VentureFair winners revel in attention from financiers

TORONTO — Andrew Meikle had reason to be satisfied with the last three days. Meikle Automation Inc., his Kitchener, Ont.-based firm which designs and builds factory solutions, has bought a company in North Carolina, signed a channel

partnership agreement and was named one of two top companies at a Toronto venture capital competition.

“”It’s been a good week for us,”” he said after his company was voted best company seeking first round investment at this week’s annual Toronto Venture Group VentureFair.

It took two tries and a change in business strategy for Ottawa’s FreeBalance Inc., a financial solution provider to governments, to walk away with the other trophy, for best company seeking second round or later financing.

Two years ago FreeBalance brought in a new management team and decided to focus on the government sector, said company CEO Bruce Lazenby.

They were among the 37 companies who gave short pitches to an audience of several hundred venture financiers, lawyers and accountants. All were eligible to vote on the winners.

The winning companies won services worth approximately worth $85,700 from sponsors like Ernst & Young, CNN Newswire and Microsoft.

For most of the companies, however, just being able to present is enough of a prize, as it gets them the opportunity to meet many venture capitalists at once.

A screening committee made up primarily of representatives from VC firms chose the presenters. Many of the nominees came from their portfolios and are assumed to be among their best prospects.

Solutions offered included enterprise software, optical networking, biosecurity and software tools.

While being a presenter doesn’t guarantee a term sheet will be offered, the visibility alone helps entrepreneurs hunt for money.

“”It was more than worth coming,”” grinned Paul Maguire, CEO of Boston-based Infotriever Inc., delighted that his presentation was praised four times by a VC at a closing panel discussion. Infotriever started out in the incubator of Toronto’s Brightspark Group.

For Andy Nulman, president of Montreal’s Airborne Entertainment, just getting to the fair was an accomplishment. On Sept. 9 the wireless gaming company was on the verge closing a financing, but the syndicate decided it could wait a few days. Then came Sept. 11. “”We went through hell,”” before the money finally came in two months later, said Nulman. “”We were on the brink of closing the shop.

“”The goal here was not necessarily to get a cheque but to get on people’s check list.””

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer. Former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, Howard has written for several of ITWC's sister publications, including Before arriving at ITWC he served as a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times.

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