Pacific Studies program. He is a member of the National Committee on US-China Relations and the Pacific Council on International Policy. At one time, Mike could speak passable Mandarin Chinese.

From 1975 to 1979 he served as a communications and signals intelligence officer in the United States Marine Corps in the U.S., Western Europe and East Asia. From 1981-1986 he was employed by Motorola, Inc. and McKinsey & Company, Inc. From 1986 to 1991 he was a co-founder and vice president at Concord Communications, a start-up network monitoring and analysis software company which subsequently became a successful investment of Charles River (IPO, 1997).


Mike was awarded a BS degree in engineering from Cornell University in 1975 and he is a 1981 graduate of Harvard Business School.

Board Affiliations

Currently, Mike is on the board of directors of Verenium Corporation (integrated biofuels, NASDAQ: VRNM) and Rive Technology (petroleum refining technologies) and is Chairman of the industry advisory committee at the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust. Mike also is on the board of directors of technology companies Brix Networks (network performance measurement systems) and Reva Systems (RFID infrastructure), and works with Crossbeam Systems (network threat protection). He is active in community and Church affairs as well as land conservation projects throughout New England. He serves as Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors at Emerson Hospital, a 164-bed community hospital in Concord, Massachusetts. He is also a member of the University Council at Cornell University.