Ginger Rothrock is a Senior Director at HG Ventures who have made massive contributions to the fields of STEM, environmental sustainability, innovation, and product development. Ginger’s curiosity and passion have fueled her well-earned success throughout her flourishing career that started in a chemistry lab.
BREAKING BAD FOR CHEMISTRY
Ginger reveals that curiosity and entrepreneurship are in her blood.
"My dad was an engineer and entrepreneur, so I was interested in pursuing both from a very young age. However, he worked at a manufacturing plant, while I wanted to know how products were derived before the production stage. Hello, chemistry!"
Ginger dove right-in and started to develop her skills as a talented chemist in a lab when she was just 18 years old.
"I babysat for a family whose father was the head of the Novartis research lab, now Syngenta. I told him of my ambition to pursue chemistry and he invited me to help in the lab. That next summer I was doing pesticide research while also working as a restaurant server."
Ginger couldn’t wait to get back to the lab and had to beg her undergrad professors at Furman University to allow her to work as a sophomore, even though the opportunity was reserved for juniors and seniors. Ginger’s persistence paid-off and she spent the next three summers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
GETTING HER PH.D. AND ESTABLISHING LIQUIDIA TECHNOLOGIES
After obtaining her BS in Chemistry, the young and ambitious Ginger moved out to San Francisco. She was inspired by the enthusiastic energy of the startup space around her and decided to go to grad school.
"I thought, if I want to have a meaningful impact, maybe I'll do it my own way and start a company. I searched for graduate professors that specialized in entrepreneurship as a focus for their research, which was very hard to find at the time."
Ginger Rothrock is an accomplished Scientific Entrepreneur
She moved back east to attend the University of North Carolina and selected Dr. Joseph DeSimone as her Ph.D. advisor. Dr. Joe DeSimone has won over 50 major awards throughout his career, including the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, awarded by President Barack Obama in 2016.
Ginger along with another graduate student and Joe decided to found Liquidia Technologies, a biopharmaceutical company aimed at transforming the development of new therapies by precisely engineering drug particles with their patented PRINT technology.
"Joe taught me how to be a scientist entrepreneur. He’s the best storyteller I've ever met and made me realize that research is only impactful if you can market your discoveries and help connect the dots for investors. I got to see him pitch companies from the very beginning. it was the learning experience of a lifetime."
Liquidia raised a total of $121.7M in funding over 9 rounds and had its IPO in June of 2018. Over the first few years, Ginger worked on prototypes with customers, oversaw Liquidia’s IP portfolio, and worked beyond the lab on the company’s marketing, venture financing, and financial modeling.
FROM A BIOTECH START-UP TO A GLOBAL NONPROFIT
As Liquidia evolved, so did Ginger’s ambition. She decided to re-shift her focus in order to reconnect with her passion to help the environmental and energy sectors. Ginger joined the nonprofit research institute, RTI International.
"All of the incredible scientists and engineers at RTI were dedicated to improving the human condition. It was so invigorating to work for a billion-dollar research institute, and the potential opportunities to expand their impact through commercialization!”
Ginger excelled as the VP of Technology and Commercialization establishing a fund for internal investments that looked at 200+ technologies across RTI's vast $1B portfolio.
DREAM JOB DISCOVERS GINGER
Then, in 2018 the Executive Vice President of HG Ventures, Kip Frey, reached out to invite Ginger to come to Indianapolis, Indiana and explore the possibility of joining their Venture group.
Ginger didn't know much about the company or venture capital, but she quickly realized that every path she took in her career intersected with this unique opportunity. She would finally get to work with brilliant entrepreneurs and scientists from different sectors to help make ambitious ideas a reality.
"I fell in love with everything HG Ventures was doing. Their family-inspired values reflect my own, and my entire career has been spent in every field of science they operate in - construction, chemicals, energy, and the environment. The only way I could describe this opportunity is serendipitous."
There was one potential roadblock – Ginger's family was rooted in North Carolina. Her husband was running a business and her two daughters were going to local schools.
"My husband didn't think twice about shutting down his business and figuring out how to move our family to Indiana so I could take my dream job. I can’t thank him and my girls enough for being so supportive."
Ginger and her husband, and their two daughters
SUPPORTING FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS
"The impact I'm making as an investor feels much greater than what I could achieve as being an entrepreneur myself. We're investing 50 million dollars a year in the industrial sector. It's exciting to empower entrepreneurs and support the people who understand how to build sustainable companies in these sectors."
As much as she loves her job, Ginger shares that the hardest thing she must do is saying ‘no’ to aspiring entrepreneurs. HG ventures have to be selective and only invest in <5% of companies that are pitched.
Ginger and Scott Shane of Comeback Capital during their fireside chat at Case Western Reserve University
Having been on the other side of these presentations Ginger knows that women often don’t have the right mentors or partners to guide them. The venture capital pitching process can be intimidating and extremely stressful, so Ginger goes the extra mile to make sure female entrepreneurs get their fair shot.
"In the industrial sector, women are an overwhelming minority and it’s a real problem. I want more female entrepreneurs to succeed and I’m not going to apologize for dedicating my time to helping them."
Ginger makes sure women are prepared for their pitches and follows-up to help along the way. Her most pressing advice for female entrepreneurs is to have confidence, confidence, and more confidence!
"When you are passionate and confident in what you're presenting, that speaks volumes."
INVESTING IN ANA AND XENA WORKWEAR
Recently, a fellow investor and Ginger’s good friend reached out about a young female-founded start-up: Xena Workwear. Safety shoes weren’t exactly in Ginger's scope, but after learning a bit more about their vision and product Ginger was sold.
"I actually just bought a pair of hideous steel-toed boots that every woman is forced to wear. After talking to Ana for just 15 minutes and going to her website I knew that we needed to invest in Xena. I went straight to the head of HG Ventures to get funding and immediately called the lead investor to ask to join the advisory board to personally help Ana grow. That was the shortest diligence I've ever done for a company!”
Ginger Rothrock (left) and Ashlyn Myers (right) of HG Ventures with Ana Kraft (center) of Xena Workwear
Ana Kraft and countless female entrepreneurs are forever grateful for Ginger’s support and personal guidance. The venture capital scene is dominated by men who often can’t relate to what women have to go through to achieve success. Ginger Rothrock hopes to be a role-model who can make a difference for aspiring women.
By Courtney Faye Brown. Courtney shares human stories that raise awareness and help advocate for women empowerment.