Demonstrating that the high-tech sector isn’t dead in Atlanta, two companies that build investor forums are bringing together five budding firms and potential investors. The companies will have the opportunity to make a 12-minute pitch to try to entice local investors to ante up some cash.

Wired Capital, Inc., which is based in Houston, and The Gathering of Angels will host the event on Tuesday, Feb. 19 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Atlanta Mariott Northwest.

Wired Capital says that the presentations “are intended for general informational purposes on their respective industries” and that “these presentations in no way are intended to be a solicitations of investors for the companies.” But similar events hosted by Wired Capital around the country have led private investors to open their wallets for promising companies, says Bryan Emerson, the company’s founder and chairman.

“It is against Securities and Exchange Commission laws for a company to specifically indicate how much cash that it is seeking while in a public forum,” Emerson says. “But there have been many investments in the past as a result of our (speaking engagements).”

One example is Gexa Energy Corp., a Houston-based utility that sells electricity on the retail market in Texas, which landed a $1 million investment. Officials from Gexa refused to discuss the investment further with LocalTechWire.

Companies that will be discussing their industry at the event include Blue Hammock, a customer relationship management firm, Beta Dyne, Inc., a design-oriented electronic manufacturing company, SmartDesk International, an enterprise software company, Latino Health Care, which manages physician networks for the Latino community, and ConfiCasa, an international realty services company.

Outlook for Atlanta VC market promising

Research compiled by Venture Economics shows that venture capital investments across the U.S. were off more than 63 percent in 2001 compared to 2000. Last year, nationwide investments totaling $36.5 billion were made in 3,058 firms. In 2000, investors poured $99.6 billion into 5,324 companies.

In Georgia, through third quarter 2001, the most recent data available, $747 million was invested into 88 companies, while $2.6 billion lined the coffers of 181 firms through the same period the year before, according to Venture Economics.

Emerson says that companies in the biotechnology and nanotechnology sectors are emerging as bright spots in the national economic picture.

“We feel that Atlanta is a very important financial center, and it needs to be on the top of people’s lists” Emerson says. “We also realize that the country is going through a recession, and when it begins to turn around so will Atlanta and other cities like it. We want to be in a good position when that happens.”

Local efforts

There are some aggressive moves being made in Georgia to help propel it into the same light as biotech hotbeds like San Francisco, Boston, Austin and Raleigh/Durham to name a few. A recent report by Ernst & Young ranking The Peach State 11th in the U.S. in life sciences funding seems to indicate the state is on track to realize its goal.

Gov. Roy Barnes has proposed the creation of a $3 million seed capital fund for Georgia-based biotech firms, and officials with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce are crafting a plan for attracting new biotech firms and investment dollars to Fulton County.

And the Georgia Research Alliance, a collective partnership among the state’s research universities, business community and government officials whose goal is to see Georgia ranked among the top tier of technology states by 2010, plans to spend $22.5 million from its fiscal 2003 budget on biotech initiatives.