Investor Conference Countdown Begins

Investor Conference Countdown Begins

By Bob Starzynski
Staff Writer

The second incarnation of the Capital Region Technology Investor Conference is less than two months away, but organizers agree that much of the planning is still incomplete.

At press time, 30 percent of the necessary sponsorship money was committed, and information packages to presenting companies were sent out just last week. But, organizers add, there is no fear of the event not shaping up in the final weeks.

More than 70 public companies and 15 private companies will make presentations to as many as 1,000 attendees at the July 15-16 event, planners said. The conference, which showcases Washington-area technology companies to institutional investors and analysts from Wall Street and other parts of the country, will be held at the new Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in downtown Washington.

However, unlike last year's conference at Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, Va., which created a lot of talk in technology circles months in advance, this year's event is quickly approaching without the same buzz.

"We had to create noise last time because we had no credibility to work with," said Doug Poretz, a McLean, Va., investor relations professional who created the event and currently serves as chairman of its oversight committee. "We don't need to create the noise this time."

"Sure, I would have loved to start a year ago," said Bradley Rosenberg, a corporate turnaround artist who was hired as the conference's president in February. "But I don't have that luxury. That doesn't put us behind though."

Rosenberg's predecessor, Mary Nugent, left the conference in October to take an investor relations job with Information Analysis Inc., Fairfax, Va.

"This year we are putting the pieces together with more of a one-on-one approach," he added.

While last year at this time most of the sponsorship details were already ironed out, Rosenberg said he is only 30 percent of the way to his goal. But, he added, he has promises that will bring him to almost 75 percent of his goal by the end of this month. He plans to finish with sponsorship by June 15.

Bradley Rosenburg, president,
Capital Region Technology
Investor Conference

Photo by Michael Carpenter
Another major detail on which Rosenberg is still working is signing on presenting companies. Several companies from last year's pool of 75 will not return because they have been sold - Trusted Information Systems Inc., BDM International Inc., Computer Data Systems Inc., Fusion Systems Corp., Access Beyond, Telco Communications Corp. and Orion Network Systems Inc., for instance. Several others are in the process of being sold, too.

Rosenberg said he sent information packages to prospective presenting companies last week. He already has received responses from 50 companies, although none have yet signed on as presenters.

Investor conferences are of growing interest in the technology world. Most large investment banks host their own conferences each year, bringing together a number of public companies to be showcased. Such events save investors from having to travel to see each of the companies individually, while giving the firms a soapbox from which to tout themselves.

The Capital Region Technology Investor Conference is different for a couple of reasons. It brings together several investment banks as sponsors rather than one. And it focuses on companies in an industry in geographical region, not just in an industry, like the American Electronics Association's Monterey Classic, which focuses on information technology companies from around the country.

"We'll go back to at least support the region and the [technology] movement," said Karen Kazmark, who heads investor relations for Transaction Network Services Inc., Reston, Va. "For a first-year conference last year, the quality was good." Transaction Network Services was one of the presenting companies last year.

Aside from the change in venue, which is closer in proximity to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and the region's business core, the other big change is sponsorship. Last year, prime sponsors included the Nasdaq Stock Market Inc. and The Washington Post Co., both of which committed $50,000. (The Washington Post Co. owns Washington Technology.)

Below those sponsors were several investment banks, which gave $25,000 each, and large accounting and law firms and commercial banks, which each gave $15,000.All told, last year's conference worked with a $750,000 budget, mostly from sponsors. This year's budget is about the same, according to Rosenberg, but the sponsorship structure is different. There are several sponsorship levels, ranging from $3,500 up to $70,000, available.

This year, Nasdaq has signed on again with a pledge of $50,000; The Washington Post Co. committed $40,000. And Capital One, a high-tech banking and credit card operation in Arlington, Va., signed on last week with a $70,000 commitment.

One criticism Rosenberg and Poretz have heard about last year's event was there were not enough analysts and investors from outside the region.

If it's our intention to open this region to the rest of the world, where was the rest of the world?" said one presenter from last year. "These investors go to so many conferences each year, they need something to differentiate."

To avert the same criticism this year, Rosenberg and Poretz have focused more attention on that audience, having sent out 3,000 invitations to Wall Street players who are not from Washington. Last year, having both analysts and bankers flock to the conference from elsewhere was not as important an aim.

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