Wined and dined, for the lucky 13th timeThe scene last week at Ruth's Chris steakhouse in Garden City was rich. Literally.
The food, the guests and the promise of making money filled the swank backroom of the restaurant as the Long Island Investment Banking Group, an informal gathering of 73 money managers, held its monthly investment meeting in style.
Bill Jordan, president of the LIIBG, said this quiet bunch manages over $2 billion and once a month listens to the pitch of a promising company. This evening's guest of honor was Bothell, WA-startup Lumera, a nanotechnology company that makes bioscience and electro-optical devices.
Lumera Chief Technology Officer Bob Petcavich, who said the evening's presentation was his 13th pitch in three days, did his best song and dance to raise awareness, and investment interest, for the company.
Petcavich said Lumera is vying to become the Microsoft of the nano-world -a global giant of microscopic products.
Understanding Lumera's product lines can be daunting. Essentially, the products do two things.
First, they have a holdover business of telco switches from their former parent company, Microvision. The market for these products is way down, so they're adapting their business to homeland security. That announcement raised the eyebrows of investors, and Petcavich showed a prototype scanner that can detect metal objects - say a knife or gun - hidden on a person. The technology also promises to detect explosive compounds.
The scanning system uses terahertz waves in the invisible energy spectrum, unregulated by the Federal Communications Commission. At 120 Ghz, they are in the public domain, free and clear of permits and licensing.
Lumera also discovered that five DVDs of info can be sent in one second over this frequency, which makes it ideal for "last mile" data transfer.
The company's second line of business is just as promising. Lumera makes organic compounds for medical researchers, plus the slides these compounds sit on and the machines that read the slides.
Petcavich impressed the group with an overview of nanometers and the science behind Lumera's technology, and you could hear the confusion in the room. He then brought things down to scale, explaining that a nanometer is extremely small, only a billionth of a meter. A human hair is 80,000 nanometers wide, he said, and a Ruth's Chris steak is 50 million nanometers thick.
Pecavich then peaked investor interest by explaining that Lumera's business model is similar to disposable razor blades: The company makes the razor, the blades and, essentially, the shaving cream, he said.
And we all know how lucrative the shaving business can be. Last year, James M. Kilts, CEO of Gillette, brokered a $57 billion sale of the razor company to Proctor and Gamble. At the time of the deal, Kilts earned $29 million per year.
With that kind of money, you can expect Kilts eats at Ruth's Chris quite often - 50 million nanometers, or thicker, at a time.
A good use of technology
Video phone manufacturer Intelecom Solutions has teamed up with sign-language translating company LifeLinks to offer an end-to-end phone alternative for the hearing impaired.
While telephone alternatives for the deaf have been around for some time, the video system promises to bring a more personal interaction to conversations, but there's a hitch: The hearing impaired party must know sign language.
Deer Park's Intelecom says that hearing-able users of the system can dial-in to a call center and speak their message, and an interpreter will relay it to the hearing-impaired recipient in sign language.
While this sounds like everyday video conferencing, there is a benefit.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 saw the federal government pick up the tab for all calls using a TTY system. As a service that falls under this act, the Intelecom video system will also be free for users.
And unlike traditional video conferencing, which offers face-to-face communication, the costs of the interpreter are also picked up by the feds.