Fair Game

In hot pursuit of funding? Impress investors at a venture capital fair.

There's no doubt about it: Mark Tofano is on the cutting edge of telephonic integration. His 4-year-old company, TeleSys Technologies Inc. in Charlotte, North Carolina, has developed a product called SynPhony, which controls, routes and manages a business's data, voice and video communications through a single consolidated (and literally black) box.

"By simultaneously handling the switching functions for the three primary communications media, our product taps into the market potential to replace or enhance PBX equipment, voice-messaging systems, videoconferencing, local and wide area networks, and data servers," says Tofano, 54. "Standing alone, they're big markets. But when combined, it's [an even bigger] opportunity." To tap this potential market, however, TeleSys needs about $1 million to make the transition from the product development stage to the initial rollout.

But as much as Tofano and his company may be on the leading edge of computer telephony integration (CTI), when it comes to raising capital from angel investors or early-stage venture capital funds, they're in the same place as everybody else. To raise money, Tofano must methodically beat the bushes for investors, call each one personally, send them his business plan, then follow up, follow up, follow up. "Raising capital can be tough because in many respects, it's a number's game," he says. "Generating the right number of leads and then tracking them down takes a lot of time."

Time that many small or emerging businesses don't have. It's a sobering thought when you consider that most small businesses don't fail--they run out of money.

David R. Evanson's newest book about raising capital is called Where to Go When the Bank Says No: Alternatives for Financing Your Business (Bloomberg Press). Call (800) 233-4830 for ordering information. Art Beroff, a principal of Beroff Associates in Howard Beach, New York, helps companies raise capital and go public.

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This article was originally published in the October 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Fair Game.

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