Laura Smoliar: Managing Director, Cria Fund Innovations

Dr. Laura Smoliar is the Founder and Managing Director of Cria Innovations, LLC, a venture fund innovation, and early-stage startup consultancy. She advises Stanford University and serves as the Executive Director of Stanford’s Taiwan Science & Technology Hub as well as emerging venture funds in deep tech and the life sciences. The Taiwan S&T Hub at Stanford was established in 2023 to foster people-to-people interactions between Taiwan and Silicon Valley, with a focus on Science and Technology. The primary objective of the Taiwan S&T Hub (which also has a footprint in Taiwan) is to facilitate collaboration between Taiwan and US academic and entrepreneurial ecosystems, starting with Stanford University and Silicon Valley.

Since 2016, Dr. Smoliar has been a Founding Partner of the Berkeley Catalyst Fund, a venture capital group organized by Dr. Smoliar with a focus on deal flow from UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, UC San Francisco, associated incubators and accelerators, and alumni. A portion of the fund’s proceeds are returned to the College of Chemistry at UC Berkeley in a unique and collaborative structure pioneered by Dr. Smoliar. She also founded a start-up in 2005 called Mobius Photonics (acquired by NASDAQ:IPGP), where she served as Chairman and CEO, and where she raised several rounds of funding from investors in the USA and Japan. She has worked in diverse hardware industries including data storage, displays, lasers, and biotech instrumentation. In 2017 Laura was elected a Senior Member of the SPIE and in 2020 she was elected a Fellow of the SPIE. She was awarded the 2017 Judith Pool award by the Association for Women in Science for her mentoring work at Stanford.

Dr. Smoliar earned her Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from UC Berkeley’s College of Chemistry, and studied under Dr. Yuan T. Lee, a Taiwan native who was serving as a professor of chemistry and principal investigator at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory of the University of California. Dr. Lee has received numerous awards and honors, including the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, for his work on chemical dynamics. He brought Dr. Smoliar to Taiwan in 1994 when he became President of Academia Sinica in Taiwan, while she was finishing her Ph.D. studies. Dr. Smoliar also holds an A.B. Summa Cum Laude in Chemistry from Columbia College, Columbia University and serves on the Morningside Science Leadership Council of Columbia University.