A little over a year ago, INC. reported on the battering of Colin Barton before the MIT Futerprise Forum ("Companies on the Spot," February 1982, page 39). Barton was president of fledgling Ikier Technology Inc., of Burlington, Mass., a computer graphics company that he operated with founder and partner Hans Ikier. They planned to manufacture a new graphics workstation and had come to the forum for help and advice.
The forum is set up precisely for this purpose. Drawing on faculty and alumni of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as outside resources, it provides entrepreneurs with an opportunity to showcase their plans before a panel of disinterested experts. The experts then proceed to dispense help and advice -- in a manner that occasionally resembles the one employed by the offensive line of the Washington Redskins.
With Barton, they pulled no punches. They questioned the need for the product, the adequacy of the market analysis, and the wisdom of having a company with two heads. Later, Barton was bitter. "It was an uncomfortable evening," he said. "It was a very negative atmosphere. Their approach was too aggressive."
But the panelists came away with guarded optimism about the company's future. "I think," said one, "that, if they listen carefully to what we have to say, they're going to be very successful."
So what happened? They listened. Barton turned the presidency over to Ikier, who became the sole head of the company. And Ikier Technology didn't push the graphics workstation of which it was so proud. Following the forum presentation the company was capitalized -- but at only $350,000, rather than the $1 million it had been seeking. As a result, Ikier Technology began marketing and promoting circuit boards for graphics systems instead. "It was a matter of survival," suys Barton today.
And survive they did. The company grew from 3 to 12 employees and moved from Ikier's attic in Burlington into a new 4,000-square-foot facility in Bedford. Sales rose toward $750,000 a year. Last October, Ikier Technology obtained additional financing of $750,000. Meanwhile, the success of the circuit boards has permitted Ikier Technology to expand its product line.
Ikier seems pleased with the company's progress. As for Barton, he is no longer with the company. Dissatisfied with his role, he left in October to head his own ad agency in Boston. One of his clients is Ikier Technology.