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Friday, 2 February, 2001, 10:25 GMT
Money targets top techs
Entrepreneurs and investors networking at the Chemistry
Business boost: men with money meet those without
Investors hurt by the crash of the past year are licking their wounds, but as BBC News Online's Jorn Madslien finds out, for some entrepreneurs cash is still readily available.

"Business is not about supply and demand - the only things that matter are fear and greed" - and that, according to senior investment banker Andrew Moffat, is why entrepreneurs are finding it so hard to find financial backers.

Mark Simon of the Chemical
Mark Simon says hi-tech firms are healthy
"Last year it was all about greed. This year it is all about fear", he said.

So if you are a budding entrepreneur who failed to raise cash to start a business in 1999 or 2000, then you may have missed the boat.

Many entrepreneurs have been left stranded as the investment flow into dot.coms and other hi-tech companies has almost dried up.

But there is still some money out there; you just need to know where to look.

Chemical reaction

In conservative circles in London, people say that when money is tight and a man cannot afford to buy a suit, he will buy a tie instead.

Half of them were entrepreneurs with more ideas and business drive than money, the rest were venture capitalist who seemed to have plenty of both

Perhaps the same could be said for entrepreneurs.

This week, the networking company Chemistry brought together about 160 new economy players at a swish address in the West End of London.

Half of them were entrepreneurs with more ideas and business drive than money, the rest were venture capitalist who seemed to have plenty of both.

There were precious few ponytails and fleece jackets, the customary uniform worn by many modern entrepreneurs.

Instead, most of the men wore suits, ties and shiny shoes.

For they are almost always men.

Businessmen; many of whom have left very well paid jobs in PR, computing or finance to set out on their own.

Knocking on heaven's door

Rhonda Alexander-Abt of the Chemical
Rhonda Alexander-Abt has the Chemistry formula
The Chemistry is an invitation only affair; the entrepreneurs have to apply to get in, and this filtering is welcomed.

"Numbers are kept to a manageable level and the balance between investor and investee is something that makes it extremely effective as a networking forum," said nCipher's chief executive, the entrepreneur Alex van Someren.

"It seems that with our formula we have hit a vein, and the response across Europe has been overwhelmingly positive," said Rhonda Alexander-Abt, co-founder of the Chemistry.

In 2000 alone, venture capital funds received more money than they had done during the previous 15 years

Many of the entrepreneurs were there to raise funds to pay for the expansion of their existing businesses rather than to launch new ones.

Or they were serial entrepreneurs with proven track records.

These days, venture capitalists rarely look twice at an entrepreneur unless his company is already up and running and expects to make a profit fairly quickly, said Mr Moffat, who is the global head of equity syndication at WestLB Panmure.

His boss Mark Ebert, who is global head of investment banking, agreed.

Mark Bernstein of Gameplay
Mark Bernstein says the elevator pitch is still a good way forward
In 2000 alone, venture capital funds received more money than they had done during the previous 15 years, he said.

When Mr Ebert described how big investors, with their herd mentality, have stormed out of the venture capital arena, many in the audience nodded knowingly, their sombre expressions suggesting that they found this trend deeply disconcerting.

But Chemistry founder and chief executive Mark Simon insisted that "the technology sector is alive and kicking. The shake out has been good for the (hi-tech) community".

And Mr Ebert said that even though the cash drought can be clearly felt, entrepreneurs who have good ideas, good management teams and solid business plans will still be able to find the money they need.

Tell me what you want

At the Chemistry's "bootcamp", a training session for entrepreneurs, the speakers, Mr Ebert and Mr Moffat, both wore City-style dress-down-Friday uniforms; smart jacket and trousers, and relaxed cotton shirts worn without ties.

Andrew Moffat of WestLB Panmuir
Andrew Moffat says there is only greed and fear
It is a sign of the times that the bankers looked more relaxed than their audience.

The two investment bankers were joined on stage by equally relaxed Mark Bernstein, the chief executive of Gameplay who was introduced as a serial entrepreneur; he has already built and floated a handful of companies and is still going strong.

Entrepreneurs should not only try to see things from an investor's point of view; they should also try to put themselves in the shoes of the investment bankers, Mr Bernstein said.

Investment bankers put their reputation on the line when they recommend investors to buy into a start-up, so it is vital that they understand what the entrepreneur is up to.

Mr Bernstein recommended that entrepreneurs should have a solid management team in place before approaching an investor.

Alex van Someren of nCipher
Alex van Someren says it is good to talk
They should make sure their business idea is easy to understand and be able to sell their company in a quick so-called elevator pitch, a scenario where an entrepreneur corners an investor in a lift where he has two minutes to pitch an idea before the doors open and the investor can escape.

A modern version of the elevator pitch often used by Mr Bernstein is a three minute video that presents his idea.

Lucky, lucky, lucky

The myths are many about what makes a company successful.

Jon Moulton of Alchemy Partners
Jon Moulton says luck is crucial
It is now recognised that all the basics like good ideas, business plans, financial controls and decent management teams are not optional extras but basic essentials for a business to succeed.

But beyond that, there is luck.

Venture capitalists are jokingly said to be piling written proposals from entrepreneurs into high piles, then from time to time they pick up a stack of letters and bin them while they mutter: "Unlucky. We don't need unlucky people".

One investor who firmly believes in luck is Alchemy Partners' Jon Moulton, the venture capitalist most famous for his attempt to take over Rover Cars when BMW wanted to get rid of the loss-making subsidiary a year ago.

Mark Ebert of WestLB Panmuir
Mark Ebert says money is still available
But whereas Mr Moulton stressed the importance of luck and spoke of how many bright and hardworking entrepreneurs ended up poor because they did not have much of it, he also stressed the importance of trust.

So it seems that even in the new economy, business is done the way it always was: Mr Moulton insisted he would never invest in an entrepreneur who did not have a good handshake.

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See also:

30 Jan 00 | Business
The internet money game
31 Jan 01 | Business
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From boffin to entrepreneur
12 Aug 99 | The Company File
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07 Sep 00 | Scotland
Scots lag in entrepreneurs 'league'
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