The Votes Are In
My vote goes to TechShop, with the concern that founder Jim Newton is exposed to a great deal of liability due to the nature of the machinery he is making available. His gym-type membership model is a good idea.
Here are my thoughts about the other start-ups: Gauri Nanda is smart to keep the overhead low but I'm concerned that she is really a product innovator rather than an entrepreneur. Ventana Health is a single-product company that faces a huge uphill battle to build a brand identity and market demand. On the other hand, maybe founder Tim Avila can partner with a health food marketing group and ride the existing market momentum. I shared the same concerns Tim Gill of Quark had about Hayden Hamilton's GreenPrint. It takes too long for consumers to realize savings on the upfront investment, and most folks probably aren't too concerned about wasting a page or so when they print.
William R. Osgood
Exeter, New Hampshire
Did Tim Gill even read the description of GreenPrint? The software's buy-me-now quality was savings on ink, not paper. The savings on paper is an added bonus. Plus, today's corporations need products like GreenPrint software. The new generation of employees being hired out of colleges and M.B.A. programs want to know what the company is doing to save the environment. I have been test-driving the software on my personal computer, and I love it.
Tim Gill of Quark did not give the full consideration to GreenPrint that he should have. He failed to recognize the full scope of social, economic, and environmental factors that will play a role in the adoption of this software.
He also ignored a huge potential market: students. As a university student, I printed more than 5,000 sheets of paper a year from my home computer. I would have bought GreenPrint purely because it is environmentally responsible. Not all students are concerned with the state of our landfills or forests, but it is cool enough to be socially responsible that I think many students will buy in. Most have printers in their dorm rooms, and given the amount of time students spend on the computer, installing a piece of software wouldn't be a matter of concern.
Riverdale, New York
Nanda Home wins my vote. Gauri Nanda's alarm clock is an easy sell to every mother who has a hard time waking up her teenager and every person who fears being late to work. Clocky was a hit because consumers wanted it, not because Wal-Mart and Target wanted it. Gauri needs to keep this in mind when creating the rest of her brand. Those retailers care about cheap prices, not about creating better living. It's more important for me to wake up on time everyday than to save money on my alarm clock.
I love Ventana Health's Zsweet sweetener. It doesn't have a chemical aftertaste. Baking with it is wonderful.
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
TechShop seems like a good idea. I'm developing a product, and it would be great to have those types of tools at my disposal. TechShop's success will really depend on being in areas populated with innovative people who need equipment.
Fishkill, New York
As an angel investor, I think GreenPrint is by far the most promising venture of the group. Hayden Hamilton has a business model that saves ink costs dramatically and a software platform that is scalable. And I love that he has raised only $200,000 to get it off the ground.
Good luck to all of the entrepreneurs!
Menlo Park, California
As a small-business owner, I certainly understand the siren call of work when there's always more to do than hours in the day, but I find it hard to hold Bruce Moeller as a role model for how it should be done ["The Way I Work: Bruce Moeller," July]. Moeller's entire life revolves around his business, at the expense of his health and his family. Plus, Moeller's insistence that he be the hub of all business activity means he is not delegating and developing subordinates. Such a structure becomes less sustainable as a business continues to grow.
Lee's Summit, Missouri
I hope "The Way I Work" will be a regular feature. I've read this one three times already. I really appreciate and respect Bruce Moeller for telling his story. It takes courage and confidence to open up and share your life in such a manner. Thanks to him, we can understand ourselves better and grow as entrepreneurs and professionals.
Chiquita Brands International
Bruce Moeller's decision to put his family second concerned me. One challenge I'd love to be without is caring for people who have wrecked their lives searching for a way to fill the void left by an absentee father.
Miami Vineyard Community Church
What Went Wrong
In Norm Brodsky's final article in his series about the sale of his business, he mentioned a blog entry I posted on my firm's website, calling it a "scathing criticism" of choices he made during the transaction ["The Offer, Part Nine," July]. Readers can judge for themselves whether or not I was harsh (northshore-capital.com/blog). I stand by my assertions that Brodsky's columns did more harm than good, not only with respect to his own company's sale but also to his readers' understanding of how to manage a transaction.
His articles provided a case study of what not to do. The proof of this is that he failed to accomplish what many owners in the document management business have successfully done--selling a business at a great valuation. Selling a company isn't easy, and not all deals close. Readers who follow in Brodsky's footsteps are doomed to experience the same fate.
NorthShore Capital Advisors
I have two comments about the July issue. First of all, what editor Jane Berentson wrote about Mike Hofman seemed inappropriate [Editor's Letter, July]. "Mike's not only a valued Inc. editor, he's a total charmer," she wrote, "and if the truth be told, maybe this is the real reason I find myself in his office so often." Are you kidding me? Can you imagine what would happen to a male editor writing such a thing about a female colleague?
Second, I thought the final elevator pitch that Elevator Speech crafted for uControl was problematic ["You Know What Your Company Does. Can You Explain It in 30 Seconds?" July]. Elevator Speech said the security company should begin its pitch by saying, "We bring home security out of the closet and onto the Web." But if uControl's target customer does not have a home security system in his closet, he won't have a clue what uControl is talking about. The real conversation opener is another phrase that came up in the course of their talks: "We give you peace of mind." When the target asks, "How?" uControl can reply, "By providing you with the means to monitor what is happening in your house over the phone or on the Web."
Bruce A. Hurwitz
Cliffside Park, New Jersey
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