Corrections or additions?
This article by Bart Jackson was prepared for the March 6, 2002
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. Corrections to venture fair dates were
made on March 12. All rights reserved.
Venture Fairs’ Lush Spring Season
Venture Capital is stalled in Nuclear Winter? For some
folks maybe. But this past year over 200,000 private investors poured
a record $30 billion into promising enterprises. That’s double 2000’s
funding, which itself totaled more than the preceding 22 years.
the money is out there.
If your new business is looking for a piece of this action, the New
Jersey Entrepreneurs Forum (NJEF) is providing the game. As a warmup
to a whole spring season of funding events, NJEF is holding its second
skills-honing workshop, "How to Present at a Venture Fair,"
on Thursday, March 7, at 5 p.m. at McAteers Restaurant in Somerset.
Several start up firms will make presentations and
founder of Silicon Garden Angels + Network Investors, will lay out
specific strategies and criticisms. Cost: $45. Call 908-789-3234,
or visit www.NJEF.org.
Following swiftly upon the workshop comes NJEF’s own third annual
Venture Fair on Monday, March 11, from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the
Liberty Science Center in Jersey City. Over 150 new and expanding
companies will be showing products and services. Cost: $110. Call
856-787-9700, or visit www.NJTC.org.
Three additional venture fairs are scheduled a month apart along the
Eastern Corridor. All offer a fine proving ground for those attending
the NJEF workshop. These fairs are designed for entrepreneurs, growing
businesses, private investors, venture capital firms, banks and
lenders, attorneys, accountants, and dreamers of all sorts with a
solid fiscal plan in their back pockets.
at the Union League in Philadelphia. It is sponsored by the
Private Investors Group. Call 610-225-2437 or visit www.PPIG.com
this fair as a showcase for firms seeking funds under $5 million.
It takes place on Monday and Tuesday, May 13 and 14, in
New Haven, Connecticut.
Tuesday, June 17 and 18, Wilmington, Delaware, this event
in firms requiring $5 million or more. Visit www.earlystageeast.org.
"The capital is still in our economy," insists Conley,
the nature of the investor is changed. They have been thrice burned
in the dot-com and other fires. Caution is natural. There will be
fewer winners, but those new companies that do win will be funded
good and proper, through rounds A, B, and C, right up through the
Conley grew up in Belmont, Massachusetts, "just down the road
from Harvard Yard." At age 18 he began a sojourn which entailed
four years in the Marines, 10 years completing college, and countless
deals along the way. He then began "initiating deal closures"
for GE Investment Corp., Chancellor, and other companies. Finally
in l991, Conley opened the doors of Silicon Garden Angels + Investors
Network. Here, he regards himself as "a Yenta — screening
venture capitalists along with profitable new firms and making
Says he: "It’s a contact sport."
"In such a buyers’ market," says Conley, "investors are
looking for a very specific set of standards. At any venture fair,
you’ve got to bring out your fundraising tool kit and give exact
meeting exact criteria." Among these he includes a well-honed
eight-minute venture plan verbal presentation; a 10-page sell book;
and some passion. The entrepreneur must be able to talk passionately
about his management’s commercial potential. He must reach beyond
the product, and sell the content of his character.
Along with Conley’s 12-step strategy for displaying a business to
investors, he presents 10 deadly sins, which he claims are guaranteed
deal crushers. A few of these errors include:
or anxiety, many entrepreneurs blare out their entire product
sales strategy, management goals, financial plans and market survey
in a single, boggling burst. Not only can your investor not take all
this in, but she will infer justifiably that your sales technique
may not be worthy of her dollars.
or punch any phone button, you had best hold a ream of facts about
your investor in your head. In what kind of firms does he typically
invest? How much money, over how long a period? What are his sports
and what is his bourbon?
Even after this study, don’t descend on him out of the blue.
made through business contacts in a business setting tend to set a
better tone than the wrangled social meeting. But the round of begging
cold calls, no matter how persistent, stands nary a snowball’s chance.
can quit his job, start a business with $5,000 in the bank and expect
a backer to pony up the other $100,000 is absolutely dreaming,"
says Conley. Starting virtually any business today demands $200,000.
This level of funding demands at least $50,000 from the entrepreneur
with more revenue proof provided.
of persistence. "There is a whole spring season of venture fairs
coming up," Conley says. "You can’t just take a shot at one
and hope for the best. Those new firms that haven’t signed up to
in all four monthly fairs will wish desperately that they had."
If the inventor/businessperson bring the same tenacity and exacting
precision to funding his product that he did to creating it, perhaps
he too will be one of Conley’s winners, who gets backed right up to
— Bart Jackson
The Panic of 1893 sent gold and silver soaring, then
crashing through the basement with disastrous results. Lots of folks
lost it all, but we didn’t relegate gold to the slag heap or toss
silver dollars into the Delaware. Now after the soar and crash of
E-commerce, gloomy pundits have declared an Internet wasteland, with
endless don’t-bet-the-‘Net caveats.
But if you are one of those who believes that it’s about time for
spring to follow the freeze, you might want to attend the Managing
E-Commerce Seminar Series of the Mercer/Middlesex Small Business
Center (SBDC) on Thursdays, March 7, 14 and 21, at 6 p.m. Each of
the three seminars takes place at the offices of co-sponsoring New
Jersey Association of Women Business Owners (NJAWBO) on Route 206
Titled "Initiating E-commerce," "Developing a Winning
Website," and "Marketing Your Website," the seminar series
SBDC state office. Bender will lay out a coherent commercial program
both for firms initiating new products as well as those seeking to
expand sales of established brands. Cost: $20 one seminar, and $50
for all three. Call 609-989-5232.
"Sometimes I see my job as identifying possibilities in the
economy," laughs Bender. "And while no one can deny the crash,
we equally cannot proclaim the Internet’s death. Multi-tiered programs
involving the ‘Net are even more viable for the retail, manufacturing,
and service communities." Granted, info tech has greatly suffered,
Bender admits, yet the value of the individual product or company
website as an arm of sales has never been stronger.
One of the E-commerce originals, Bender began his move into cyberspace
with the breakup of Ma Bell. Raised in Plainfield, Bender graduated
from Rutgers with a bachelor’s in journalism. After working for
trade journals, he joined AT&T. When AT&T decided to fragment itself
and move into high tech telecommunications, Bender shifted in the
same direction. He returned to his alma mater, studied the ways of
Web outreach, and for the past five years has directed the Small
Center’s E-commerce efforts.
In his first seminar, "Initiating E-Commerce," Bender helps
entrepreneurs develop an online sales site by first examining the
common mistakes of the past:
online could automatically bootstrap into bigness, a great gap
in which the small businessperson could not find the products that
met his E-commerce needs. With massive expectations, they installed
huge and expensive programs that became insupportable. Today, Bender
suggests that businesses budget their high tech expenditures, like
any other sales tool, strictly according to the realistic sales
they can provide.
out onto what Bender calls "the bleeding edge of technology."
For small items, this can include the use of flashing ads or flow
streamers which while ever-so-clever to install, are merely
to the buyer’s eye. On the larger scale, beware of anticipating and
adopting new response technology that your clients and vendors may
not as readily purchase and upgrade.
your financial resources on the hopes of grand online returns.
E-commerce trade techniques are as fully analyzed and honed as direct
mail methods. The research is out there and deserves examination.
In place of those close-your-eyes and wish-upon-the-Web-only ventures,
Bender, admittedly conservative, outlines a more hybrid approach.
He sees the Internet as one of several well-blended business tools.
The initial step involves pinpointing your marketplace based on your
suppliers’ and customers’ online capabilities. Where and how do your
clients search to buy? On what level do your suppliers operate? A
surprising number of the raw materials manufacturing firms conduct
trade with low tech tools.
Many business managers feel that online operations diminish the
role in business and all its effectiveness. Granted that many problems
can be ironed out more swiftly via a brief chat with that old familiar
supplier, yet how well does he stack up against competitors as a
Says Bender: "If he’s not capable of dealing competently online
with you, he may not be around much longer to be your trusted
Finally, before actually leaping onto the Web, analyze and focus your
market. Probably the greatest innovations for the E-businessman are
the new capabilities that can define your niche among specialized
clientele. You no longer need to scatter your snowblower website to
every retiree in Florida. Featured placement using key search words
can personalize your site. While such customizing still is a bit
the results frequently justify the outlay.
will examine various outsourced site models and determine what works
and what doesn’t. "While we all stand enamored of high tech
we frequently forget the very user we are trying to reach," warns
Bender. "The whole goal should be to make it easy for the customer
"Marketing Your Website," on March 21, covers search engine
strategies and other online marketing techniques.
"The whole process of operating E-commerce has become both easier
and at the same time more defined," says Bender. "The ‘Net’s
a business necessity, and those without its capabilities may not stick
around for long. On the other hand, there is no need, nor is it wise
any longer, for the manager or owner to place E-trade strictly in
the hands of technical people."
— Bart Jackson
<d>Donna Coulson networked her way into her second
marriage. "My ex-husband introduced me to my husband," she
says, chuckling at the memory. She was a newlywed when her husband
took her to meet his auto mechanic, Johnny Coulson, owner of a
Red Bank family business, Coulson Automotive. Fifteen years later,
after she and her first husband divorced, she and her auto mechanic
met for coffee. This year they celebrate their 13th wedding
But, says Coulson, an original thinker, "this is my 25th
Twelve years for my first marriage and 13 for my second." She
says many of her more "straight-laced" friends are shocked
at her personal wedding celebration. Her ex-husband isn’t thrilled
either, but she reports that Johnny Coulson is on-board with the idea.
Says Coulson: "He thinks it’s funny."
Networking has been a mainstay for Coulson in her business life as
well as her personal life. She speaks on "Time for Networking
II: Let’s Get Strategic" on Monday, March 11, at 6 p.m. at a
of the Middlesex County Chapter of NJAWBO at the Clarion Hotel in
Edison. Cost: $39. Call 732-828-3394.
A 1977 graduate of Douglass — this is the 25th anniversary of
her graduation, too — Coulson spent 14 years with Prudential.
There she did human resources training, development, and policy work,
including a project to get women into management. In 1991 she left
Prudential to start her own personal and business coaching and
business. "I called it Live Your Life because I didn’t have
Newly re-married to a man with an 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. job, she says the
travel and commuting her job required became a problem. "I caught
the 7:05 train — a.m. and p.m.," she says. This everyday grind
was punctuated by business trips. Her job included visiting all 60
of Prudential’s field offices twice a year. "I’d get home on
night, and have to leave again on Monday morning." In between
times, she farmed out chores, taking her underwear to a laundry, for
instance, so she would have a little time to spend with her new
She got little sympathy at work. "I only traveled 25 percent of
the time," she says. "My bosses were high-level executives.
They traveled 100 percent of the time doing institutional real estate
For a year before she left Prudential, Coulson began to plan for a
new business life, using networking as the foundation. Here are some
of the lessons she learned along the way.
says Coulson, "but I knew no one in Red Bank." Commuting and
business travel had left her no time to pick up the contacts a new
business would need. She joined NJAWBO to meet other women business
owners. She says the contacts she made were invaluable in starting
and growing her business. She is still in close contact with NJAWBO
members she met more than a decade ago.
networking group is valuable, there is a point where it is wise to
cut back and put more energy into another group. "Once you’ve
been the president," she says, "it’s time to turn the
over to other people." She gave this advice to
a past president of NJAWBO, who owns the Raritan Container Company
and also has a coaching practice. "Organizations are starved for
leadership," she says. She suggested that Newman join the New
Jersey Professional Coaches Association. Newman did so, and soon
president of that group.
days at Douglass, the women who taught her all about the field of
corporate training, is still a close friend. Her new company’s first
client was Prudential, her former employer.
faculty member at Georgian Court College, where she teaches marketing,
offered to speak for free in the early days of her business. She also
began teaching courses at Brookdale and Middlesex Community Colleges.
"It got me up and out in the market," she says, "and it
built up my confidence in dealing with strangers."
often gave her time away, prepared Coulson to take her business to
the next level. Where she once took on any client, she began to be
more selective. Now, she says, "I don’t want to work with people
who are stuck." She only accepts coaching clients who are already
successful and want to become more successful. On the consulting side
of her business, she has gone after larger corporations, adding the
likes of Johnson & Johnson, Rutgers, and the Teamsters Union to her
Coulson doesn’t spend a lot of time on wallflowers. "If I see
someone standing alone in a corner, I’ll go over and say hello and
introduce him to someone," she says. She hopes the inept networker
will catch on and start circulating, but she doesn’t spend too much
time with him. Effective networking involves connecting with people
who are in a position to buy what you are selling.
don’t waste too much time on idle chit chat. Cut right to the chase.
Right now, for instance, Coulson is trying to fill up classes in a
course she teaches to show corporate women how to move up the
ladder. The women are sponsored by their companies, so at networking
events Coulson is asking: "What corporations are willing to spend
money on high potential people?"
the surface," says Coulson. Those who are out and have their ears
to the ground, for example, know which New Jersey corporations invest
in their people, and which don’t. No matter what the economy, some
companies are simply better places to work, she says, and networking
often turns up their names.
of life," says Coulson. She works with personality evaluations,
including Myers-Briggs, in her work, and finds teams overloaded with
creative types get little done, while teams made up only of
people come up with few good ideas. "You need creative people,
and implementers. And you need financial people to manage the
she says. It’s the same thing with networking. Moving only among
people turns up only part of the picture, and only some of the
personal life. She gave her husband the Myers-Briggs test, which
her suspicion that the two are complete opposites — at least on
paper. His embrace of her enthusiasm over her 25th wedding anniversary
suggests that there are important similarities as well.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.