In an encouraging sign that the day of the high-flying start-up company might not be completely over, Oracle Hong Kong has announced the launch of Oracle VentureNetwork, a global online community, bringing together entrepreneurs and early stage ventures with supporting businesses and leading venture capital investors.
Through these partners, VentureNetwork offers new companies access to a range of information and resources from business plan composition tools to online contact management with venture capitalists for first round funding; operations and management services, such as legal and human resource consultancies; and online services that can help entrepreneurs manage day-to-day business operations.
Oracle says there are 50 companies live on the Asia Pacific site in the member and investor category. Venture capitalists that are supporting the project include techpacific.com, SUNeVision, AsiaTech Ventures, OCBC, Wearnes & Walden and Active Capital. Support services come from member companies such as law firm Kelley Drye and Warren and human resources company TMP Worldwide.
Investors are particularly keen on the online business plan composition tools provided by Oracle, as it will provide a standard format that makes it easier to filter out the type of companies, technology or experience that a particular venture capital fund is targeting.
In return for joining VentureNetwork, each venture capital company has undertaken to provide an initial response to business plan submissions within five days and give a final yes or no response within 30 days.
Oracle is providing the VentureNetwork service for free, following a similar strategy as with Oracle Sales Online, the online customer relationship management (CRM) service it launched last August.
Currently only 10% of Oracles business comes from the small enterprise sector, so by encouraging small start-ups in the technology sector seeking seed funding to grow their business, Oracle is trying both to increase demand and embed its brand and products in the brains of potential customers in this area.
"Asia will be a major focus for Oracle VentureNetwork," says Nick Arnold, senior director, e-Business Marketing, Oracle Asia Pacific Division, Oracle Corp. "The quality of companies that have already joined us as investors and service providers is a good indication of the confidence that these firms have in the vitality of new business initiatives from this region."
VentureNetwork has grown out of a pilot program Oracle launched in Europe in spring last year. Since then, over 3000 entrepreneurs have been registered and 1800 business plans submitted. Arnold says Oracle has no information on how many have gone on to receive funding, because other than providing the web site and applications, Oracle has no role in any relationship formed between a start-up company and investors.
Although there has been a slowdown in the growth of start-up companies, one industry analyst quoted by Oracle remains positive about the impact communities like Oracle VentureNetwork will have on the Asia-Pacific market. "Despite current market sentiment, there are still a lot of good ideas out there," comments Matt McGarvey, internet analyst for Greater China, International Data Corp (IDC).
Jonathan Hakim of tplabs, an incubator program run by techpacific.com, says that VentureNetwork is a complementary service to traditional incubator programs, adding an online communication element and useful planning tools to the physical infrastructure, networking and support services that companies like tplabs offer.
Oracle does have its own fund, the Oracle Venture Fund, but Arnold says it is managed completely separately from VentureNetwork and its not targeting companies in the seed financing stage. Instead, Arnold notes, Oracle Venture Fund is often invited in at a later stage by other venture capitalists seeking a strategic investor with a technology background.