Rolodex for the funding impaired contains questionable cards

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Aug. 8, 2003 — Even in prosperous times, getting the cash to launch a new business is no easy task, and several years of a topsy-turvy economy have made the process even more difficult. Ron Peterson’s “how-to” book for the entrepreneur in need couldn’t hit the bookshelves at a more timely moment.

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But prepare to sift through reams of information — some of it redundant and, at least in one instance, wrong. It is essentially a book of lists, with paragraph after paragraph of names of companies, agencies, services and Web sites that serve as starting points for finding financing and cultivating capital.

Peterson covers the gamut of sources, from friends and family to strategic partnerships and stock offerings. The president of the investment banking firm Three Arrows Capital Corp., he claims to have guided hundreds of startups on the journeys toward solvency. He doesn’t disregard venture capitalists, but emphasizes they are a mere segment of the financing world.

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The book is not geared toward any one industry or sector, beyond one chapter devoted to biotechnology. He occasionally tips his hat toward small tech companies, but no more than he discusses businesses such as retail.

His attitude seems to be that most success stories should be considered as models, and sound advice applies across the board. He’s liberal with both, and presents generally sensible pointers with conviction and confidence. Here are some words for the tinkerers in tech and elsewhere:

“(W)hile sales have the most credibility with potential investors, these early revenues form a base for you to find and develop other products that can sell. Roll out something fairly simple (and admittedly imperfect) and book revenues instead of waiting for the perfect product at some time in the distant future.”

But the vignettes from the winner’s circle are less compelling and instructive. Often set in italics and indented on the page, they appear more like scorecards tallying a company’s progress than an analysis of the game. This reader was left wondering what to make of it all. Or whether to bother, after reading this passage:

Nanophase Technologies Corp. received nearly $2 million from NIST for the production of ceramic nano particles targeted to the semi-conductor industry. The semi-conductor people proved less interested but Procter & Gamble found the particles ideal for sunscreen lotion and bought the whole company.”

That was news to Daniel Bilicki, a vice president at Nanophase. A spinout from the Chicago region’s Argonne National Laboratory, Nanophase went public in 1997.

When contacted about the error, Peterson told Small Times he heard about the P&G deal at a briefing by program managers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. He couldn’t ascertain if the misinterpretation had been theirs or his, but intended to write a correction.

Although it doesn’t make for riveting reading, the list approach lets entrepreneurs page through Peterson’s extensive Rolodex in search of the tidbit that suits their needs. But the fact that no one bothered to verify the Nanophase tale puts the integrity of every other element in doubt.


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