Technology Makes A Comeback

Fizzling dotcoms were last year's news. Now, technology gets back to basics. B.E.'s experts discuss how you can find the capital to fund your venture.

transitioning, but high tech innovation is what this country is about, and we all need to find different ways in which we can participate in that.

OMAR WASOW: I think one other [difference] between two years ago and now is that there was a moment in the dotcom hysteria when you could think of a really accessible, consumer-friendly idea and try to raise money around it. But what we saw was that it was the technology-driven companies that succeeded. If you are thinking of starting up a business, it is a lot of fun to say, “I have this idea that is consumer friendly. Let’s go raise money.” It is a lot harder to do something that optimizes a very small part of a whole back-end infrastructure, but that, in many cases, is where the real opportunities are.

B.E.: What does an entrepreneur have to do to attract capital in today’s economic environment?

FIELDS: I think the first thing a new entrepreneur needs to deal with is that this is not 1999. This is 2002. And you have to prove your value proposition, prove your ability to get to market, actually show examples of it. I have seen a lot of business plans and individuals that will come and say, “OK, I’m starting my business. I’ve got this great idea; this is a world beater Internet strategy, and I need $20 million.” We’re not in that world today.

STEPHAN ADAMS: I found that creating value is not just for my customers but also for larger companies. Can our company, with the funding and the pockets that my investors have, make this into a billion-dollar company? No way. But I believe that the solutions that we’re providing, someone larger can [do this]. So now when I look at product development, I don’t look at product as a whiz-bang-thing. I view it more like, “This has value in the marketplace. This has value to a company like Hewlett-Packard. I can put this product into the marketplace.”

WALKER: One of the other things I think that entrepreneurs, or would-be entrepreneurs, need is a significant dose of honesty. You need some people who will say, “This idea that you have sounds great in your head, but have you validated it anywhere?” Or, “How you are going to come at it?” You just need somebody to really be straight with you.

GREENE: You’ve got to figure out how you get a relationship with somebody who is controlling money to want to invest in your business. The business plan may or may not help you raise money, but the relationship with a partner and a venture fund [can].

LEWIS BYRD: I think different markets accept different things. Three years ago ideas were getting funded. In today’s environment, it’s well-rounded businesses [that get funding]. I think for us, what differentiates one company from another, are basic things: great management, great market opportunity, great products, great strategy. There’s no magic wand here. It comes down to hard work, communication, and some sweat. In today’s

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