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It was standing room only Wednesday night at the Big Picture...
By JOHN COOK
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
Friday, February 25, 2000
It was standing room only Wednesday night at the Big Picture, a new theater/meeting space located in the heart of Belltown. While the crowd of 60 "angel investors" drank microbrews and munched on hors d'oeuvres under the bamboo ceilings, seven Seattle area Internet start-ups nervously got ready to deliver their Powerpoint presentation on the 10 foot by 20 foot big screen.
The entrepreneurs, who each had 15 minutes to talk, were all trolling for the same thing: money.
"Bear with me so I can make a sales pitch," said John Murphy, founder of OfficeParts.com. He then went on to ask the audience for $500,000 in capital.
These sort of informal networking events, where high-net worth investors -- known as angels -- attempt to find hot new start-ups, are becoming increasingly popular in Seattle. In the past six months, a half-dozen gatherings with names such as Cybernetical Schmoozefest, Demo Club and Seattle Online Network have been established with the ultimate goal of matching entrepreneurs with investors in a trendy club or bar setting.
But do these networking events actually work?
Shilo Jones, the founder of Internet Development Group and host of Wednesday's event at the Big Picture, thinks so.
"There is an overwhelming amount of noise in the dot-com space right now, and events like the Big Picture really help get good companies exposure with the right investors and partners," he said. Jones points to his brother's company, eProject.com, which raised some cash soon after presenting at the first Big Picture event last October.
Demo Club co-founder Mark Long, who attracts about 300 entrepreneurs and investors to the Speakeasy Cafe in Belltown for his events, said former presenters such as CyberAlumni, MyLackey.com and BootLegTV have together raised more than $7 million.
The Demo Club has been received so well in Seattle that Long has decided to launch similar networking events in Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City.
Things seemed to be going pretty well Wednesday night at the Big Picture for Plymedia, a Seattle stock photo company that sells background landscape images to catalogs and Web sites.
"I am looking to find someone in the audience that we can make very wealthy," said founder David Petrich, beginning his pitch.
After explaining that Plymedia started out in the brick-and-mortar world and already has customers such as Nordstrom and Sears, investors appeared interested.
Usama Fayyad, a senior researcher at Microsoft and local angel investor, leaned forward in his chair. Others in the theater took notes.
Petrich went on to say that he was looking to raise $750,000 in a first round of funding and that the company is set up as a "prime acquisition target."
After the presentation, Fayyad said he would check the company out. "I am curious why they are asking for so little money," he said. "That is the only question I have."
By the end of the night, Petrich had collected business cards from 10 local angel investors. Not bad for a guy who says he is "pretty inexperienced" when it comes to raising money.
John Locher, founder of Seattle-based EverythingHolidays.com, presented at the Demo Club and Big Picture last year and said his company raised $150,000 due, in part, to the contacts he made at the two events.
"Anytime you can do a shotgun approach to introduce your company to investors, it saves you time," Locher said.