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April 14th, 2009
Little seen outside Dallas tech circles, nano expert gives start-ups millions
Jim Von Ehr may be one of the most famous Dallasites you've never heard of.
"Everyone knows Jim," Jogen Pathak, president and chief executive at Dallas-based Varaha Systems Inc., says matter-of-factly.
Everyone, at least, who's looking to launch a technology company. While other local tech gurus and financiers such as Mark Cuban and Tom Hicks parlayed their fortunes into mainstream fame, Von Ehr has invested his millions more subtly.
But that subtlety masks a passion for technology that has made Von Ehr one of the most important individual investors in the Dallas area.
"The regional development here is important to me," Von Ehr said. "I want to live in a vibrant community. I think technology is where it's at. I don't do the restaurant business. I don't have any business investing in restaurants or sports teams or auto oil change places.
"If I do invest, it's almost certainly going to be in technology companies."
Varaha, which makes software that lets cellphones seamlessly switch from cellular networks to Wi-Fi networks, is one of about a half-dozen start-up firms in which Von Ehr is actively invested.
Von Ehr, who sold his first company for $100 million in 1995, has poured millions of dollars into companies working on everything from mobile software to telecom hardware to Internet portals to electronic prosthetics. But his day job is running the company he founded in 1997, Richardson-based nanotechnology company Zyvex Corp.
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