Home Survival Guide From Worms to Wool, a Princeton Contest Means Business

From Worms to Wool, a Princeton Contest Means Business

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What do sex-happy chimpanzees and men’s fashion have in common? Not much, but Brian Spaly liked the ring of the name “Bonobos” three years ago when he first developed his line of men’s pants, so he named his company, Bonobos, after the friendly chimps. Inspired by Spaly’s long legs and the difficulties he encountered in trying to find pants that fit properly, the company aims to change men’s fashion by selling pants that fit better and make men’s legs appear slimmer.

Bonobos, founded by Spaly, a 1999 Princeton graduate, and Andy Dunn while both were MBA students at Stanford, now makes sales in all 50 states and in a number of foreign countries. The idea behind it was simple and arose when Spaly started altering his own pants using a sewing machine his then-girlfriend had given him as a joke: there had to be a way of making men’s pants that fit better. With the help of Stanford’s resources and spirit of entrepreneurship, the new way of making pants became a new, successful business. The pants feature high-quality, organic fabrics, curved waistbands that eliminate extra material, and legs cut more narrowly than typical men’s pants. According to Bonobos’ website, www.bonobos.com, the company, based in New York City, now sells a range of pants ($98 to $175) as well as polos ($65), shorts ($65), swimwear ($35), and a variety of accessories.

Spaly, who majored in economics at Princeton University, is the keynote speaker at the 14th annual Princeton Entrepreneurs’ Network Conference, being held in Princeton University’s Friend Center on Friday, May 28, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The event is part of the university’s annual Reunions festivities but is open to the general public. Cost: $30. Register at http://princetonen2010.eventbrite.com. For more information visit www.princetonEN.org.

After Spaly’s keynote address at 10 a.m. conference attendees will have their choice of other panels to attend, starting at 11:15: Kevin McLaughlin, co-founder of Resound Marketing on Nassau Street in Princeton and a 1997 Princeton graduate, will moderate a panel titled “How to Land Your Story in Print” with panelists including April Joyner and Maisha Walker, Princeton Class of 1994, from Inc. Magazine and Inc.com, J.P. Ruth of NJBIZ, and Tony Hagen of the Times of Trenton.

Steve Baglio of New York City-based business and intellectual property law firm Gunderson Dettmer will present “The ABCs of Emerging Growth Companies.” Baglio is a partner at the firm and represents emerging growth companies. He holds a degree in civil engineering from Princeton, Class of 1996, and a JD from Columbia.

Tim Berry, a writer, business planning expert, and founder of Palo Alto Software, Borland International, and bplans.com will offer “Business Plans for the Real World.”

Lunch is at 12:15 followed by a talk by sports marketing expert and Princeton alumnus Ken Brenner on “Social Enterprise in Today’s World” at 1:15. The highlight of the conference, the business plan competition, begins at 1:45. The competition has two categories: For Profit Emerging Growth Companies and Social Enterprise.

In the first category, three companies will each give a three-minute presentation for a spot in the final evaluations, followed by 10-minute pitches and 10-minute Q&A sessions with each of five finalists. In the Social Enterprise category, four companies will present. The winner in the for-profit category receives $25,000 and a chance to pitch its business to venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, while the Social Enterprise winner receives $10,000. The winners are announced at 3:45, and the conference ends with a cocktail party.

The three companies competing for a spot in the for-profit final are Virebo, a company that aims to reduce offices’ printing costs; Pondigo, an online dating site for the alumni of top colleges and universities; and Lychee Software, which is trying to reform photo-processing workflow for photographers.

The four known for-profit finalists are Lautriv Information Systems, a company that has worked with insurers to develop software that automates business rules and scope decisions for claims adjusters; FashionStake, a new online source for contemporary fashion; Open Blue Sea Farms, which works toward sustainable free-range farming methods for saltwater fish; and CoAx Systems, which aims to market its new method of designing wellfields for heat pumps that will greatly reduce the cost of geothermal heating and cooling systems. CoAx, founded by Alex Gasner of Princeton’s Class of 2010, already won the first-place prize of $5,000 in the TigerLaunch Business Plan Competition held in February.

Do the winners of this competition actually become successful businesses? You might want to ask Tom Szaky, who won the 2002 competition with a small company he called Terracyle. Szaky now oversees 20 employees at his Trenton-based plant, which converts waste products (natural and man-made) into new products.

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