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Posts Tagged ‘Jesse Devitte’

Ask CJ: Landing Venture Capital Investment

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Q: “I just read about a business that has been funded by a venture capital firm.  What type of businesses do they invest in and how can I find one locally?”

A: Like angel investors, venture capital firms invest in businesses that have high growth potential.  They are also similar to angel investors as they provide equity financing and don’t recoup their investment until the company is sold or there is some other sort of exit opportunity such as an IPO or a merger.  Venture capital firms tend to make larger investments and often come in after angel financing.  This isn’t a hard and fast rule but it is a fairly common scenario.

NH Division of Economic Development Seacoast Business Services Specialist Christine J. Davis

I spoke with Jesse Devitte of Borealis Ventures which has an office in Portsmouth and will be celebrating 10 years of investing in entrepreneurs in February.  Jesse originally sat on the other side of the table when he sought venture capital when creating what was at the time Soft Desk which was later acquired and is now known as Auto Desk.  Along with his two partners, Jesse sees himself as a business builder and not simply someone who writes a check to a promising company.  During our conversation, very little was said about numbers and much was said about relationships.  Venture capitalists are investing in a person or team of people and there needs to be a solid relationship for the partnership to work.  He put it quite succinctly when he said, “Imagine your absolute worst week in business.  Would you want those people (the VC’s) to be in the room with you?”  You also want your investors to really understand your business as they will most likely have an active role in your company and you want your “thought partner” to provide advice that is based on relevant industry expertise.

Venture capitalists take on more risk than other types of financing so the reward for them will be higher than for a traditional bank loan.  The terms vary and it is critically important that the entrepreneur spends some time going over the details.  Hire a lawyer who has experience with equity investing and not simply general business law.  Jesse also recommended that the entrepreneur get familiar with the financing documents which can be found at the National Venture Capital Association website, www.nvca.org

It isn’t easy to get VC funding so be prepared to get a lot of rejections and don’t take it personally.  The average yield (percentage of applicants that get funded) is a mere 2%.  So, for every 100 proposals, just two of them will get the green light.  That doesn’t guarantee that those two will succeed either.  The hardest business to get funded is the one that has never been funded.  To improve your odds, make sure you are talking with firms that are interested in your industry.  Avoid cold calling the firm and find someone who can make an introduction for you.  Know your industry inside and out and don’t think for a minute that there aren’t any competitors.  There are.  Are your financial projections conservative?  Perhaps in your eyes, but it is doubtful others will see it that way so I would recommend you restrain yourself from telling them that.

Newforma, a Manchester company, was one of the companies that Borealis Ventures funded around seven years ago.  What started out as a team of six founders now boasts over 80 employees with about half of them working in Manchester.  Ian Howell, the CEO, agreed with Jesse that the relationship with the VC firm is incredibly important as they will be taking an active role in your company.  He agreed that getting funded is much easier if you have been previously funded.  Even having past successes it took Newforma five months to secure their series A funding.  They based their successful fundraising on having done their due diligence which included in depth client interviews and approaching the right investors.

I was amazed to learn that an entrepreneur is given 45 minutes to make their pitch and convince the VC to fund their business.  Even if you possess a great business plan, solid team and real commitment, you still could get rejected.  Timing and fit are incredibly important.  When meeting with one particular investor, the gentleman pushed back from the table, crossed his arms and told Ian he wasn’t interested.  Ian hadn’t even begun his pitch.  However, thanks to a strong business plan and thorough “storyboards” the investor completely changed his mind and offered the funding at the end of the meeting.  You never know.

When asked about his thoughts on current funding opportunities, Ian responded, “There is a lot of money looking for a good home.”  The bar may be set higher these days but if you have the right plan, team and strategy you just might find yourself sharing your success story with tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.

Whether you have been in business for 20 years or just getting started, we have the resources and the expertise to answer your questions. You can e-mail me at Christine.Davis@dred.state.nh.us. I look forward to hearing from you.

 Christine J. Davis works for the N.H. Division of Economic Development as a resource specialist serving businesses in Rockingham and Strafford counties. Her role is to provide the support needed for businesses so that they may remain viable and growing entities in the community. Ms. Davis lives in Exeter with her two daughters.  When not performing her work or parenting duties she can be found volunteering with her girls for the Chamber Children’s Fund, “hitting the gym,” or spending time with friends and family.

Finalists for 2011 NHHTC Entrepreneur of the Year Announced

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

The current founders of three successful New Hampshire technology companies have been selected by a panel of judges as finalists for the 2011 NH Entrepreneur of the Year.  They are: Erik Dodier, co-founder of PixelMEDIA, Bill Rogers, founder of Ektron, and Jeff Sercel, founder of JPSA.  The winner will be announced at the NH High Technology Council’s 2011 Entrepreneur of the Year (EOY) Awards Dinner. 

high-tech-council-logoThe 23rd annual NHHTC EOY celebration will be held on Monday, May 9, at 5:30 pm at the Radisson, Center of New Hampshire in Manchester. Bill Warner, super-angel investor, serial entrepreneur and founder of Avid Technology, Inc. and Wildfire Communications, will be the keynote speaker. Several FIRST Robotics teams will also be on hand to demonstrate their robots during the reception.

Launched in 1988, the NHHTC EOY celebration is the signature event for the NHHTC.  Over the years, the NHHTC has recognized over 50 New Hampshire entrepreneurs for their significant contributions toward advancing technology and demonstrating leadership, ingenuity and innovation.  The evening event attracts more than 300 tech industry leaders from across the region and includes networking, a banquet, the keynote address, and an awards ceremony recognizing this year’s Entrepreneur of the Year.

“We had a lot of very good applications this year, demonstrating the strength of innovation across New Hampshire.  The selection committee had a hard time narrowing it down to three finalists.  Eric Dodier, Bill Rogers, and Jeff Sercel really demonstrated their innovative approaches to business success, and the committee selected these three as finalists for the 2011 honors,” said James Cook, chair of the NHHTC EOY Committee.

Erik Dodier is co-founder of PixelMEDIA Inc., the largest web development company in New Hampshire.  Located in Portsmouth and founded in 1994, PixelMEDIA has grown from a two-person multimedia company into the successful full service digital marketing studio that it is today.  Today, the company employs 60 people and has four facilities.  Spearheading the efforts to launch PixelMEDIA in 1994 at just 24 years old, Dodier assumed the responsibility as President and CEO while also acting as the only salesperson. The quick acquisition of area clients and the subsequent growth of PixelMEDIA demonstrate Dodier’s talent in each of these roles.


Dodier currently oversees all business activities while also remaining active in the New Hampshire community assisting both businesses and non-profits. Current positions include serving as a board member and entrepreneurship advisor at the UNH Whittemore School of Business, sitting on the Board for Optima Bank, partnering with New Hampshire Innovation Commercialization Center (NH-ICC) to continue to promote business in the state, and sponsoring technology events in New Hampshire such as TechWorld 2010, BarCamp Manchester, and regular eCoast events. In 2010 alone Erik donated over 740 pro-bono hours of PixelMEDIA time to worthy recipients.  

Bill Rogers founded Nashua-based Ektron in 1998 with a simple vision: enable business users to easily author and publish content on websites. Rogers has sparked a revolution in the way organizations create and manage interactive web, intra net and extranet sites. He recognized early on how important websites would become to companies’ business models, and guided Ektron in creating a web content management, marketing optimization and social software platform that provides all the functionality webmasters, designers and developers want in a single application. In his role as a hands-on chief executive officer, Rogers is actively engaged in keeping Ektron a market and technology leader. He sets the company’s strategic direction, aligns product development with his forward-looking vision for website technology and is involved in all aspects of Ektron’s operations. In addition, he frequently participates in industry events and solicits feedback from Ektron’s customers and partners to stay on the leading edge of web technology. 

Rogers also co-founded two other successful technology companies. At Global Telemedix, a telemedicine software developer, he led product development and spearheaded key strategic relationships with technical partners and investors, such as Hewlett Packard Medical Products. At Zydacron Inc., co-developer of the first video conferencing chip set, Rogers conceptualized and executed product development initiatives and pursued strategic partnering efforts with major technology firms, such as IBM. Early in his career, Rogers also worked on new technology development in DuPont Corporation’s desktop publishing group and at MIT Lincoln Labs. 

Jeffrey Sercel began his career in 1983, as a laser engineer at the first excimer laser applications lab and development facility In North America, Tachisto Inc. After receiving his BS degree in Engineering Physics from the University of Arizona, he has devoted over 25 years of his life to become a leading expert in excimer, DPSS and ultrafast industrial laser technology. Sercel was selected as the NHHTC EOY in 1994 for his pioneering work at Resonetics, Inc. an excimer laser micromachining company that he founded in 1987.   

In 1994, he started JP Sercel Associates, Inc. (JPSA) as a consulting service, from which he ran from his home, utilizing a virtual company of technology specialists. During this period, JPSA solved problems and developed processes for industrial laser applications using Sercel’s extensive knowledge of physics modeling, optical and opto-mechanical engineering, CAD, robotics, machine vision, and high accuracy motion control and automation. Located in Manchester, JPSA is a leading supplier of industrial grade UV excimer, DPSS, and ultrafast laser micromachining systems and services to customers worldwide. Applications include LED, solar, semiconductor, research and biomedical markets to name a few. JPSA’s novel laser systems operate at wavelengths from 157nm to 1064nm, and are essential to a growing set of today’s industrial micro-machining applications.   

The judges are successful business leaders and entrepreneurs selected by the NHHTC.  This year’s judges include Nancy Briefs, Jesse Devitte, Steve Boucher, Andy Lietz, Rajesh Nair, and Mark Galvin, and Matt Pierson.