Firms seek their pot of gold
Entrepreneurs attend fair for shot at venture capital


By Jonathan Epstein
(excerpted from the News Journal, Wilmington, Delaware)


The Early Stage East '98 Fair — sponsored by the Delaware Entrepreneurs Forum, the American Stock Exchange and Arthur Andersen & Co.— was designed to bring together cash-starved start-up companies in the early stages of development with investors looking for opportunities to get in on the ground floor of future success stories.


The fair is intended for early-stage businesses, companies that have not received investor funding, even if they qualify for bank loans.


Similar forums have been held in Delaware before, but Tuesday's event at the DuPont Country Club marked a significant departure and a new direction for the event (previously called the Delaware Entrepreneurs Forum Venture Fair). In the past, the gathering focused solely on Delaware and surrounding areas, with only about 10 venture capitalists present with $500 million in available funds.


The new fair seeks to draw companies and venture capitalists from a much larger area, to showcase the region and demonstrate that the mid-Atlantic and especially Delaware, can be a hotbed for the kind of entrepreneurial efforts often associated with technology corridors in California, Texas and New England.


More than 11 states were represented, from North Carolina to Massachusetts, and even Iowa and Indiana.


"This is really a superb opportunity to bring the best of the best companies into Delaware," said David J. Freschman, chairman of the fair and president of the Delaware Innovation Fund in Wilmington, a 3-year old, $10 million seed fund.