Entrepreneurs Share Their Hard-Earned Lessons at the NJEF
Experience forever defies the maxim. A better built mousetrap, by
itself, brings no one to your door. But if you do come up with a great
leap forward in a technology everyone wants, you just may catch the
glance of an angel. And angels can start you off in a business that
will, indeed, bring the masses, cash in hand.
The more practical maxim is to model yourself after success. Study
well-funded startups. Learn their tricks and see what they did right.
To provide some examples, the New Jersey Entrepreneur’s Forum (NJEF)
offers its "The Best of the Rest," presentation on Wednesday, February
16, at 8:30 a.m. at the Hyatt in New Brunswick. Cost $50. Visit
NJAngels.net or call 732-873-1955.
Sponsored by NJ Angels.net, an NJEF division, this series of talks is
given by several new firms in various stages of development.
Freehold-based Lifeblood Medical (www.lifebloodmedical.com), founded
by Joseph Fisher in 2001, is stepping out with three new products that
will require approximately $2.5 million in initial funding.
Lifeblood’s three innovative solutions, "Lifor" for human organs,
"LiforLab" for tumors, and "LiforCell" for stem cells, will triple the
amount of time these human tissues can remain suspended and still
Fisher has completed the tests for his product, and has lined up a
manufacturer and a distribution system. An angel’s dream, Fisher’s
solutions and equipment have moved through most of the FDA’s
requirements, and could be marketable in a relatively short time.
Further along the funding track is Boston’s Hamilton Thorne
Biosciences (www.HamiltonThorneBiosciences.com), which seeks to bring
to market two new seemingly unrelated product lines. Back in 2001
veteran commercial catalyst Meg Hamilton teamed up with entrepreneur
and toxicologist Dr. Harry McCoy seeking a better way to harvest stem
cells. They found one that was promising enough to pull in $13 million
in angel and venture capital funding, have established their company,
and are now expanding.
Much of this innovative turnover can be credited to Hamilton Thorne’s
president. A self-professed nomad, McCoy’s varied career has ranged
from the Arizona desert of his youth to the frozen plains of
Minnesota. "My mother was one of those housewives who wasn’t a
scientist, but should have been," says McCoy. Perhaps that led her son
to graduate from the University of California, San Diego in l973 with
a B.S. in biology. From there McCoy moved completed his biology Ph.D.
at the University of California, San Francisco. During the next seven
years, McCoy taught did pharmacology postdoctoral work at the
University of Minnesota.
In l984 McCoy began his first toxicology testing company. As a
commercial diagnostician, he has hunted down toxic environments for
the past two decades all across the country. While McCoy has spent
part of his career as an employee for companies such as Med Tox
Scientific, he really prefers to have a hand on the helm.
Catching the glimpse of an investing angel demands no mean
performance. But the new companies which form the NJEF’s Best of the
Rest have several common traits:
A real step forward. Both Lifeblood Medical and Hamilton Thorne
Biosciences have stepped far beyond any competition. Several biotech
companies offer an electrolyte bath that keeps tissue viable for up to
12 hours. But University of Berlin studies show Fisher’s "Lifor" juice
made from amino acids, oxygen carrying molecules, and a pinch of very
secret ingredients, will hold specimens for 36 hours with no spoilage.
Which would you depend on when shipping a kidney?
Hamilton Thorne’s original product, the Xyclone, is equally novel.
"The real innovation here," explains McCoy, "comes with a totally new,
more finely focused laser that can open up very precise holes in cell
membranes and reveal chromosomes." Best of all, this centralized laser
can be focused by the harvester while he is observing his own work
through a microscope lens. Further experimentation of the laser proved
that using a higher energy with a shorter pulse caused less heating up
of the valued cells and allowed less damage. With such a refined tool,
Hamilton Thorne has been doing a brisk business with universities and
pharmaceutical companies for the past four years.
Now McCoy and his team of engineers and physicists have turned their
talents towards the world of mold. "I know it seems as if detection of
mold and toxins have nothing to do with the Xyclone," states McCoy,
"but they really employ the same scientific platform."
Regardless of its platform, Hamilton Thorne Biosciences’ new
Electronic Nose streamlines drawn out and sometimes inaccurate tests
for toxic molds. Most testing for contaminating, toxic, and allergenic
substances in a building now entails finding the substance, taking a
scraping, sending it out to a lab, waiting a few weeks, hoping they
don’t lose or mix up the sample, and then getting the result.
Hamilton Thorne’s Electronic Nose allows the inspector to wave a hand
held unit around the room and get instant readings. The device is not
only more accurate than current tests, says McCoy, but it also is able
to penetrate behind walls, where toxins cannot be seen.
Similar in detection is Hamilton Thorne’s Molecular Sensor, which is
now under development. It performs the same kind of testing for
laboratories and areas that must remain totally uncontaminated.
Currently, air borne dust and mold are lab-tested by a polymer chain
reactor (PCR) process that separates the items’ DNA by raising and
lowering temperatures 40 or more times. "This leads to a lot of false
negatives," says McCoy, "because it’s like boiling water to see if
it’s contaminated. Our method, while also done in a lab, uses a static
temperature and gives a better reading, at an infinitely cheaper
An urgent need. Being innovative is nice. Standing above all the
competition is very good. But it takes an undeniable market to attract
an angel investor’s interest. Nobody needs to ask if a method that
makes transported human organs last longer will find some appeal.
Obviously, if it really works, the entire medical community is likely
to be interested. A better way to harvest stem cells accurately
without frying them? Same conclusion.
The concept of mold inspection may take investors aback, until they
check out a new federal statute. Each state is now required to
implement a mold-check program to be done upon the sale of every
residential and commercial building. Certificates of inspection and
safety must be provided. This requirement opens up the market for mold
testing services tremendously.
Heaven-sent help. If your startup or expanding firm has a minimal
track record, your odds are slim of extracting any cash from an
established bank. This does not mean that commercial lenders and
investment bankers are useless to you. Frequently they can put you in
touch with other types of lenders – including angels, who are most
often high-net worth individuals with a penchant for discovering
promising new companies.
Entrepreneurs perfecting a breakthrough technology backed by business
savvy and strong market demand may create a viable and growing
business with help from angels whose vision matches theirs.
Organizations like NJEF help to make the match.
– Bart Jackson
Why Divorce Can Be Not Always So Bad
On the verge of divorce, but terrified by the common perception of a
divorced woman as a weepy, broken mess, Ashton Applewhite received a
bracing insight from her attorney. "More women are realizing they are
not stuck," was his observation. Many of the women he was seeing were
taking a positive step toward a better life through divorce. A
professional writer and researcher, she took the comment and ran
straight to publisher HarperCollins with it. The result was a big
advance to write about the phenomenon. The five-year project, which
involved interviewing women all around the country, is "Cutting Loose:
Why Women Who End Their Marriages Do So Well."
Applewhite talks about the subject on Friday, February 18, at 8:30
a.m. as a member of a panel titled "I Do? The Social, Legal, and
Cultural Definitions of Marriage." The event takes place at Mercer
County Community College.
Two sessions taking place later in the day are held at the Princeton
Theological Seminary. The 2:30 p.m. session, "Just Whose Business Is
Marriage?" features Russell Nieli, who teaches politics at Princeton;
Tom Palmer, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute; and Nancy Duff, who
teaches Christian ethics at the Seminary. The 7 p.m. session, "The
Theology of Marriage," features a number of Seminary faculty,
including Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger, Peter Paris, Elmer
Homrighausen, Dennis Olsen, James Kay, Joe Engle, and Hui Chen. Cost
for all three forums and dinner: $75. Cost for one forum: $25. Call
609-497-7990 or visit www.ptsem.edu.
"Look," says Applewhite, "marriage is a fine thing. Divorce is
horrible." She is not advocating mass divorce, but rather a social
order in which no one would have to get married – or stay married –
primarily because of financial, immigration, tax, or health care
The financial benefits marriage can bring to women are often
substantial, in no small part, Applewhite points out, because men
generally make a lot more money than women make. The earnings often
translate into bigger 401 (k) accounts, higher Social Security
payments, and a better standard of living. Still, after doing
preliminary research for her book, she found that it is most often the
female partner in a marriage who is willing to exchange security for
"I found that two-thirds to three-quarters of the time it is women who
initiate a divorce," says Applewhite. "And that’s not just in the
’70s." The figure has remained remarkably constant in the United
States throughout the decades. In fact, she says, "it was highest in
Colonial Connecticut when divorce became legal." In the early days of
divorce in that colony, fully 80 percent of the people seeking one
But wait, what about situations in states where one partner has to sue
for divorce claiming an injury, often adultery? Doesn’t the husband
sometimes gallantly offer to do so, even when he was not involved in
an affair? And doesn’t that skew the statistics? This is less true
with no fault divorce, which many states have adopted, says
Applewhite, but yes it happens. There are statistical quirks going the
other way, too. In her own case, it was Applewhite who wanted a
divorce, and who sued for one. But then her husband counter-sued, and
on the records he ended up being listed as the party seeking the
The statistics aren’t perfect, Applewhite admits, but she says that
her research makes her confident that in more than 50 percent of
divorces it is indeed the woman who initiates the action.
In many cases these women are far better off after the divorce, even
if they are poorer, as is often – but not always – the case.
Marriage, says Applewhite, is set up to benefit men. Women may think
that they are going into an egalitarian union, but, in her view, that
is rarely the case. "Look at the way marriage is structured," she
says. "You raise children so that he can go out and make money." That
system only worked for a very short period, mainly in the 1950s, and
even then it worked for only a relatively small number of middle class
women, she says. And yet marriages are still structured with that
arrangement in mind.
"You cook and clean," says Applewhite. "You send out the Christmas
cards. You look after the in-laws. You take his name; you’re slightly
subservient; you’re linked to his economic fortunes." The demands are
rarely overt, but there is almost always subtle pressure for women to
take on an outsized percentage of housework and childcare, and to
subsume their careers to the demands of family life, including a
spouse’s job. Says Applewhite: "The roles sneak in."
Feeling dissatisfied with the arrangement, 21st century women often
seek to get out, and feel confident that they will be better off
without the union. The shift in mindset has to do with a number of
factors, including history, longevity, and expectations.
Not so long ago, says Applewhite, "you married the boy next door,
raised goats together, and died at 40." Now, however, women expect to
find "Prince Charming, a fabulous sex life, and a best friend" all
wrapped together in one husband. With female longevity reaching toward
90 as a statistical average, the fellow has a lot to live up to – for
a very long time.
In interviewing divorced women of all races and classes from all
sections of the United States, Applewhite found that there was one
over-riding reason that they dissolved their unions. "They wanted to
be in charge of their own lives," she says.
As a poignant example, she talks about the mother who told her, "we
would fry an egg and divide it three ways." The divorced mother went
on to tell her that the hardship was preferable to enduring her
husband’s critical scrutiny of her grocery bill.
While many divorced women are poorer, some women – and men too – soar
economically after divorce. "Paradoxically," says Applewhite, "after
our divorce my husband went out and got a degree he had always wanted.
I wrote a book."
She has found many examples of career pops following divorce. "You
take that big leap," she says, "and you’re willing to take
professional risks, too. You’re able to make giant career leaps."
Applewhite, who lives in New York City, is a graduate of Hamilton
College (Class of 1974), and has been a full-time freelance writer for
20 years. Her specialty is science and technology, but she has written
on a wide range of genres, including a book of inspiration for people
with AIDS, and a book on quotes and jokes for speech writers. She
wrote the latter with her former husband before their divorce, and
updated it with him after they parted.
The mother of two, a daughter who is a freshman at Oberlin and a son
who is just finishing high school, she has a cooperative ongoing
relationship with her ex-husband. The pair use a mediator to help with
any complicated issues involving the children so that they can then
present a united front in handing down decisions. She is adamant that
women need to acknowledge their role in a marriage that does not work
out. "You have to take responsibility," she says. "It takes two to
screw up. You can’t blame him, or you’ll never be able to move on."
A lot of blame, in her opinion, goes to a society that values men’s
contributions more than those of women. "It’s not about how men are
bad," she says. "It’s about how society makes it hard to have an
Applewhite has been in a relationship with a man for 12 years, but
marriage is definitely not in her future. Opposed to formalizing the
bond, she says that she and her partner, who also has two children,
have, nevertheless, taken a step in that direction. The children were
worried that should something happen to a step-sibling, they would not
be allowed to visit in the hospital. "Children are the most
conservative force in the world," says Applewhite. Wanting to give
hers some peace of mind, she and her partner took advantage of New
York’s domestic partnership registry, and signed up.
Marriage, she insists, should be available to everyone – same sex
couples included. But there should also be alternatives to marriage
that would not carry economic and social penalties. A way to remove
one of the biggest penalties would be to institute good universal
health care, she says. Unhitch everything from health insurance to tax
breaks to inheritance laws from marriage and people would be more free
to choose the lifestyle that works best for them.
Applewhite found that women who chose to go it alone by ending a
marriage reported tremendous satisfaction with the choice. "This
wasn’t scientific," she quickly adds. "It wasn’t a double-blind study
or anything like that, and the women were self-selecting. They were
the women who volunteered to talk about their divorces." Within that
sample Applewhite found nearly 100 percent unanimity that life after
divorce was better than life before divorce. Proving, perhaps, that
one-third of an egg over which one has total control can sometimes be
better than an overstuffed omelette purchased with money from an
– Kathleen McGinn Spring
Jumpstart New Jersey
Early stage and seed stage technology companies can submit a one-page
business summary to the Jumpstart New Jersey Angel Network, a member
led, statewide investor group with members from the tri-state area. To
be considered for a meeting with angel investors on Wednesday,
February 23, in North Brunswick, send this summary by Friday, February
18 (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 856-813-1440).
"It will be an opportunity for company founders and CEOs to socialize
with technology angel investors on a personal and informal basis,"
says Katherine O’Neill, Jumpstart’s executive director. "Many of the
Jumpstart angles have built and sold businesses and have a wealth of
experience to share."
The event is by invitation only and is open to those who have not
applied to Jumpstart for funding in the last year. Based in Mt. Laurel
at the headquarters of the New Jersey Technology Council, Jumpstart
Angels invest in early stage technology companies in the Mid-Atlantic
area and meet monthly at various locations, including Princeton and