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Don't Misread Potential Investors

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Sometimes the people you think are shoe-ins as investors don't come through,and sometimes the people you think would never invest sign on with little effort on your part. It's important not to get overconfident or prematurelydiscouraged when you're raising money.

Phillip Wade and Huib Geerlings cofounded a wine-by-mail company, Geerlings & Wade (G&W), in Canton, Mass., and took it public in 1994. When theywent out for their road show, they learned that they couldn't trust their gut feelings about potential investors. Here are some excerpts from their diary:

"First stop: Milwaukee. Monday morning, hop into a car for a meeting. Half a dozen companies like us present deals like ours. Guy in the audience yawnsand walks out. Our goose is cooked! Later, bored guy buys our stock; others who listened intently don't. Proves you can't read the audience.

"Next Monday. Now home, ought to get easier. It doesn't. Five one-on-ones before lunch, then a big lunch. In Boston, the rule is, land the big Fidelity fundfirst; then, reassured, others will fall in line. Good sign: Fidelity takes lots of prospectuses. Doesn't buy in the end."

The company ended up doing fine: it sold 1.4 million shares at $8 each. But William Herp, G&W's financial officer, says that "you find out how well you'vedone only when it comes together on the last day."

Last updated: Jan 1, 1995




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