Potential for Buzz and Bucks Attracts New Companies to Grubstake Breakfast

Posted: January 14, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

networking at Grubstake
Grubstake sponsors, business owners and investors have multiple opportunities to network during the event, which is held three times a year.

By Dave Andrews

Eggs and eight minutes can translate into millions of dollars for early-stage technology companies at an event called Grubstake, run by the Business Alliance of George Mason University.

Since 1998, the Business Alliance has been raising the level of venture capital investments in the Washington, D.C., region. Three times each year, the nonprofit membership organization that connects the local business community with Mason hosts its signature breakfasts.

During the event, four or five young companies in search of about $2 million each in investment capital are given eight minutes to present their business proposals to a conference room full of venture capitalists. Interested investors can then arrange follow-up meetings to discuss the possibility of investing in one or more of the companies.

Coaching and Contacts Can’t Be Beat

“It’s been fun to watch the Grubstake program grow from a small breakfast into a recognized program that attracts hundreds of investors each time,” says Judy Costello, Business Alliance executive director.

“Whether or not the company actually makes a financing connection at Grubstake, participants always cite the coaching process and business contacts as helpful in their funding processes.”

Competition to be a presenter is fierce. Companies are screened by a committee of Business Alliance members and Mason partners.

Grubstake breakfast
A panel of local business investors asks questions and gives feedback to the company representatives following each presentation.
Creative Services Photos

Many previous Grubstake Breakfast presenters agree that the most obvious benefit to participating in the event is the choice opportunity to network with key contacts.

“The experience really helped us get out in front of a lot of people,” says Tom Caldwell, CEO of Idalis Software, who presented at the June 2007 breakfast. “The networking opportunity after the presentation was certainly beneficial. It has opened some doors already, and I think more will open later on as well.”

Caldwell created a good deal of buzz after presenting his business model. Idalis has developed an innovative solution to the ever-growing spam control problem by tracking source Internet addresses and stopping junk mail before it is sent.

“The initial reaction we received was great,” Caldwell says. “I made many important contacts and was able to answer some valuable questions from the panel. I also formed a stronger relationship with Mason.”

Caldwell’s product is now being considered for use on the university’s servers. Caldwell says he sees this as a great opportunity that will give his software some large market validation later on.

In addition to networking, presenters say the coaching they received on their presentations was another significant benefit.

“I was used to having 20 to 30 minutes to give a presentation,” says Suresh Annappindi, president of Scorelogix. “Getting the whole message down to the allotted eight minutes was quite challenging, but the coaching helped me identify the key message points so that I could be more concise and my presentation more effective.”

Annappindi presented in March 2007, showing investors the advantages of his company’s metrics and decision tools for consumer credit risk management. Scorelogix helps lending institutions find and retain more profitable customers by providing job security scores and income-risk scoring tools.

Many companies hope for the results SPADAC has had. SPADAC CEO Mark Dumas reports that since presenting at the October 2006 Grubstake Breakfast, his company’s personnel increased more than 40 percent and revenue went up more than 60 percent. The company received $6.5 million in venture capital.

SPADAC produces predictive analysis products to assist national security experts in making quick, informed decisions. By analyzing past activities and geographic data, SPADAC helps predict which infrastructures are vulnerable to various threats, where suicide bombers are most likely to strike and how precious resources can be used most effectively.

Dumas says his company recently received awards for revenue growth, and although he cannot directly credit the Grubstake Breakfast for his company’s early success, he says the networking resulted in the buzz crucial to getting investor support.

Connections throughout the University

The Business Alliance works closely with Mason’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), the Mason Enterprise Center (MEC), and the School of Management.

“Not only can our SBDC and MEC incubator clients and faculty inventors apply to present their investment opportunities,” says Costello, “they too are invited to network and learn from the many successful entrepreneurs and venture experts in attendance.”

The Grubstake Breakfasts also give Mason students and faculty members the opportunity to participate in the event in a special way, she says. School of Management honors students can participate in programming, and MBA students can shadow Grubstake Breakfast Committee volunteers and participate in the selection, due diligence and coaching processes.

The Grubstake Breakfast is just one of a variety of investment forums, networking events, business education opportunities and volunteer activities hosted by the Business Alliance. All events are designed to help participants become more successful through the exchange of ideas and information.

The next Grubstake Breakfast will be held Thursday, March 13, from 7:45 to 9:30 a.m. at the McLean Hilton. Companies interested in presenting can obtain an application at the Business Alliance web site. The deadline for applications is Friday, Feb. 8. Others interested in attending should register at least two days prior to the event.

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