Shut Out at the Winners Circle

No local firms make the final three after pitching to venture capitalists at this season’s Elevator Pitch OlympicsMORRISTOWN – Last week the Venture Association New Jersey (VANJ) hosted its Fall 2006 Entrepreneurs Expo and Elevator Pitch Olympics at the Hyatt Morristown. Twenty-nine up-and-coming companies gave their best sales talk to a panel of venture capitalists.

With about 200 people attending, the field of entrepreneurs included companies such as Green Armor Solutions in Hackensack, which offers methods to prevent identity theft online, and Mystic Tackleworks, a Connecticut-based company that makes fishing lures with stimulants built in to encourage fish to feed. The idea was conceived by Greg Mitchell, Mystic’s chairman and chief science officer.

Entrepreneurs were each given two minutes to make their pitches and then received scores on presentation and fundability. Scoring, based on a scale of one to 10, varied greatly. After the presentations, the judges spoke about some of the problems they had seen, such as not clearly stating what the company actually does, or not being specific about important details including the track records of the founders.

While only eight of the 29 presenters competing were from out of state, no New Jersey companies managed to impress the judges enough to make it into the top three. First place went to SOMS Technologies and its president, Miles Flamenbaum, who received a score of 85. The Washington Depot, Conn., company wants to make motor-oil filtration products that would reduce engine wear.

Bio-nanotechnology company Artificial Cell Technologies of New Haven, Conn., came in second with a score of 73. Artificial Cell makes coatings, capsules and artificial cells for synthetic vaccines and antimicrobial coatings. Mystic Tackleworks was third with a score of 71.

Judging were Virginia Breen, partner with Sienna Ventures; Steve Brotman, managing director of Silicon Venture Partners; Mat Carlson, associate with Thatcher Proffitt & Wood; Roger Krakoff, venture partner with Sigma Partners; and Marc Singer, general partner with BEV Capital. Each discussed the best way to approach venture capitalists and most discouraged over-the-transom pitches via e-mail.

The Judges agreed that referrals through familiar sources like companies that have already gotten money from a firm can open doors, and they advocated other types of contacts too. Said Breen: “If you are able to, get to one of us through a trusted source. That’s a banker, a lawyer, an accountant. And you get them to understand your business well enough that they will use their credit with us. It’s all about the network.”

E-mail to jpruth@njbiz.com

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