26 firms chosen for Venture Forum, now in 10th yearBy Paola Iuspa
Hundreds of venture capitalists will meet next week to hear representatives from selected enterprises bid for a second or third round of financing.
Officials from 26 companies, mostly high-tech and Florida-based, will have 12 minutes each at the Florida Venture Capital Conference on Jan. 17 & 18 in the Boca Raton Resort & Club.
Each will be out to convince a national audience of capitalists to invest in their companies, said Jeanne Becker, Florida Venture Forum executive director. The Coral Gables-based firm is organizing the sessions for the 10th consecutive year.
Ms. Becker said the nonprofit has helped companies raise $350 million since it was created nine years ago. Besides those seeking funds, Ms. Becker said, she expects an audience in excess of 800 people.
Jeffrey Taylor, CEO of Monster.com, and Dave Barry, syndicated columnist and author, will speak at panel discussions on how to invest successfully and selecting investors and recipients. The workshops will be part of the program, which cost $499 to attend. Registration is open through Jan. 16 and an online registration form is available at www.flvencap.org
"Attorneys, accountants and other service-providers will be at the conference to look for venture capitalists and angle investors they can introduce to clients," said Kevin Watson, the forum's chairman.
Mr. Watson, managing director of C/Max Capital, a Miami-based private investment group, said angel investors are often wealthy people or associations willing to finance companies in their early stages.
Mario De Armas with Pricewaterhouse Coopers, a sponsor of the conference, said there are many rounds a company has to go through before it becomes profitable.
"First you have friends and family members giving you money to start the business," Mr. De Armas have friends and family members giving you money to start the business," Mr. De Armas said. "As the company grows you may have another round like that. But then, when you need more capital, you go for an angel investor round and finally to a venture fund or venture capital round."
Christian de Berdouare, CEO and chairman of diGenius Inc., a business-to-business software provider in Coral Gables, said he hoped to raise $10 million during the conference to keep the two-year-old company going until it starts making profits.
"We hope it would take us a year," he said.
This conference, Ms. Becker said, targets companies that have already survived initial rounds and complied with all the requirements
Executives for each of the 26 companies," she said, "submitted an application accompanied by a business plan and an executive summary."
A committee reviewed each application and looked at the applicants' markets to check growth potential. The committee also considers products or services and a firm's management team, Ms. Becker said.
"Companies with existing revenues were preferred," she said. A big number of last year's applicants were dot-com companies, Ms. Becker said. This year, she said, a lot of high-tech firms such as software developers and e-commerce solutions companies make the list.
"Venture capitalists are very sensitive to what is happening with the dot-coms," Ms. Becker said. "They are interested in quality deals with a sound business model. We had a more strict criteria" in the selection process.
Mr. Watson said Florida had not been well-known for capital investment in the past, but that has changed during the past few years.
"Florida started growing and catching up in terms of high tech companies, the hottest sector of our economy in the past 10 years," Mr. Watson said. "It also had to do with being the gateway to Latin American for many telecommunication companies."
Florida yielded the highest growth in venture capital financing across the US, with investments increasing by 350% between the first half of 1999 and the first half of 2000, according to Daniel H. Aronson, attorney with Greenberg Traurig and a forum member, said Florida has hit the $1 billion investment mark.
He cited data in a Pricewaterhouse Coopers Money Tree Report.
"Funding for the first three quarters in 2000," he said, "reached $1.145 billion, compared to $725 million for all 1999."
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