Daniella Kranjac ’99 called Tech Hall her home office, as she juggled some tough chemical engineering courses, Senior Design and her biotech startup in her dorm room.
For this young entrepreneur — her business partner did work out of his garage — it was a memorable senior year at Stevens.
“I’m that person — I put my head down, I’m going to do it, I’m going to get it done!” she says with a laugh. “Having passion for your work is contagious.”
Kranjac’s co-op job at Schering-Plough, and her collaboration with a colleague there, led to her co-founding, during her senior year, Biotech LLC, which she helped to grow into a $25 million company. As vice president she led a team of 40 before she was 30 and later steered its sale to GE Healthcare in 2007. Wave Biotech’s breakthrough technology, invented by her colleague (Kranjac worked on the prototype), was the Wave Bioreactor® and Cellbag® — a single-use bioreactor system that enables cells to be cultivated in a pre-sterilized bag, eliminating the more contamination-prone stainless steel tanks and piping.
Her marriage to Richard Ferraro ’98 and eight successful years with GE Healthcare followed, where she rose within GE to business development director and global head of Enterprise Solutions, an entrepreneurial initiative inside GE. One of her main tasks was to help countries and biopharma players, especially in emerging nations, to develop their own in-country manufacturing capabilities for essential biopharmaceuticals, vaccines, cancer therapies and insulin.
But working for someone else — even a world leader like GE — never felt quite right.
Now, Kranjac, a member of the Stevens Board of Trustees, is once again following her own entrepreneurial path.
The Montclair, New Jersey, resident launched DYNAMK Consulting LLC in 2015, where she does business development consulting for life sciences, biopharma and tech firms. More recently, she has co-founded DYNAMK Capital, a private equity firm and opportunity fund that she has started with her brother, attorney Mario Kranjac. The firm aims to provide much-needed capital to smaller life sciences and technology firms. She now travels the world for clients, meeting investors, and calling upon her substantial contacts — from Europe to the Middle East to Asia — after almost 20 years of working in the field.
“You feel so much more ownership in the end results,” she says, when contemplating her own company and fund. “You feel greater satisfaction, and the passion comes through in helping so many more businesses thrive.”
Her client list includes life sciences, biopharma and technology companies. Kranjac, who holds an NYU Stern School EMBA, proudly recalls helping a client with a failing product line by introducing effective sales team strategies and showing the team how to strongly position and market their products.
Helping others to bring essential medicines to the world — orphan drugs for patients with rare illnesses, for example — is among the many rewards of her work, she says.
“When you see what the life sciences and biopharma can do to benefit lives through cancer therapies and vaccines, it’s really incredible. We are on the forefront helping enabling tools and technologies come online. In a little way, I’m linking that chain. It always feels good.”
Stevens and her co-op experience gave her the background she needed to truly understand the technologies of the companies that she serves.
“I think that is what Stevens gives you — it’s a tough curriculum but rewarding and very relevant,” she says one afternoon in Montclair, over an espresso at a local Italian eatery.
“You’re coming out of there with all of the tools that you need and an ability to think analytically and clearly about any situation.”
“It’s exciting to be an engineer who can translate engineering experience into business and marketing. Just the fact that you can live in both worlds brings a lot of value to companies and can help drive adoption of innovation.”
Kranjac applauds Stevens for the recent strides that it has made in its entrepreneurship programs, including its new Venture Center for students and faculty looking to develop their technology into a business.
As busy as she is, Kranjac is also looking out for other women. She helped to establish the New York metro chapter of Women in Bio, an organization that aims to promote careers, leadership and entrepreneurship for women in the life sciences, and also mentors women in engineering and marketing.
“You need someone to tell you what to watch for. Politics, business dynamics — everyone needs help navigating that early in their career.”
“Still it’s hard to ignore the numbers,” she says of the low number of women in top corporate leadership jobs in tech and the sciences. “We need more women in leadership and participating in corporate boards, and we need to continue encouraging women in STEM fields.”
This first-generation college student (along with her sister Suzanne McIntosh ’00) and the child of Croatian immigrants feels energized by being an entrepreneur who takes manageable risks. Looking at her parents’ and grandparents’ journeys to America, in search of a better life outside the former Yugoslavia, gives her perspective.
“Seeing the risks they took make my risks seem small in comparison,” she says.