Monday, June 28, 2010

Higher One Goes Public

Several years ago I heard the founders of Higher One speak at a Connecticut Venture Group meeting for entrepreneurs. I was really impressed. So imagine my excitement when I read that they had taken their company public! Very few companies are going public, which is one reason venture capital is so hard to come by right now.

Higher One is a service that works with the burser's office of a college to handle all the student-related monetary transactions -- financial aid, student meal plan cards, etc. It helps the college take in and disburse money more efficiently.

I was doing the college tours at the time I heard the presentation, so I understood its value to students immediately. It made perfect sense for a student to have just one card -- their college ID card -- that would double as a debit card, enabling them to pay tuition, purchase food and books, keep track of financial aide, etc. The founders were all students at Yale who saw the need and went about trying to fill it. The founders, Sean Glass, Mark Volchek and Miles Lasater were very smart in how they went about building their company and raising money. They were also lucky because they had good contacts in the investment banking and private equity world. (One reason it's so hard to get into a university like Yale.) The young men set out not just to raise revenue, but also to generate a profit. In the go-go dot-com years, what they were doing was highly unusual, as most companies and investors didn't care about profit. But they researched the market and tweaked their business plan until they arrived with a viable company.

It's been a long haul.

But now, their profit-orientation has paid off. I hope the stock does well.

See article in NY Times.

Company site:

Friday, June 18, 2010

The 5th Annual Father’s Day Darien Collectors Car Show - This Sunday, June 20th

Darien, CT -- The 5th Annual Father’s Day Darien Collectors Car Show is set for Sunday, June 20th in Tilley Pond Park beginning at 10am and ending at 2pm.   More than 135 interesting sports, muscle, vintage and modern high performance cars will be displayed on the park’s beautiful lawns beneath its mature shade trees. 

For the first time, we will combine our show with the Porsche Club/Connecticut Valley Region.  In years past, we have competed with their Norwalk event on Father’s Day.  This year, Darien will be the only car show in Lower Fairfield County.  In addition to the People’s Choice award, we will offer judging in (8) categories including a DHS trophy based on the selection of a number of DHS student volunteers.  We will also have a “Best in Show” award.

 We are delighted to have BMW/Darien back as our lead sponsor.  In addition, the Collectors Car Garage of Bedford Hills, NY a special place for special cars, Grand Prix New York, a state of the art indoor go kart facility in Mt. Kisco, NY and Automotive Restorations Inc of Stratford, CT, a well known and highly regarded vintage car restoration and racing facility will help make the show possible.

Free spectator parking is available directly across from the main entrance on West Ave in the Darien train station lot and the Koon’s lot next door.  The Darien Lions Club will serve up delicious burgers, dogs, chips and drinks.  For our younger spectators, we will have balloons, a caricaturist to sketch their wonderful faces, go karts to try on and (2) ice cream trucks.

Our beneficiary again this year will be “Aging in Place in Darien”, an initiative aimed at helping our Darien seniors stay in their homes with grace and dignity as long as possible.   To help Aging in Place become financially self sufficient, a modest admission ($5 per person/$10 per family) will be charged for the first time. 

 For more information, call 655-2510 or email: 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Small business turns to the tea party -

This IS news. Small business owners who want lower taxes and less regulation are favoring the Tea Party. I'm all for small government. But we also have to keep some regulation and some government services.

Sometimes, we really need government. I think without government going after BP, all the small businesses affected by the BP oil spill would go out of business. They could go bankrupt. Plus, many small businesses sell to the government. Obama is making BP set up a fund to help all these business owners to save their livelihoods.

I was just in Sequoia Kings Canyon. Wow. Our national parks are a treasure we all can enjoy. Truly, they are America's best idea. Something tells me the Tea Party folks would have fought the establishment of the NPS and the creation of our parks.

Think about it. Then, read the article -- link below.

Small business turns to the tea party -

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A New Online Newspaper for Darien, CT

Last week I met the founders of a new local daily online newspaper called The Daily Darien. I love new businesses and learning about how industries are dealing with change. Everyone knows that print newspapers are in decline. That's why my town's two weekly print papers have online editions and use email and Twitter to keep their readers up to date. But it's fascinating to see online-only start-ups whose owners think can stand alone as local papers.

 Competition is good, but how many newspapers can my little town of 20,000 residents support? We now have six -- two print and four online: The Darien Times (in print and online), The Darien News (print and online), the Darien Patch (online) and The Daily Darien (online). Newspapers are getting like banks! How many can our little town support? Time will tell. (Full disclosure, I was a columnist for the Darien Times for 13 years.) Combine this with the fact that our surrounding cities have papers that are also competing for readers and advertising dollars. These include the  Stamford Advocate, the Norwalk Hour and New York City's Post, Times, Daily News and Wall Street Journal. They all appear in print and electronic versions.

I've often thought that local news, advertising and search are the last untapped areas of the internet. Truly, finding small local businesses online is really hard. Half the time, I resort to the print classifieds or the Yellow Pages out of frustration. But with online newspapers, maybe all this will change.

The thing I liked about The Daily Darien was the intelligence of the management team. They gave a great presentation, demonstrating how they would make it easy to keep up on local news through their website, not only in our own town, but also surrounding towns. It will be easier to get the local news and information about local businesses that we want to read. I believe this start-up has a chance to make good on its promises because The Daily Darien is not alone. The owners have started similar online newspapers in neighboring towns. The set up reminds me of Gannett. And they are recruiting locals to act as advisers to tell them what they need to do.

But I mostly believe that the paper has a chance because the CEO, Carll Tucker, is really good at putting words together. He is clearly very intelligent. I tried to remember some of the great things he said, like "newspapers have stopped listening." "You can't have community without communication." "A free press has to be a profitable press."

He has a great team, including bright, internet-savvy tech and sales people, seasoned reporters, and Jane Bryant Quinn, who has been a financial writer for Newsweek.

I'm going to keep looking at The Daily Darien and compare it to their online competition. It will be interesting to see what happens. The good news is that folks in Darien can't complain that they don't have up-to-the minute local news coverage online.