Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of interviews with leading technology executives in the Carolinas and Georgia about what to expect in the “nuclear winter” of 2009.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Ping Fu, former Inc. Magazine entrepreneur of the year and a winner of multiple other business awards, says executives face a tough balancing act in the tough year ahead.

Leaders must invest in order to capitalize on “best opportunities,” she told Local Tech Wire. At the same time, they must “manage the expenses for the worst case.”

Co-founder and chief executive officer of 3-D software firm Geomagic, Fu has been through the worst of times personally (growing up in the midst of China’s Cultural revolution) and in business (taking over Geomagic to make it profitable). She has raised outside capital, so she is familiar with the rigorous reviews entrepreneurs will face in 2009 when they attempt to land investors in tight credit markets.

For those businesses operating now, her bottom-line warning: “Do not run out of cash.”

Here’s the LTW Q&A with Ping Fu:

A “nuclear winter” appears to have descended upon us as a New Year begins. But in the last such "winter” the Internet and Web 2.0 emerged as entrepreneurs seized upon tough times to deliver innovation and to grow their businesses or start new ones, not just survive. What is your advice to fellow and would-be entrepreneurs entering the New Year – Conserve, cut or invest? None of these? Please explain.

Invest in business for the best opportunities and manage the expenses for the worst case. This is the best strategy for the time of uncertainty.

Who will be not just the survivors but the winners still standing when the recession ends sometime in 2009?

Carefully examine the winning moves. Downtime is good for thinking and thinning. Move some things from the to-do list to the not-to-do list so you can put the energy, capital on a few focused winning moves.

What is your biggest fear/concern entering the New Year?

People and companies will not spend money wisely due to fear.

Conversely, what are you most optimistic about?

I believe the 10 years ahead of us will be great. We are about to leave the 10 terrible years.

In what areas do you see opportunities for growth in 2009 – Means to help companies become more efficient? Enabling technology to help people do more with mobile devices? Investments in clean technology? Further evolution of the Web? Tell us what you think.

Green technology, software as services, alternative energy, space travel

If the IPO markets remained closed, how can life science, medical device and other capital-intensive startups best generate cash to keep investors onboard and the company doors open while pursing R&D?

DO NOT RUN OUT OF MONEY. This is what we call the DROOM strategy

What do you believe will be executives’ biggest challenges this year – Financing? Growing sales? Balancing the cutting of costs with need for R&D as well as consumer support?

Growing sales and cutting costs, these are opposite of two ends – an oxymoron.

Will venture financing tighten, especially for startups, as recent surveys have indicated? If so, how do you (or) your clients (or) your portfolio companies adapt?

There is a lot of venture financing out there. If you have a good company, you can get money. The valuation may be lower.

Do you believe off-shoring of jobs will increase this year? Please explain.

No, I think off-shoring jobs will be reduced; we certainly are doing so. You want to keep your key people who are typically at headquarters or homeland.

What advice would you offer to job-seekers in such a tough environment?

Be realistic that it may take longer for you to find a job and it may pay less than the previous job, but you can find one if you focus on performance and generate results for the company for which you want to work.