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Anatomy of a Start-up Revisited

Update on a technology start-up.
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("Decisions, Decisions," August 1990, [Article link]) What's been the biggest business lesson for Michael Kuperstein over the last two years? "Credibility is a big deal," he says, and the trek toward it is a long, slow process.

Kuperstein, armed with a Ph.D. in brain science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, founded his company in early 1988 with the goal of creating a technology that lets computers "read" handwritten numbers. End-users could include banks, check processors, and the post office.

Now with nine employees at its Brookline, Mass., offices, Neurogen has been renamed Symbus Technology Inc. It made its first sale in March 1990 but hasn't yet found the customer or investor that might wow others into signing on. Still, over the last year the company sold some hardware and software to Consolidated Edison and recently signed a study contract with the U.S. Postal Service.

While struggling to attract notice, Kuperstein has had to cope with a sales cycle longer than expected, the resulting slower-than-anticipated revenue stream, and a subsequent pay cut for top managers (which has since been reversed). But the company may hit its stride in the coming year. Kuperstein claims he's received a multiyear, multimillion-dollar contract from a Fortune 500 company. Formal announcement of such a deal could send Symbus Technology's credibility soaring.

-- Leslie Brokaw

* * *

Results to Date 1990 1991

Actual sales $350,000 $1.6 million

Projected $800,000 $6.0 million n

Last updated: Nov 1, 1991




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