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9/28/2003

Attendees seeking a job that eventually will pay

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

BROOMFIELD — Call it alternative compensation, deferred compensation — phrase it any way you want — but the bottom line is, there’s no pay. There’s no pay because for most of these companies, there’s no bottom line — yet.

Business development group CTEK held its second “Making Business Happen” forum last week, and 150 people paid the $10 admission to listen to companies pitch themselves to potential employees who, if hired, would be betting on the hope that they would get reimbursed for their efforts.

Whatever the opposite of lazy is, the people in attendance fit the bill.

“We have a question on the registration: ‘Why did you come?’” said Mark Feuer, a volunteer with CTEK who helped coordinate the event. “And it was pretty universal — it’s because they want to get in on the ground floor.

“Working in a start-up is an enormous investment of passion, and if they’re up for that, and I assume they are because they’re in the chair(s).”

Heads of a half-dozen companies — some with products on the market, some still in the development stage — got a chance to pitch their companies to the audience much like they would pitch them to potential investors. After answering questions from a group of volunteer CTEK panelists, they then would meet with interested parties one-on-one.

The variety of the companies was noteworthy, as was the considerable talent in the room, most of them there as a result of the now-3-year-old high-tech downturn.

“I think we had a much higher quality group of people who really wanted to be here,” said Feuer, comparing Thursday’s event to the first forum in June, which drew 300-plus people.

The nominal $10 charge might have kept some away, but judging the talent by the cover charge would be a mistake.

“Sixty percent of the people here have master’s (degrees) or Ph.Ds,” Feuer said. “If I recall correctly, I think about 60 percent said they would go one to six months on alternative compensation, 20 percent would work seven to 12 (months), 10 percent said they’d work a year or longer.

“And 10 percent wanted salary tomorrow.”

One of those pitching his company was Geoff Rugg of Boulder-based Equus, a company focused on medical devices for the equine industry.

Still in the development stage and actively seeking funding, Rugg gave a slide show demonstrating what he hopes will be the company’s breakout product: a device that detects “the most dangerous of equine internal diseases” — colic.

“The only solution is early detection, and early detection is where we come in,” Rugg said. While he wouldn’t give any details about the company’s technology, he did say it involved a sensor and wireless technology. From a business standpoint, he said, “Colic is concentrated where the money is” — meaning it primarily afflicts thoroughbred racing and show horses.

Rugg said his company needs help in a variety of areas, including administration, wireless technology and “strategic — which I can’t talk about,” he said.

“There’s definitely a lot of talent out there,” said Rugg. “I have partners, and have had partners, that are willing to work on an equity basis. And I know how to make it work.

“The biggest challenge is you have to be available all the time. You have to be available nights and weekends for those phone calls.”

Feuer said he’s looking forward to the next “Making Business Happen,” scheduled for Nov. 12, adding that the event “is still a work in progress.” Judging by the success of the first two, however, CTEK appears to have tapped into something that is stirring up a lot of interest.

“Mostly to listen,” said Broomfield’s Bruce Donaldson, explaining why he came out Thursday. “I like to listen and find out what’s happening in the entrepreneurial world in and around Boulder and Denver, and this is a great forum to do that.”

Donaldson said the company he found most interesting was Pisces Molecular, a biotech company focused on fisheries and the aquatic environment.

Himself the veteran of a couple of start-ups, Donaldson said he wouldn’t think twice about working for deferred compensation. The rewards, he said, can be fantastic.

“I learned a long time ago that equity is infinitely more valuable than any salary you’ll ever get,” he said. “I’ll make that trade all day long.”

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.