Apparently, after it became known that Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers was interested in investing in the outfit, another venture capital firm, the chief executive said, chartered a private jet to come visit the company to get in on the funding round. "A private jet," he repeated.
The 1990s are back, or at least a shade of them, if you judge by the chatter at the conference here. (PC Forum is owned by CNET Networks, publisher of News.com.)
Two years ago, two young guys with an idea could have more easily raised funds by standing on a bucket and pretending to be robots. Now, investors will fly across the country to discuss doling out cash on the strength of a hunch.
Pitching your company, whether to investors or to a crowd at a conference, still takes finesse and drama, though. So here are a few rules to go by:
Doctors are the new consumers. Why? For one thing, selling a product that the end consumer can get without spending a lot of money remains the best path toward encouraging investor interest. In the late '90s, advertisers were supposed to pick up the tab for cheap consumers. Now the idea is to pitch products to doctors and let drug companies and HMOs pay for the software and content.
San Mateo, Calif.-based Epocrates sends health alerts, articles from medical journals and paid content from pharmaceutical companies to the handhelds of physicians. Physicians pay $29 a year for the service, but drug companies pay $128 a year to Epocrates to deliver their messages to doctors, bringing the total subscription fees Epocrates receives per physician to $157. Last year, drug companies only paid $86 per subscription. So far, 200,000 doctors have signed up.
"We're working with the top 10 pharmaceutical companies," CEO Kirk Loevner said.
Pharmaceutical companies pay the fees because a slight change in market share can bring in millions of dollars, and it's cheaper to send out subsidized content than to hire drug reps in a Ford Taurus to visit doctors (who only get to see the doctor 43 percent of the time), Loevner said.
Another company, New York-based ActiveHealth Management, which remotely monitors patients' vital signs, will likely file documents for an IPO later this year, CEO Lonny Reisman said.
Make the show of hands easy.
Speakers at conferences invariably ask the audience to participate in an informal hand vote. But ambiguous or complex questions--"Raise your hand if you believe that man is born free but everywhere in chains"--cause the audience to waver. Hence, only get them to vote on things that you know will guarantee a "yes." Opera Software CEO Jon von Tetzchner sets the example here.
"How many of you own a phone?" von Tetzchner asked his listeners. "OK. Now how many of you have cable TV? OK. Now how many of you have an Internet connection at home?" Every hand stayed up the entire time.
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas. He has worked as an attorney, travel writer and sidewalk hawker for a time share resort, among other occupations.
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