Road to IPO

Taking a company to IPO (initial public offering) is not a simple process. It has gotten harder by orders of magnitude since the post-Dot.com bubble and with the introduction of Federal legislation like Sarbanes-Oxley to regulate financial practice and corporate governance in the post Enron-era. Nevertheless, for a company that has a great idea and the potential to scale to a national or even international size, it is one way to raise needed capital. Few Hawaii tech companies that have gone IPO come to mind, like Digital Island, Hoku Scientific and Cyanotech. There have been previous pitch competitions before but none that was a pitch in and of itself. Road to IPO says it all. The competition was open to any Hawaii company willing to go through the arduous evaluation and critical review process with the team from NASDAQ OMX. Of the 40 or so companies that initially applied, 10 were selected as semi-finalists. These were: Kuehnle AgroSystems, Inc., GreenCar Hawaii, Actilytics, Inc., TruTag Technologies, LLC, CBI Polymers, LLC, Eyegenix, LLC, MobiRez, LLC, Ocean Network TV, Labels That Talk and PromoStream Inc. On Wed. Feb. 16th, after another round of presentations, this list was paired down to three finalists. They are: TruTag Technologies, LLC, Labels That Talk and PromoStream Inc. I learned recently that PromoStream is like surf cams for cities. They develop digital content for travel destinations and provide this content for destinations, counties and properties. In addition to the installation of webcam systems, the business model includes ad insertions into the video streams to monetize viewership. We got to visit TruTag on a Bytemarks Lunch outing back in Sept 2009. This technology is a novel approach to tagging medicine, food, consumer goods and industrial products. The micro tag is made of purified silica and can be place in pills to ward against counterfeiting. The micro tag is inert and can be ingested. Ken Berkun's website for Labels That Talk reveals little about his product but we did have the benefit of a demonstration at a Manoa Geeks gathering in July 2008. Labels That Talk aka SoundPaper can be thought of as a barcode with sound. You can record a short audio and the SoundPaper printer prints a strip that looks like a 3 inch QR code. This code is then read by a mobile device like an iPhone (which by the way wasn't around in 2008) and plays back the audio. These three companies compete on Wed. February 23rd and the winner will get an all expense paid week of networking and VC introductions in Silicon Valley. The event on the 23rd is open to the public and you can register online to attend. It'll be well worth the admission to see how these companies present and to track their journey on the Road to IPO.