A Venture Capital Social Network
Over the last few weeks, several large companies have announced plans to incorporate social networks into their business plans.
For example, Anheuser-Busch, the proprieter of Budweiser and other beers, has signed a deal with social networking site MingleNow to promote beer-drinking to the average Joe. The campaign, called "clink," encourages people to post photos of their friends saying "cheers" with pints of beer.
Cisco Systems, the Silicon Valley maker of networking equipment, last week bought social networking site Tribe.net, one of the early contenders of MySpace and Facebook. (The Washington Post Co. made an undisclosed early investment in Tribe.) Cisco plans to use the technology to help their corporate clients build services that will connect customers online.
Given the success of such social networking sites, it doesn't seem surprising that big corporations are trying to harness that popularity to reach consumers. Can it also work to find local business partners? One local venture capitalist thinks so. He's started an online network focused on Washington's entrepreneurial community.
Jonathan Aberman, the founder and managing director of Amplifier Venture Partners in McLean, has set up a social networking site called AmplifierNetwork. The purpose, he said, is to connect entreprenuers, companies, universities and venture capitalists. Investors can post information about their latest deals, entrepreneurs can ask for business advice and companies and universities can talk about new licenses and technologies.
"People and universities are always looking for ways to get their ideas in front of people who want to start companies around them," Aberman said. "This is a place to interact and get better information."
The site, which is currently in beta, has about 150 registered users, and Aberman hopes to get that number up to at least 3,000. Registered users can create their own profiles and search through others on the site. MITRE Corp. and George Mason University have signed up to post details about their latest projects. Three other members of the local business community are helping to run the network: April Young, a managing director of Comerica Bank; John Hurley, a senior executive with DLA Piper's Venture Pipeline; and Chris Cantarella, a principal with executive recruitment firm Heidrick & Struggles.
Members are already exchanging buzzworthy media tidbits. A few times a month, Aberman said he will host "Amplification Sessions," or one-on-one conferences with entrepreneurs who want feedback on their business plans. Aberman, along with with Don Rainey of Intersouth Partners, will hold educational classes for first-time entrepreneurs, and other members will share their business development knowledge.
Amplifier Ventures does three or four early-stage deals a year. Seeing a lack of investors willing to finance early-stage companies--which typically need between $1 and $2 million to get started--he hopes the network will forge relationships between investors and entrepreneurs who may not otherwise connect.
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