Stealthmode Partners, in case you

by francine Hardaway on January 14, 2004

Stealthmode Partners, in case you didn�t know it, is an accelerator for early stage companies and companies in transition. Almost everyone I see during the business day is an entrepreneur of some sort. I love entrepreneurs; they�re the only people with whom I feel comfortable � they�re as crazy as I am.

But something must be happening to them, or to me. In the short time since New Year’s Day, I’ve been asked to find money for at least a half dozen companies. One of them did not even have a business plan. One of them had a plan that I knew was unrealistic, because I know more about their market space than they did. And one of them had a product that wasn’t ready for prime time. I acted like a customer and tried to use it– that�s how I knew it wasn�t ready. Of the six, only one had a business plan that I felt at all comfortable sending around for further study.

I was also approached by someone who is not yet in business, but has a good idea and wondered who would fund him to explore it.

Surely this is all some sort of joke.

I do invest in companies. I invest money, time, and energy. I usually invest in the riskiest round: the friends, families, and fools round. I also connect entrepreneurs to funding sources. That’s what Stealthmode Partners was formed to do. Even under the most fortuitous circumstances (good idea, good team, good timing, good market), it’s really difficult to get a business off the ground. Our company was formed to help people. (This is my third career.) Do you think we, or anyone else, want to invest in a company that hasn�t spent enough time analyzing its own chances for success?

Because I was fed up with looking at bad business plans, I took myself off to Kansas City last July to the Kauffman Foundation, went through its trainng program, and became the southwest regional headquarters for its FastTrac Entrepreneurial Education program. I formed alliances with the Arizona Tech Council, the Greater Phoenix Chamber, and a bank. I found a space and began the combination group therapy, networking, and learning process that is FastTrac Planning. It is designed to help any company that needs to sharpen its competitiveness, refine its processes, and acquire investment.

ASU also has a new program, called Technopolis, that works with the high technology startups.

But for every person we reach through FastTrac ( or ASU reaches through Technopolis, six try to cirumvent the competency process by telling us they already have a business plan and �just need the capital.� In most cases, they�re dreamin�.

From my private consulting work in Stealthmode Partners and my facilitating of FastTrac, I�ve learned as much as the participants. I�ve also learned from the nonparticipants.

I�ve learned that many people don�t want their preconceptions about their business, or their business idea, challenged. They don�t want to devote much time to thought. They don�t really think they need to know how to read their own financial statements. They don�t want to hire market research help, competitive intelligence help, and often even accounting help.

They are willing to risk the entire business rather than sit down and think about the BUSINESS aspect of what they plan to do.

Bankers see this every day. That�s the biggest reason they turn down borrowers. Do you think they WANT to turn people down? They are in the business of lending money. I am in the business of supplying equity.Neither one of us wants to say no.

But we must. We�re just not that stupid.

I am offering my third FastTrac Planning program, for companies already in business and wishing to grow (and needing money of course)starting Feb. 4, and my first FastTrac New Venture, for new businesses, starting Feb.7. The former helps existing businesses analyze their strengths and weaknesses and make their business plans fundable. The latter helps people get started — or decide not to.

The cost for these programs is nominal –$750. And if you�re a veteran, the cost is reimbursed by the Veterans� Corporation ( I personally facilitate, with a wonderful roster of outside resources.

When you emerge from either one of those programs, or some form of equivalent training, THEN you can come to me with your business plan and ask me to invest or make a connection to someone else.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: