For six years, John Serafini served his country as a US Army infantry officer. These days, Serafini, 40, serves as senior vice president at Allied Minds Inc., a Boston-based holding company that commercializes technologies spawned at major universities and federal research labs. He’s also a parent and philanthropist, and he takes both responsibilities very seriously.
1. Allied Minds was launched in 2006 to turn neglected laboratory research into profitable products.
“We believed that there was an arbitrage opportunity, essentially. There were fantastic technologies being produced by universities, but there weren’t dedicated entrepreneurs or investment groups or venture capital investors standing by to commercialize the intellectual property.
“Unless there are groups like Allied Minds that are willing to work with the raw building blocks of technology and build a company from scratch, a lot of that is just going to sit on a shelf and rot.
“There’s well over $100 billion worth of federal funding going into research, development, testing, and evaluation. . . . We are so far from even beginning to extract just a small percentage of value, on the commercial side, from that federal IP [intellectual property].”
2. Allied Minds looks for innovations that have both military and commercial applications.
“We were working with various groups within the US government to embed our mobile security technologies into Android devices to make them extremely secure. . . . If we can be successful in deploying that technology into areas of the federal government with the highest technical standards, then I can feel very comfortable that I can then bring that same technology to the banking industry or highly regulated industries or the utilities.”
3. Serafini holds Harvard University master’s degrees in business and public administration. He also served with the US Army in South Korea. He’s an honors graduate of West Point who studied systems engineering and English.
“My father was an English major. He became a lawyer. At the time, I had designs on becoming a lawyer myself. . . . In the English major at West Point, you have access to classes in the arts, philosophy, and literature. I’ve always believed that a well-rounded, well-read individual can become an even better officer in their ability to lead.
“I think my thesis was a comparative analysis of ‘Huck Finn’ and Jack Kerouac’s ‘On The Road,’ two books I found fascinating. . . . I thought that was a good way to expand my horizons a bit.”
4. He’s reading the “Meditations” of Marcus Aurelius, one of Rome’s better emperors, and father of Commodus, one of the worst. Serafini hopes to avoid Marcus Aurelius’s parenting blunders.
“As a father, you think about what you teach your children. I find it so fascinating that Marcus Aurelius lived this amazing life, and he had such great thoughts . . . but he utterly failed in his ability to transfer that knowledge to his son. So how do I, as a father, begin to teach my kids, my three children, the kinds of things that are stuck up in my head, that I want them to believe in, and not become the next Commodus? What’s the worth of having these great thoughts and publishing them, if you can’t pass them on to your own children successfully?”
5. Serafini sets aside time for several good causes. He serves as a trustee of the Judge Baker Children’s Center and the West Point Class of 1998 Memorial Scholarship Fund.
“You actively have to cordon off time in your schedule for doing things that you believe are important. So I’ve been blessed to be able to put away a little bit of time each month and each quarter to focus on Judge Baker, but there’s a couple of other nonprofits that I work with.
“We built a nonprofit specifically to support our classmates and the families of our classmates we lost — my West Point class of ’98. I’ve been so pleased to be able to build that organization with my partners. A few of us, right after our 10th reunion at West Point, we realized that we’ve lost some of our classmates. I think now, we’ve lost nine or 10 individuals. We felt the need to create some kind of a safety net to support their beneficiaries, their families, but also to be able to support each other, our living classmates who might need some help. . . . We’ve probably committed $250,000 to our beneficiaries.”Hiawatha Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.