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HEARD ON THE BEAT / TECHNOLOGY

Hoping to Talk Their Way to Capital Gains

November 04, 1996|GREG MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

You've got a great idea for a new high-tech company, need about $1 million to get things rolling, and are standing in front of 350 investors who can make your dreams come true. You have 10 minutes to make your pitch.

This is one of the make-or-break moments in the life of a start-up company, and one of the main events at a technology program this Wednesday at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach. Eight companies will pitch their plans to an audience of investors and venture capitalists as part of a "technology showcase" sponsored by UC Irvine's Accelerate Technology Small Business Development Center.

Accelerate is a nonprofit organization that helps high-tech entrepreneurs launch businesses and find funding. Fifty of Accelerate's most promising companies are participating in the showcase by setting up display tables at the Balboa Bay Club. Eight of those companies have been selected to make 10-minute presentations.

"There's a lot riding on these things," said Gary Falacara, 42, a presenter who is seeking about $500,000 for his Aliso Viejo software company. "I've been a teacher for years and talk in front of crowds. But the truth is I get nervous."

Falacara's company's software is designed to make it easier to build three-dimensional Web sites, computer games or other programs. Among the other presenters are companies developing products used to detect food spoilage, clean waste water and scan airline baggage for explosives.

The baggage scanner was developed by Jack Syage, 42, of Cypress. Syage said he is trying to be philosophical about the event.

"We are on sound financial footing, so it's not life or death," he said. Still, he's not leaving anything to chance. Syage said he has spent at least 25 hours preparing his 10-minute spiel, much of it honing his presentation with the help of coaches from Accelerate.

Debra DeFuertes, who is coordinating the event, said the showcase offers start-up companies a critical chance to meet private investors, venture capitalists and investment bankers. "The hardest thing for many of these companies is to get an appointment with an investor," she said. "This is an opportunity where they're all here together."

Accelerate was founded in 1989, and has worked with hundreds of companies, including Diedrich's Coffee. The showcase starts at 2 p.m. and finishes at 8 p.m. The presentations are from 3 to 5 p.m., and an awards ceremony recognizing top companies participating in the event starts at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $110. For more information, call (714) 509-2990.

* Greg Miller covers high technology for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-7830 and at greg.miller@latimes.com

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