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Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
Jo Ann Holferty of Pocket Direct makes a seven-minute pitch about her company to potential investors.

SANDY — They were men, mostly. Some were handsome. They wore their best suits and tried to develop a rapport with the person at the other side of the table — in seven minutes — in hopes that they would see them again.

At Wednesday's "Speed Pitching" event at Salt Lake Community College, entrepreneurs laid their hearts on a table before angel investors, who had the choice to begin a relationship or reject them.

It's similar to speed dating. But with Speed Pitching — created by American Fork-based FundingUniverse — investors prefer substance over style. In fact, some investors commented that their strongest pitch came from a man whose voice was so quiet and monotone that he could barely be heard.

The event Wednesday was the first of six in Utah. FundingUniverse will do about six outside of Utah this year, too, said FundingUniverse's chief executive Brock Blake, himself the beneficiary of $250,000 in angel investor money for his 2-year-old business.

Companies at Wednesday's event ranged from an Internet social site and an Internet telephone service to a turbocharger technology developer and school safety service.

"On your marks, get set, go!" Blake said, and the pitches began.

"What I bring to the table is my experience," said Steve Kirkland, who was seeking about $2 million to purchase and expand his employer, IAI Presentations Inc., which books and sells merchandise for high-end theatrical productions such as the Peking Acrobats, which were in Salt Lake City over the weekend.

"Do you have exclusive rights with the shows?" Suzanne Winters of the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative asked.

"Yes," he replied.

Entrepreneurs must go through about four steps to raise money to expand their businesses, said Nile Hatch, a management professor at Brigham Young University. They first ask friends and family for money, then angel investors willing to give up to about $2 million in exchange for equity in the company, venture capitalists willing to invest more millions, and finally the companies make initial public offerings in which stock is sold.

Some companies skip certain steps or repeat others, such as returning to venture capitalists for more infusions of cash, said Hatch, who gave entrepreneurs feedback on their presentations during Wednesday's event.

Speed Pitching is for the angel-investors step.

"Angel investors, they're hard to find," Blake said. "They don't walk around with signs."

A good entrepreneur will find them through networking, he said. But even if an angel investor can be found, it's hard to talk them into investing in a company.

One resource for finding those investors is FundingUniverse.com, a site that manages a database of 650 investors. More than 23,000 entrepreneurs are signed up for the site. Subscriptions for entrepreneurs cost $20 to $50 a month, Blake said.

For the Speed Pitching events, entrepreneurs are chosen to participate and coached on how to make a good impression in minutes.

During another round of pitching, Jo Ann Hofferty, vice president of Pocket Direct, described her company's need for $600,000 to pursue the company's educational videos that can be viewed on GameBoy platforms.

"I've bought a lot of stuff my kids don't use," Winters said. "How are you going to get them to use it?"

Hofferty said that the videos are appealing to kids because they're using a Nintendo product.

E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com