Inspire leader has new venture

Staff WriterFebruary 22, 2011 

Christy Shaffer, who built Inspire Pharmaceuticals into a publicly traded company with annual revenue of more than $90 million before she retired, has joined a new venture that plans to invest in budding life science companies.

Shaffer, 52, plans to announce today that she has been named managing director of Hatteras Discovery, a new creation of Durham venture capital firm Hatteras Venture Partners. She also is a venture partner at Hatteras Venture.

"She's a bridge-builder," said Clay Thorp, general partner at Hatteras Venture, which has $120 million in capital under management. "It's exciting for everyone - us, the community, everyone."

Shaffer, one of the Triangle's most visible business leaders before she retired from Inspire a year ago, is a former leader of the nonprofit Council for Entrepreneurial Development. Recently she has been working with EvoApp, a Durham startup founded by a pair of 21-year-old whiz kids that she personally invested in.

That experience, she said, made her realize all over again that "I really love the startup phase of companies. ... It gets me really energized."

Hatteras Discovery intends to make seed-stage investments ranging from $250,000 to $1 million or so. Although Hatteras Venture has made occasional seed investments in the past, recruiting Shaffer allows it to become "more of a strategic focus," Thorp said.

Seed capital is widely regarded as the most difficult money for startups to raise because it comes when a company's commercial potential hasn't been proved.

Shaffer said her ties with Hatteras' general partners Robert Ingram and Kenneth Lee were a decisive factor in her decision to team with the firm. Ingram, the former CEO of Glaxo Wellcome, is a mentor who "was always available" when she sought his counsel. Lee, meanwhile, is still chairman of Inspire.

Shaffer also is on the board of directors of Clinipace Worldwide, a technology-focused clinical research organization that Hatteras has invested in. That gave her a first-row seat to watch how Hatteras operates.

david.ranii@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4877

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