Topanga Partners Profile
Topanga Partners is a private equity firm based in Pittsburgh, PA that invests in early stage companies primarily in the life sciences and technology sectors. In addition to passive venture investments, we also consider M&A transactions, recapitalizations, and Alpha/Beta stage investments. Depending on size and stage, we can also provide operational and strategic services to mitigate risk to investors, drive capital efficiencies, and build enterprise value.
JOHN HATHAWAY - Managing Partner
John manages the General Partner for Topanga and is the founder of Pittsburgh based private equity firm Primerock Capital. Primerock invests its own capital in various private equity sectors, and through its affiliates manages multiple private funds and companies. John has more than 25 years of experience in asset management, capital structure and formation, mergers and acquisitions, sales and marketing, and finance. Early in his career, he personally managed over $1 Billion of retail client assets for several wall street banks. Subsequently on the private equity side, John has led hundreds of transactions, including in the real estate, manufacturing, technology, and financial sectors. He serves on the boards of multiple privately held companies, and maintains a large network of partners and co-investors. John holds a degree in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania.
Justin Starr, PhD - ChiEf operating Officer and CTO
Dr. Starr has been involved in technology scouting and technical operations management for more than a decade. Most recently, he was CTO of RedZone Robotics, a Pittsburgh-based developer of robotic systems for inspection of wastewater collection systems. He oversaw the development of multiple new robotic platforms, sensing systems, and the launch of a new cloud version of the company's asset management software. Justin was part of the team that sold the company to Milestone Partners in 2018. Prior to joining RedZone, Dr. Starr was a technology scout for PreScouter, Inc. - a Chicago company that performs technical due diligence and scientific analyses for corporate clients. Justin worked on more than 200 projects for PreScouter and continues to serve as a Senior Scientific Advisor for the company. He also worked on several defense projects with QinetiQ North America's Technology Solutions Group, including funded DARPA proposals focusing on artificial intelligence for anti submarine warfare, autonomous self-assembling maritime platforms, and a variety of other subjects. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Engineering Science from the University of Virginia where he was a Jefferson and Rodman Scholar, and his Master and Doctoral Degrees in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Florida where he was a Graduate School Fellow. Dr. Starr has authored more than 11 technical papers and published case studies, and is co-inventor on 3 issued patents and more than 8 pending patents. He continues to teach several Physics and Robotics courses for the Community College of Allegheny County and has been an invited lecturer at both the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.
Christopher Whitlatch - ChiEf Marketing Officer
Christopher has more than twenty years of marketing, branding and management experience. Before joining Topanga Partners, he served as the first CEO of the Mon Valley Alliance, an economic development nonprofit which promotes regional business growth. Previously, he spent seven years with The Pittsburgh Foundation, directing the digital initiatives and communications at the community foundation. There he helped launch and develop Pittsburgh Gives, an online giving platform that brought more than $40 million into nonprofit organizations across the area. He has a degree in journalism and mass communications from New York University. Christopher hosts Into Pittsburgh, a nonprofit news magazine show on Pittsburgh Community Television and is an invited speaker for local and national conferences.
Katie Wunder - Senior Associate
Katie handles high level product strategy and customer success at Topanga, and has worked with Topanga and its affiliates since 2015. She has held various managerial positions in Topanga’s portfolio companies, including running several early stage companies as CEO/COO, leading them to successful product launches and exits. Prior to joining Topanga, Katie was recognized as an award winning top performer with a national insurance company. She spent post graduate time teaching English in Thailand and has dual degrees in English and History from Clemson University.
About Our Portfolio Companies
InClinica guides companies through early stage FDA clinical trials and also owns equity stakes in early stage life sciences companies, including positions in both SkinJect and Periovance.
Postamo is an online platform that makes it fast and easy for real estate agents to connect with home sellers and buyers through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Postamo gives agents the opportunity to advertise their local expertise, listings, brand and more so they can grow their business.
Health eTools is an electronic health records (EHR) system created specifically for school nurses using Human Centered Designed. Serving more than 700 schools across the country, Health eTools works in conjunction with a school district’s existing Student Information System to help school nurses confidentially track, manage and report on the health of their student population.
Nestigator is an award winning online platform used by over 200,000 real estate agents nationwide. Nestigator makes Home Buying and Selling easier by connecting consumers with local real estate experts ready to assist on demand.
sharp edge labs
Sharp Edge is bringing a new class of targeted biosensors to drug discovery and trafficking biology. Fluorogenic Activating Modules (or FAMs) provide a more accurate and detailed detection method for cellular trafficking that is amendable to high-throughput screening and more detailed follow-up.
Periovance’s PSR system is a patented, non-surgical treatment and product for periodontal disease that is currently in FDA Trials.
SkinJect’s patch is a patented, non-surgical treatment for basal cell carcinoma that is in the pre-clinical stage with the FDA.