Beringea Holds “Office Hours” For Entrepreneurs. 15 Minutes To Sell A Dream.

3/9/11Follow @xconomy

“Steve Beeler,” says the cheery, bespectacled man sporting a bright green tie as he extends his hand to me.

“Nice to meet you,” I reply. “Do you have a business card?”

“Um…no,” Beeler says somewhat sheepishly. “We just settled some issues with our [web]domain name.”

Ah, the life of a high tech startup!

We’re sitting in a small room Wednesday morning at the TechBrewery near downtown Ann Arbor. Sitting across the table from Beeler is Jeff Bocan, managing director of Beringea, the Detroit-based venture capital and private equity firm.

Beeler has exactly 15 minutes to pitch Bocan on why Beringea should invest in ArborWind, a startup developing lower cost wind turbines.

Fifteen minutes doesn’t sound like a whole lot of time to sell someone on anything. But it doesn’t matter: Bocan won’t be writing any checks today. For one thing, Beringea only finances later stage companies, not early stage startups like ArborWind.

No, the real point of Beringea’s “Office Hours” is to nurture Michigan’s startup community by providing valuable feedback to entrepreneurs seeking cash for their ideas. It’s also a good way for the VCs to keep their ears to the ground for new opportunities they might not otherwise hear about.

“We give them the chance to refine their pitch,” says managing director Michael Gross. “We either affirm their strategy or point them to another direction.”

So far, Beringea has listened to some 50 pitches from across the state. The quality of ideas varies wildly, from ideas sketched on napkins to things that aren’t exactly venture capital growth opportunities—like tanning salons. But Beringea executives tend to offer similar feedback.

“A lot of entrepreneurs have not researched their markets thoroughly,” says associate David Ruby. “People haven’t thought it through. For example, capitalization, not knowing how much will it take to get from Point A to Point B, how expensive it is to build and scale a business.”

Today, about 20 entrepreneurs will present. First up is Beeler, the launch chief operating officer for … Next Page »

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