Evening The Odds

Nonprofit organization links financiers with entrepreneurs

While many small black-owned businesses struggle to secure venture capital, $4.6 billion, or 11%, of the funds allocated to new business development goes unused because venture capitalists and entrepreneurs lack the resources to connect with each other, according to the National Venture Capital Association located in Arlington, Virginia. This is something the nonprofit organization, Emerging Venture Network (EVN), is looking to change through its i-DealFlow forum.

The forum, which will be held Sept. 22 at Columbia University in New York City, will enable entrepreneurs to gain access to investors and venture resources. Corporate financiers who participated in EVN’s forum last November in Atlanta included Motorola Ventures, Noro-Moseley Partners, Goldman Sachs, and AOL Time Warner. As a result of that forum, one business closed a round of funding, and two companies have closing dates pending.

After submitting a business plan via EVN’s Website (www.evn.org), about 15 entrepreneurs will be invited to attend EVN’s “boot camp” to meet with possible investors at the forum. Located in Washington, D.C., EVN screens investors looking for those interested in investing $1 million or more, and assembles legal and accounting service providers — including PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Piper Rudnick, and Cooley Godward — to provide coaching for entrepreneurs prior to their presentations.

EVN, which is designed to stimulate business growth by providing access to education, training, and venture resources, came about after the Rev. Jesse Jackson approached executives at AOL Time Warner about taking a more active role in investing in minority businesses. With AOL Time Warner as the sole sponsor, EVN was created. “While I was at AOL, we realized that venture capitalists operate in a fairly tight network, a network that is usually not open to minorities,” says EVN’s Managing Director, James Moore. “But [venture capitalists] are always looking for opportunities and all minorities should have access to that network.”

One of the entrepreneurs to benefit from the Atlanta forum is Charles Smith, chairman, CEO, and founder of New York City-based newMedia Technology Inc. Smith learned of EVN through a business contact. Founded in 1998, newMedia provides a text and video indexing software platform. Smith, who had a 10-year career with the New York Knicks, found that his company needed additional capital to put measures in place to reach profitability.

At the Atlanta forum, Smith whipped his presentation into shape. “They hired a coach to work with us to get the presentation tight,” he says. “So I went through that process. I went down on the weekend of the function and was one of the finalists.”

Smith is appreciative of EVN’s efforts. “Without EVN we wouldn’t be able to move forward,” he says. “We’d be another one of those companies filing for bankruptcy or feeding from hand to mouth.”

The Emerging Venture Network, 1101 30th St., N.W., Suite 118, Washington, D.C. 20007; 202-339-6015.

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