A man described as a tireless advocate for entrepreneurs who was also a longtime volunteer and Lehigh Valley venture capitalist has passed away.
Fred Beste of Bushkill Township was 72. He died on Dec. 8 after an extended illness, according to a statement from Originate Ventures, a business based in Bethlehem where he served as partner emeritus.
“The Lehigh Valley has lost a great man,” said R. Chadwick Paul Jr., president and CEO of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania at Lehigh University. Beste served on the organization’s board of directors for more than 30 years.
Paul said he knew Beste since the early 1990s.
“Fred was a lifelong venture capitalist,” Paul said. “He is known not just regionally, but nationally.”
Paul described Beste as very generous with his time.
“He never said no to an entrepreneur who needed his time,” Paul said. “He knew that it wasn’t helpful not to give them the unvarnished truth. You think about venture capitalists, their time is really precious but he helped make time for young entrepreneurs.”
Beste served on Ben Franklin’s statewide board from the beginning and was continuously reappointed by every governor since the early 1990s, Paul said.
He also served as Ben Franklin’s chairman for eight years.
“He was at times for me, a mentor, a friend, a brother, an adviser and for many years, effectively, my boss,” Paul said. “But he had a way of listening to what I wanted to do and giving me his advice, again, unvarnished. His support and his leadership of the board is what gave me the confidence to go forward on big projects such as TechVentures.”
TechVentures is an incubator building at Ben Franklin’s Lehigh campus, which offers space for startup companies to grow.
According to his biography, Beste spent his entire career in the venture capital industry, beginning in 1968 with Greater Washington Investors Inc., a publicly held venture capital firm, where he was vice president and treasurer. In 1975 he joined Kentucky Highlands Investment Corp., a private venture capital development firm, where he was vice president and, ultimately, president and CEO.
He joined MAVF in 1984 as the founding president and CEO of its first general partnership. MAVF is comprised of four venture capital limited partnerships totaling approximately $200 million in capital.