Tag Archives: entrepreneurs

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.

Entrepreneurial Symposium

This Entrepreneurial Symposium, organized by the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation, Enterprise Honolulu and the High Tech Development Corporation, was a unique opportunity to hear how three entrepreneurial support organizations, each in different states (Ohio, Kansas and Oklahoma) approach the development and nurturing of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The goal for each of these organizations is to foster job growth in the technology sector and to position their state to be a global competitor. Ray Leach, CEO of JumpStart (Ohio) talked about developing a consensus plan by pulling all the stakeholders together to get broad commitment for entrepreneurial development. This involved public/private partnerships and an effort to transform the culture which was predominantly manufacturing. Over the course of 12 years, starting in 1998, Ohio lost an estimated 450,000 jobs. Something needed to be done and as Leach puts it, "never waste a crisis." They took on the task of transforming the business culture and elevating the role of entrepreneurship. They also play an active role in networking entrepreneurs with investors as well as keep state legislators aware of the role entrepreneurs play in business and job creation. Joni Cobb, CEO of Pipeline exuded enthusiasm and passion for the role entrepreneurs play in building businesses in Kansas. Pipeline, which started as an initiative of the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation is now a 501(c)3 non-profit providing tools and services to support the development of entrepreneurs. As described by Cobb:
PIPELINE is an “immersion experience.” Our goal is to link each Innovator into a robust and powerful network of supporters, peers and mentors. The Innovator does not just “learn about business.” The aim is to undergo a life altering experience that also changes the direction and trajectory of their company. In the process, Innovators recognize the power of the statewide network, and remain engaged in Kansas as mentors, coaches and investors.
Pipeline's approach struck me as being like an intensive Executive MBA program in Entrepreneurship, with Cobb as the Dean and Chief Evangelist. Going through it would be a life changing experience. Finally, Tom Walker, CEO of I2E (Innovation to Enterprise) based in Oklahoma, talked about their primary focus: Business Services, Access to Capital and Entrepreneurial Development. Its mission is "Home grown economic development by fostering the birth and nurturing the growth of advanced technology companies in Oklahoma." I2E was formed in 1997 as part of Oklahoma's State Legislature's Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology Initiative. Over the course of 2007 - 2010, I2E showed their 150 companies exhibited a 30% growth rate while the rest of the state was in decline. I2E not only provides business support services and access to capital, they also coordinate events and publish resources like the Entrepreneur's Path: A Handbook for High Growth Companies. Each of these organizations started as their respective state's initiative to grow the tech sector in the late 1990's and early 2000's. They took time to gain consensus and broad base support. Now in 2010, each is recognized as models of best practices and for other states to replicate. Needless to say, Hawaii has had the same desire and has numerous assortment of state agencies and business non-profits groups to prove it. But the question still remains, does Hawaii have the commitment and willpower to create and sustain a vibrant, creative, entrepreneurial technology sector. I am glad we are having this conversation but one we have obviously had before. Will it be any different this time around, during this new administration? Hope remains...