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Entrepreneurs: darlings of the business world

You’ve got to love them. They’re daring and adventurous. Some seem a little far out to those of us with more conservative leanings. But boy, are they smart.

I’m talking about entrepreneurs, those fearless business leaders who step out in faith with their business smarts and accoutrements to start a new venture. It can be risky but also rewarding. Just ask Peter Nesbitt and Rob Campbell. Both are the heads of two local startups who are in the process of seeking venture capital to make their companies flourish.

Nesbitt is president of Quasar Bio-Tech, Inc., on Tallevast Road, which manufactures professional and consumer light therapy devices. Using wavelengths of natural light, the devices are used to improve the appearance of skin, heal acne, grow hair, strengthen nails, relieve pain and improve athletic performance.

Campbell is the head of Voalte, Inc., a Sarasota company that developed software that provides a unified communication solution for point-of-care workers in hospitals.

Both men are headed to the Florida Venture Forum on May 15 in Orlando to pitch their products to a group of venture capitalists, private equity investors and others in hopes of getting the necessary funding to propel their ideas into the marketplace.

Nesbitt is a newcomer to the forum, but he’s looking forward to using his 10-minute presentation to attract more money and gain recognition. An experienced coach has been helping Nesbitt and Frank Kramer, vice president of operations, weekly to prepare the best presentation possible.

“This is not a mature technology; many people don’t understand it or haven’t heard about it,” Kramer said. The men also will be able to set up a display at the forum where they can demonstrate the product, answer questions and hand out business plans.

The new product line of personal health care items, which they hope to fund with the venture capital, is designed to be marketed directly to consumers and priced below $100.

“We have been internally funded and we’ve grown yearly through our own investment and cash flow,” Nesbitt said. “Now we are going to require substantial investment for our new line.”

The company already sells its products in Dillard’s and is hoping to move into Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Bergdorf Goodman soon.

Working in a marketplace that sees $160 billion in skin care products sold annually, Quasar has seen its sales increase 100 percent from 2007 to 2008.

Campbell of Voalte is an old hand at tapping into venture capital financing. Voalte is his sixth startup since 1976.

“I’ve raised venture capital a number of times, but this is the first for this company,” he said.

He’s trying to raise $2 million to $5 million with his “fast pitch presentation” and exhibit, where he’ll demonstrate his communication system.

Campbell knows the forum is a great networking opportunity.

“These are connections that can move your business forward,” said Campbell, who has worked with some of the top venture capitalists in the country. “Venture capital becomes a big part of your company.”

The bad news is that those investing in your company also expect to take a large percentage of the profit, and in this economy that could mean up to 65 percent. “It’s expensive money, particularly now that there is less money to invest,” he said.

Campbell has some good advice for would-be entrepreneurs uncertain about what might attract money to fuel their ideas:

“People look at the opportunity, but they invest in the people,” he said. Qualities like a strong management team, unique skills and academic achievements are always a plus.

Secondly, you have to have a clear and compelling value proposition, Campbell said. “What value does this company bring to the marketplace, why is it compelling?”

“Venture capitalists come in all flavors and colors. The trick is matching what you offer with what they are looking for.”