LI venture capitalist Herman Fialkov dies

An undated handout photo of Herman Fialkov, a An undated handout photo of Herman Fialkov, a pioneer in the microchip industry. Photo Credit: Handout

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Herman Fialkov, a pioneer in the microchip industry and Long Island's dean of venture capitalists, was buried Thursday after being lauded for his acuity in spotting small companies that can turn into telecommunication forces.

Fialkov, 89, co-founded General Transistor Corp. in 1954 and made it big supplying transistors to UNIVAC, the first commercial computer produced in the United States.

Several years later, he began his decades-long career in venture capitalism, becoming an early investor in semiconductor giant Intel; Globecomm Systems, the Hauppauge-based satellite communications provider; Teledyne, a leading electronics and software provider; and Standard Microsystems, a Hauppauge-based semiconductor supplier.

He died Tuesday of pancreatic cancer and was buried at Wellwood Cemetery in Farmingdale. He lived in Great Neck and Boca Raton, Fla.

"His biggest achievement was being an understated genius and a gentleman," said Jeffrey Bass, head of the Long Island Capital Alliance, which Fialkov helped create to connect investors with budding entrepreneurs.

Starting in 1968, Fialkov invested millions through several venture capitalist firms he helped create, including Jericho-based Newlight Management. In 1999, global accounting firm Ernst & Young honored Fialkov with a lifetime achievement award for entrepreneurship. In 2004, the Long Island Capital Alliance named an annual award after him.

Those who knew Fialkov said he was reserved, but in business he was a risk-taker. They said he saw investing as a game where he could see how his bets were performing.

Jay Fialkov of Needham, Mass., said his father got the investment bug after General Transistor merged with electronics maker General Instrument Corp., where he headed acquisitions in the late 1960s and pushed the company into the fledgling cable business.

"My father was in venture capital when nobody knew what that meant," his son said.

Born in Brooklyn, Fialkov was a child of the Great Depression. He delivered milk before school to earn money for the family and watched out for police for his father, a street peddler, the family said.

In the Army's Signal Corps during World War II, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge on the European front, where he laid down telephone wires and later got two Bronze Stars, the family said. Under the GI bill, he got an engineering degree from New York University.

Besides his son, Fialkov is survived by his wife, Ruth; daughter, Carol Kopelman of Great Neck; and four grandchildren.

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