Entrepreneurs Steve Crane and Art Aviles Jr., both 40, believe they have an idea that can do what almost no other business has been able to successfully accomplish: corral America's millions of SOHO businesses into a cohesive, yet independent, force to be reckoned with. Their secret is really no secret at all, according to Aviles. "We're hitting SOHO entrepreneurs in the sweet spot: money," he says.
Through their company, CorpHQ, Crane and Aviles have created an online community (http://www.corphq.com) where entrepreneurs bid on jobs, and buy products and services at money-saving group rates. Through CorpHQ's so-called reverse auction, everyone from Fortune 500 companies to entrepreneurs can list jobs, such as business-plan creation, advertising services and research, that SOHO practitioners can bid on individually or together as a team led by a project manager. "The power behind our idea," says co-founder Crane, "is that it uses the Internet to bring together talent in a way that is not otherwise possible."
Although the pair's operation has been focused near CorpHQ's headquarters in Long Beach, California, and recently in New York City, their vision is national, if not global. "Our company is about removing barriers and enabling SOHO entrepreneurs to make connections with suppliers, other entrepreneurs and, most important, new business," says Aviles. "To reach its true potential, we must have a very broad vision."
But the difference separating the visionaries who go down in history from those who don't is often the money to execute the vision. Aviles and Crane eschewed traditional venture capital in favor of a more populist approach: a so-called 504 offering to individual investors that enabled them to raise capital and begin trading on OTC Bulletin Board as COHQ. The pair felt that their financing options would multiply as a public company, a strategy which paid off as CorpHQ raised additional funds during late 1999.
This success notwithstanding, co-founder Crane says that as a public company, CorpHQ now has an enormous task before it in building and maintaining investor relations. "Our success as a public company," he says, "depends on not only how well we do financially, but also how well we market our company and our story to the financial markets."
Crane is 100 percent on the mark. Companies need to market themselves tirelessly to the investment community to consistently find a fresh supply of buyers for their stock. If they don't, sellers quickly outnumber buyers, and the stock price falls. Once a stock is under water, management sometimes becomes so preoccupied with getting it back up, they drive the company into the ground. In the end, being public--the status which was supposed to ensure a long, healthy, and, above all, prosperous existence--kills the company.