News from the Ohio Venture Association meeting on June 12, 2009

OVA's Venture of the Year

Len Pagon
Founder & CEO

After nearly 20 years of chasing elusive entrepreneurial success, through start-up (at the age of 23), and then years of successive waves of transformations, high growth, turnarounds, acquisitions and even near-bankruptcy at one point, Len Pagon felt he'd finally earned the right to claim membership in what he calls "the Captain Ahab school of entrepreneurism."

Only unlike the whaling boat captain in the novel Moby Dick, Pagon actually caught his big fish. Named Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year in 2007, Pagon sold his company a year later to New Jersey-based Rosetta, which calls itself the largest independent interactive agency in the U.S.

His company, founded as New Media in 1989 and renamed Brulant in 2001, emerged from four strong finalists to be recognized as the OVA's Venture of the Year for 2009. It succeeds last year's venture of the year, Whole Health Management.

Speaking at the June luncheon, Pagan joked that he decided to do the deal with Rosetta because "I'm 44, and I just didn't want to end up like (Captain Ahab), all tangled in the nets at the end." He recalled a rollercoaster experience for many years: compounded annual growth rates approaching triple digits for several years in a row, and a place on Inc Magazine's celebrated list of fastest-growing companies in America three times. Still, after the dot-com crash earlier this decade, he recalled, "we almost went bankrupt...we had a lot of ups and downs."

Pagon credited the Northeast Ohio region's depth of talent for being among the chief causes of his company's success over the years. "We followed the Jim Tressel method of recruiting," he said, alluding to the Ohio State football coach famous for recruiting mostly homegrown talent. He called this region "a Goldilocks market: it's not too big and it's not too small. We have all the access and amenities of a big market. So we got going and got to about $20 million in revenues, based just on the clients we had here in Northeast Ohio." He said he was proud that even after the merger, the new company—whose headquarters is in Princeton, New Jersey—will still have the bulk of its employees in this region.

This year, for the first time, OVA chose four Venture of the Year finalists. They included NDI Medical, founded in 2002 with a $220,000 investment, which sold an application to Medtronic last year for $42 million; Expensewire, a decade-old company focused on automated online expense reports, which was acquired last year by Reardon Commerce; and Bargmann Management, a back-office medical outsourcing company founded in 2003, and sold last year to medical equipment giant Invacare. The winner was announced at the luncheon.

More information:

Webcasts from the Meeting:

Click on the image below to view the entire presentation as video.

Webcast produced by Mike Sutyak, The Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative.

OVA on LinkedIn:

To connect with members of the Ohio Venture Association, Inc. see OVA on LinkedIn.

Next Meeting:

September 11, 2009
Mel Carter
Ohio-Midwest Fund

The Union Club
1211 Euclid Ave.

Located in Ohio, Mr. Carter is an in-state Investment Specialist for Credit Suisse's Customized Fund Investment Group. He is responsible for managing the $102 million Ohio-Midwest Fund, a regionally-targeted private equity program focused on high-performing venture, growth and buyout fund investments. He also has oversight responsibilities for all the other CFIG regionally-targeted programs, including the Venture Michigan Fund, Michigan 21st Century Investment Fund, Indiana Future Fund and others.

As an example of the potential impact of regionally-targeted programs, the Ohio-Midwest Fund has committed $72 million dollars to 12 return-oriented fund managers, who in turn have invested over $125 million into Ohio businesses, attracted an additional $62 million in co-investment dollars to these businesses, and positively impacted over 2,600 Ohio jobs. Mel also serves on a number of private equity, economic development and charitable boards.

He will speak about sector futuring in 2010, and how the fund focuses on the regional core competencies of our expanding venture community.

See complete details and registration.

5-Minute Forum:

Custom-Branded Goods for the College Market

Is there a market for custom-branded, design-driven décor and apparel aimed at the college market? And is the greek network an efficient system for tapping into it?

Lauren Elizabeth Wade founder Lindsay Sims thinks so. She plans to market directly to individual members of collegiate fraternal organizations, through affiliate programs, philanthropic sponsorships and on-campus events. According to estimates she cites, there are more than one million active chapter members.

The company is seeking to raise about $140,000 in startup funding. For more information, contact Lindsay Sims, at 314-479-7295, or

See complete presentation (PDF).

The 5-Minute Forum is an opportunity for business owners to make a 5-minute presentation at our monthly luncheon meeting for raising capital, identifying customers, establishing distribution, or recruiting management. See details.

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