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This article was prepared for the January 23, 2002 edition of U.S.
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Life in the Fast Lane
If Broadbeam is making record progress in the B-to-B
side of the wireless revolution, the consumer side of wireless is
coming along much more slowly. Another central New Jersey firm,
was going to be the next great thing for the wireless consumer. Using
the global positioning system, it was supposed to be a way to flash
neighborhood-specific information (and advertising) to people with
Geeps.com had a total of $7 million in funding, mostly from Great
Britain and Europe, where wireless usage is much more pervasive than
it is here. But because consumer use of wireless in this country is
progressing much slower than predicted, the company has gone into
"hibernation mode," says Aezaz Hussain.
He chose those words carefully. Hussain is CEO of Visionnet Systems,
which has a stake in Geeps. "The investors still own the
property," he says. "If the wireless revolution happens later,
maybe we will come back to it."
"It will take two or three years, maybe even longer for those
kinds of technologies to mature in the U.S.," says Arshad Masood,
former president of Geeps.com (See article below on Masood’s new
company, Aereon Solutions). Andy Goren, former CEO of Geeps.com, has
moved to San Francisco.
Arshad Masood left two companies — Visionet Systems
and a dotcom wireless marketing firm, Geeps.com — to head a new
company in the wireless field. Aereon Solutions has offices at
Forrestal Village in HQ and should not be confused with the aviation
firm, Aereon Corporation, at 20 Nassau Street.
A new team of six employees are "self-funding" Aereon
meaning that they are not getting paid until the money starts coming
in. "We are aggressively looking for clients and working on the
first software piece to be completed in the first quarter," says
Masood. The other key partner here is COO/CFO Nigel Gardner, who is
experienced with start-ups.
Aereon Solutions has a vertical market: to bring wireless automation
to small and medium-sized contracting firms. Wireless devices can
eliminate telephone calls and double entry paperwork. "They can
access the customer history, do the work, leave the bill, and move
right on to the next stop," says Masood.
"We are doing something tangible for the customer, versus
which is not really necessary," says Masood, explaining why his
new firm has a brighter future than GeePS.com "If you can’t serve
a customer today with some tangible ROI (return on investment), it
is impossible to survive."
"Only three or four companies are in our vertical market,"
says Masood. Several of these companies are in start-up mode and a
major competitor on the west coast is FieldCentrix. "We are
our IP to show our future clients and then we will go out and partner
with larger firms," he says.
Masood has the patience to build a company from scratch. He earned
an undergraduate degree in engineering in Pakistan, has a MS in
science from the University of Guelph in Canada, and an MBA from
College in New York. He worked at IBM as a sales manager for several
years before starting Visionet Systems in 1989. It took him six or
seven years to grow Visionet from a one-person self-funded company,
into a viable business, and he moved out of a home office in 1996
(U.S. 1, November 29, 2000).
Now Visionet Systems, an IT consulting company for the apparel and
mortgage industries, has 30 people at Cedar Brook Drive. Its clients
include Liz Claiborn, Maidenform, Timberland, and Countrywide Home
Initially Masood’s new company, Aereon, will target HVAC companies
with about 15 trucks. "Bigger companies can automate by
but we are packaging the solution for the smaller ones and making
it painless for them. We believe we can make a 20 to 30 percent
201, Princeton Forrestal Village, Princeton 08540. Arshad Masood.
609-524-4030; fax, 609-524-4031.
Text messaging that’s fast, fun, and free — that’s
the business model of Tellshare, a wireless messaging provider that
wants to tap the youth market. Despite the uneven record of wireless
advertising firms such as Geeps.com (see previous story), Tellshare
thinks it can create an audience for opt-in, permission-based
materials, and it pins its hopes on a market of 15 million
"Teenagers and college students register with us for free,"
says Jay H. Paszamant, the president of the five-person firm that
recently moved from 1,400 square feet in North Brunswick to a similar
space in Research Park. "They enter their cell phone number and
carrier and get the newest gizmos. No matter what carrier they have
or what device they use, if they have messaging capability they can
use our service for free."
Marketers and advertisers catering to this youth market will offer
deals, promotions, coupons, contests, and sweepstakes, all
meaning that the users don’t receive anything if they don’t want to.
"It is another way for us to create a value added service,"
What kind of deals might these be? Time-sensitive offers are
potent. Say you are producing a concert or a sporting event in Trenton
and, two days before the event, you have bales of unsold tickets.
You could "paper the house," the insider’s lingo for calling
up charities and offering the tickets for free. Or you could beam
your ad for half-priced seats to Tellshare users in Central Jersey.
"We are trying to help those venues fill the seats and generate
additional revenue," says Paszamant. An in-house copywriter and
designer can help produce the ads. "We offer value added service.
We are approaching the advertising industry to use our services as
an additional channel for their clients."
Tellshare’s goal is to be a complete solution provider for wireless
technology, such as www.upoc.com and www.planethopper.com
"We want to be the wireless portal to take us to the generation
Y market," he says, "the third generation networking to the
United States. We want to be involved in multimedia messaging and
gaming, to be on the ground floor when the third generation comes
Paszamant aims to avoid the pitfalls experienced by Geeps.com because
his is a regional service that targets college campuses. "We are
in a pilot test in all the four-year colleges in New Jersey. We have
a marketing campaign with postering throughout the campuses. It seems
to be the most effective way."
Those with cell phones or pagers sign up for the service and then
get all the messages, whether they want to or not. They respond by
calling a toll-free number to talk to the application directly, or
they can use wireless application protocol (WAP). Those with web-based
Palm Pilots can choose to get a particular message. So can those
from their laptop or desktop PCs.
Paszamant is particularly enthusiastic about the market for winter
tourism. "Skiers can sign up to get snow reports. Sometimes they
are traveling and don’t have their computers with them. Now they don’t
have to dial a number and pay minutes. We are talking about a
that doesn’t want to spend money."
A resident of Skillman, Paszamant and his wife, a professional
have two school-aged children. His Hungarian grandfather founded Monte
Carlo Wines in New Brunswick, and the successor was the Monarch Wine
Company. Paszamant went to the University of Miami, Class of 1984,
and worked in the financial markets before joining the family
doing marketing. "I stayed with them until I started my own
Tellshare started out as a web application development firm, Digi
Technologies. It bolsters its cash flow by providing messaging
to other companies’ websites, so potential customers can sign up to
get "alerts." The firm’s accountant is Carl Gensib of North
Brunswick, and it is looking for angel investors. "We are not
in the VC stage yet," says Paszamant. If Tellshare’s idea is so
good, why isn’t everyone doing it? "It is too new," is the
familiar refrain. "Everybody is sitting back waiting for others
H. Paszamant, president. 609-924-4224; fax, 609-924-4465. Home
— Barbara Fox
Lamina Ceramics, a Sarnoff company that works on high
performance ceramic printed circuit boards for optical and wireless
packaging, has landed $12 million in venture capital financing from
Morgenthaler Venture Partners. Actually, this money came through last
August, but the company waited to make the official announcement of
this funding until last week.
Its contact at the Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm is Greg
E. Blonder, a former Bell Labs inventor who is also the VC contact
for Princeton Lightwave, a Sarnoff spinoff that moved to Route 130.
Bob Pavet is also a Morgenthaler partner who is on the Lamina board.
Lamina Ceramics was founded in April, 2001, and plans to move from
Sarnoff’s building soon, says Taylor Adair, president and CEO (U.S.
1, October 10, 2001).
"The name of the technology we are commercializing is low
co-fired ceramic on metal," says Adair. "The advantage to
metal, is that it constrains the shrinkage of the ceramic when it
is fired, provides a thermal heat sink, and increases the flexural
strength of the ceramic." Such strength helps to eliminate
when manufacturing large packages or boards.
Potential clients are manufacturers that need a high speed backplane
(a circuit board that links other circuit boards). "Nobody we
are aware of has commercialized this technology," says Adair.
08540. Taylor Adair, CEO. 609-720-4949. Www.laminaceramics.com
309, Princeton 08540. Joyce Morrison, controller. 609-452-0889; fax,
Tom Colitsas, an accountant and financial planner who emphasizes
has six restaurants of his own, and the company that runs them (BCA
& Associates) will be moving into the suite next door to Colitsas
in the fall. In the meantime, the two firms have temporarily
and are working out of the same space.
One of the six restaurants is Steak Escape in Quakerbridge Mall.
Floor, Princeton 08540. Pat deSaules, owner. 609-520-0700; fax,
Pat deSaules has moved from Alexander Park, at 791 Alexander Road,
to 100 Overlook. Similarly, she has moved her firm’s focus from
placement to executive search and consulting.
and Associates on Nottingham Way, and his son, Scott, is now president
of the business insurance agency.
08540. Alan George. 609-716-7616; fax, 609-716-7206. Home page:
This office of the executive recruiting firm, a project of Korn/Ferry
International and the Wall Street Journal, has closed. The business
plucks recruits off the Web. It targets only middle-market management
and doesn’t rigorously assess each candidate, as is the standard at
A company representative at headquarters in Sherman Oaks, California,
says the nearest office is now in New York City.
cktk Lisa is his daughter in law.
Building, Princeton 08540. Peter Gerry, managing director.
fax, 609-759-8900. Home page: www.sycamorevc.com
A five-year-old venture capital firm, Sycamore Ventures, just acquired
a Princeton address. The 13-person office moved from 4,700 square
feet at 989 Lenox Drive to 5,700 feet on the first floor of the U.S.
Trust Building at 845 Alexander Road on Friday, January 11 and has
a new phone and fax.
Among the firm’s three founding partners is a man with impeccable
political connections, John Whitman, husband of the former governor,
Christine Todd Whitman. Peter Gerry and Kilin To are also managing
partners. They have have invested in more than 100 companies and have
taken 20 companies public. They have sold or merged 40 companies,
and they have offices in San Francisco and Asia.
Sycamore Ventures, the only tenant of U.S. Trust, has a five year
lease with a renewal option. Bob Sobel of the Acclaim Group
the tenant and Buzz Woodworth of Keller Dodds & Woodworth the
Architect Joel David Zieden designed the interior to have 14 perimeter
offices, a large interior conference room, and a large file room,
and two secretarial areas. Michael Riesz and Co. of Fords, New Jersey,
was the general contractor.
Except for the new office’s proximity to the train station, Princeton
not a particularly convenient location for the Whitmans who live in
North Jersey. "We looked for an office further north, but there
really are not a lot of class A buildings along the 206 corridor that
would be convenient for everyone," says David Lichtenstein, the
chief financial officer who planned the move.
With $450 million under management, the firm focuses on second stage
through IPO companies in the areas of information technology and
Its active funds are Sycamore Venture Capital, an SBIC fund started
in November 1999 that has $51 million in private capital. As a Small
Business Investment Corporation, it gets federal funds matched two
for one, so the fund can be $153 million. The Asia Star IT fund,
in May, 2000, has $165 million. Earlier funds are fully invested and
are in "harvest mode."
An Edison-based consumer products company with brands such as
Fresh", "X-14," and "2000 Flushes," was acquired
by WD-40 Company last April.
One of Sycamore’s first computer investments was Taiwan-based Acer
Group, now the sixth largest PC manufacturer in the world. Other
companies are ASUSTeK Computer, the largest global PC system board
manufacturer; ACM Research Corporation (a semiconductor equipment
manufacturing company for polishing and plating in copper
headquartered in northern California), and three more Taiwan-based
In the telecommunications and networking industries, Sycamore has
invested in companies based in Texas, Florida, California, India,
Tokyo, and Jedai Broadband Networks in Red Bank.
Among Sycamore’s other companies in New Jersey are two dotcoms.
Easylink (www.easylink.com) provides business messaging services and
went public in June, 1999. RxHope.com, in Hackettstown, is a website
where doctors can request free medication for their indigent patients.
In 1998 these VCs invested in Juno Online Services, helped it go
and sold its position. Juno recently agreed to merge with NetZero,
and the resulting firm (United Online) may be the second largest
access provider in the US. Other dotcom companies are in Canada and
Software, healthcare and biotechnology, media and broadcasting, and
financial services are among the other investment areas.
Whitman went to Yale, Class of 1966, and has a Harvard Business School
MBA. He has had several positions at Citicorp and was an advisor to
such firms as the Ford Motor Company, AT&T Venture Corp., the
Enterprise Fund, British and Commonwealth Holdings PLC, Coopers &
Lybrand, the United States Agency for International Development
and Prudential Securities Inc. From 1987 to 1990 he was CEO of
Interfunding Inc., a merchant banking fund.
Gerry graduated from Harvard in 1968 and received his MBA from the
Harvard Business School. He has been president of two Citicorp equity
investment subsidiaries, president of the New York Venture Capital
Forum, and has served two terms as the governor of the National
of Small Business Investment Companies.
To earned his master’s degree in electrical engineering from Princeton
University in 1969 and an MBA from the Wharton School in 1979. He
worked at Philips Electronics, RCA Corporation, AT&T Corporation and
Digital Equipment Corporation, was president of Citicorp Investments
Inc., and vice president at Citicorp Venture Capital Ltd. To divides
his time between the United States and the four Asian offices —
in Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore and Shanghai — which total 10
people. The VCs are hiring for the Asian offices.
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