WPI Hosts Emmy and Academy Award Winner

Contact: Sarah Ribeiro, WPI Media & Community Relations

WORCESTER, Mass. - Bill Warner, founder of Avid Technology and Wildfire Communications and winner of Emmy and Academy awards for his invention, the Avid Media Composer, will speak at Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Venture Forum lecture series Tuesday, Oct. 19, at 6 p.m. His topic is "Perfecting Your Pitch to Venture Capitalists."

In addition, J. Ancel Proctor III, founder of BrandTeam.com, will present a business plan for the world's first virtual Web-based marketing department for small business.

Warner notes that raising money is a primary concern of any entrepreneur starting a company. The October meeting of WPI's Venture Forum will offer the unique perspective of this award-winning engineer who has started five highly successful companies. Warner will share his insights, experiences and strategies for raising venture capital. Here are a few of his tips:

  • Someone who believes in you and your product should introduce you to a venture capitalist.
  • Your business plan should make sense, convey the big picture and tell how you will obtain customers.
  • In the financial part of your plan, never say your projections are conservative; you risk losing credibility.
  • Remember that venture capitalists invest in people, not products.
  • Successful companies can develop as the result of the relationship between the product and the person investing in it. Your best investor has a personal interest in your product.
  • At the end of your pitch, ask, "Is this the kind of company you would invest in?"
  • Be prepared to accept the facts of life in raising money through venture capitalists. In the first financing round, for example, you may have to give up ownership of more than 30 percent of your company.

Warner founded Wildfire Communications Inc. in 1991. He has served as its chairman since 1996 and CEO since its inception. Since launching the initial version of his invention, the Wildfire Electronic Assistant, the company has gone on to build a worldwide channel of authorized service providers to market and sell the product. Wildfire Communications has also inked pacts to create network versions of the product for the public telephone carrier market.

Available since 1995, the invention has revolutionized the way people use the telephone by providing a speech-based "personal assistant" that helps manage communications. At first available only as a niche product, Wildfire has entered into the mainstream and is now offered by carriers such as Pacific Bell Wireless in California, Bell Mobility in Canada and Orange plc. Ltd. in the United Kingdom.

Wildfire has received investments from Intel, Microsoft, AT&T Wireless, Matrix Partners and Greylock Management. The company is privately held.

Prior to Wildfire, Warner founded Avid Technology Inc. in 1987 after becoming frustrated with the difficulty of editing videos. After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT in 1980, Warner worked at Computervision, Lexidata and Apollo Computer. Building on experience in graphics and imaging, as well as projects to integrate video into engineering workstations, Warner realized in 1987 that it was becoming possible to digitize and store a stream of compressed video. He quickly built a prototype of his idea and began looking for funding. Greylock Management provided the first round in August 1988.

In 1993, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded Warner an Emmy for his invention, the Avid Media Composer, and its use in major prime-time television shows such as "Northern Exposure" and "NYPD Blue." In 1994, he received an Academy Award for the invention and its use in major motion pictures.

A case presentation
J. Ancel Proctor III, founder of BrandTeam.com, will present a business plan for the world's first virtual Web-based marketing department for growing small businesses at WPI's October Venture Forum. The business proposition for BrandTeam is to offer a single resource for small businesses worldwide.

Proctor has nearly 30 years of experience in sales, strategic marketing and brand identity. He has served in senior management positions with advertising agencies in both New York and Boston, including Grey, Bozell Worldwide and Arnold. His clients have included McDonald's USA, Nabisco, Smith Kline/Beecham, Pet Inc., Ocean Spray, Allied Van Lines, G+W Industries, VeryFine, Cain's and Superior Brands (Carnation/Nestle).

An entrepreneur since age 11 when he opened his first curb side business - a lunch stand constructed on a Fearless Flyer wagon - he will launch yet another start-up in January 2000, AsianFusion.com, an Internet trading portal for U.S.-Asia trading.

The October Venture Forum will take place in WPI's Salisbury Laboratories, room 115. Admission is $5 for Venture Forum members, $10 for non-members and free to students, faculty and staff with a valid WPI ID card.

For more information on WPI's Venture Forum, contact Sarah Ribeiro at 508-831-5076 or visit the website at http://www.wpiventureforum.org/.