By Sarah Mauet
K Krasnow Waterman introduced email to JPMorgan, reorganized intelligence at the FBI, served as assistant dean at the James E. Rogers College of Law, performed AI research on Tim Berners-Lee’s team at MIT and partnered with financier Lewis Ranieri to build a new private equity firm. She has brought together the diverse aspects of her education and experience to specialize in quickly building and revamping organizations in data-intensive environments, and creating new functions, products and organizations, both within existing entities and as new ventures. With a professional background in technology, law and operations, Waterman joins the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship as its newest entrepreneur in residence and Entrepreneurship + Innovation lecturer.
“What interests me about working with startups is the excitement of doing something new,” she said. “It’s that stage when people are organizing their thoughts and are really focused, working hard and full of enthusiasm.”
Waterman will be mentoring student startup teams as an entrepreneur in residence in the New Venture Development Program, a year-long competitive-entry program in which University of Arizona students from diverse fields of study team up to build a new venture from the ground up. She is also teaching a section of ENTR 485: Innovating: Creating the Future, a capstone course for Eller College of Management students that ensures that they graduate with entrepreneurship experience and an innovative mindset.
Deeply versed in the entrepreneurship world today, Waterman began her career in technology.
“I was hired by IBM when it was at its largest–I think it had 700,000 employees worldwide–and participated in the development of their early software-as-a-service business. For about 10 years, I was involved in the development and management of technology. “After IBM, I managed new tech at JP Morgan, where I introduced email, connected data centers around the world and managed a variety of other large-scale ($25+ million) technology projects.”
After a decade managing high-tech projects, she was ready for a new challenge. A lifelong interest in civil rights and First Amendment issues led her to law school.
“I grew up with a strong belief in the value of the Constitution and civil rights and civil liberties,” she said. “Early in my legal career, I did a lot of litigation around issues of employment, discrimination and the First Amendment.”
A judicial clerkship with the U.S. District Court’s Hon. William D. Browning brought her to Tucson in 1989, and she has lived here full- or part-time ever since. She was a litigation attorney at Brown & Bain (now Perkins Coie), a firm known nationally for high-tech cases, where she handled corporate, intellectual property, employment and media matters, including representing newspapers and radio and television stations in free speech and public records cases.
In 1993 and 1994, she served as the assistant dean of the University of Arizona’s law school, where she also spent several more years as an adjunct professor teaching federal jurisdiction, legal reasoning, employment and pretrial practice, even after she returned to legal practice as assistant general counsel of the FBI and a special assistant U.S. attorney.
“Then 9/11 happened,” she said. “I was working for the government at the time, and I volunteered to do whatever anybody needed. Overnight, I returned to my tech roots and became the chief information officer of the first post-9/11 counter-terrorism task force, at the direction of the White House. I was responsible for building a very large-scale data analytics facility that brought together data from 23 federal agencies. That was long before all the ‘big-data’ tools hit the market, so we had to be very resourceful. Shortly after that, I became the FBI’s interim deputy for Intelligence, responsible for realigning intelligence from the geographic verticals of the Cold War to the risk-based horizontals of today.”
The work she did gave her an unusual and highly-sought-after cross-agency view, and she continued to work as an executive consultant for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for seven years. During that time, she decided to return to private industry and returned to school while working.
She enrolled at Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a Sloan Fellow, where she completed coursework for both an MBA and a master’s in the management of technology, writing a thesis on data analytics over the Enron emails for compliance. She found the experience exhilarating.
“It was a great opportunity to work with people from around the world and look at everything that had been happening in the open while I had been in locked rooms,” she said. “That’s when I started working with people who were launching companies. I also joined a research group that is part of MIT’s Computer Science and AI (Artificial Intelligence) Lab.”
Since being a student at MIT, Waterman has worked multiple paths simultaneously. She has continued work on semantics and policy reasoning at MIT, she wound down her governmental work and returned to Wall Street roles and she has been involved with a number of startups.
While at MIT, she created a new interdisciplinary course called Linked Data Ventures, which was cross-listed in engineering and business. In the class, her students learned semantic web technology, built working prototypes and built business plans around the new technology.
“We spun out a few very successful companies,” she said.
In 2010, she joined Citigroup, where she managed a 1,500-person global organization, building a new global analytics function and a new data assessment mechanism. In 2014, she joined TIAA-CREF as the managing director of enterprise financial crime prevention, responsible for the retooling of anti-money laundering and sanctions and the buildout of a substantial counter-fraud capability. And in 2015 she was recruited to a new private equity firm focused on cognitive computing and infrastructure technology for finance, real estate and the capital markets.
Throughout this period, Waterman her work with startups continued. She has served as chief technology officer, vice president of operations, chief executive officer and advisory board member at several new ventures. She has worked with companies in a range of fields, including semantic analytics, cybersecurity, cloud computing, privacy, compliance, finance, real estate, insomnia, food and agriculture.
“The work in law enforcement and intelligence is necessary and it’s incredibly important, but your life becomes all about looking at the dark side of things,” she said. “Even a lot of the work I did for big financial institutions was focused on the risks. That’s part of why I enjoy working with new ventures, because the startup side has always been about the joy of things. I wanted to go back to the joy of building and making positive change.”
Waterman is now bringing that expertise and joy to her position at the McGuire Center. “I’m really excited about being here,” she said. “I love working with students. I love being able to help them find their way. I live for the a-ha moment.”
Header photo of Business Certificate Program session courtesy McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship.