Marketing and Innovation Targeted for Success at the March WPI Venture Forum Meeting

Contact: WPI Venture Forum, +1-508-831-5075

WORCESTER, Mass. - Among the vast amounts of marketing literature, theories and techniques, not all approaches work as well in the high-tech start-up environment as they do for established businesses. With an impressive career in marketing and business development for noted companies in a variety of industries, Howard Hoffman is well qualified to provide valuable marketing insights regarding traditional, as well as non-traditional, marketing methods. On March 20, he will address the members and guests of Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Venture Forum in a presentation, "Marketing and Innovation," on successful marketing strategies for today's e-commerce world.

Venture Forum is held in Kinnicutt Lecture Hall, Salisbury Laboratories, on the WPI campus, 100 Institute Road, Worcester. Registration is at 6 p.m.; the meeting starts at 6:30. Admission is $5 for members and $10 for non-members.

Hoffman plans to throw out a few buzzwords and assess how applicable they are in today's fast-paced, technological environment. The concept of marketing, he notes, has evolved as businesses begin to understand that the classic focus of satisfying customers and gaining market share is not enough to guarantee success. Marketing must simultaneously ensure that corporate objectives, both qualitative and quantitative, are met.

How does the old adage, "Don't sell the steak, sell the sizzle," apply when thousands of dot-com businesses spring up daily - and just as many fold? Hoffman will explore ways conventional marketing wisdom and traditional marketing techniques must be adapted to meet the expectations and needs of today's emerging businesses. A veteran of Abbott Diagnostics, General Electric Medical Systems and Fisher Scientific, Hoffman teaches at Quinnipiac University and serves on the board of Biomedical Research Models.

Following Hoffman's talk, Venture Forum will present a business case by Barlow Keener, founder and CEO, and Fayette Collier, co-founder and EVP, for BrahmaCom of Needham, Mass., who will outline their strategy for competing as a local voice telephone and DSL provider. With DSL companies like HarvardNet and Digital Broadband closing their doors, it might seem DSL demand is waning. However, says Keener, in 2001, 3.4 million new DSL lines will be added to the existing base of 2.3 million. By 2004, there will be 17.4 million DSL lines, amounting to 4 million added each year.

In addition, the growth of second residential telephone lines is booming at a rate of more than 5 million per year. There is little "buzz" about the tremendous growth of these additional phone lines, however, since monopolies like Verizon almost exclusively provide that service.

BrahmaCom is positioning itself as an alternative local telephone utility company by providing second telephone lines as well as high-speed Internet access. BrahmaCom is also building "community area networks" allowing customers to easily use computer-to-computer videophoning. Customers are not expected to switch from Verizon local phone service, but to add BrahmaCom as their DSL and second phone line provider.

BrahmaCom faces tough competition from Verizon, cable companies like AT&T and competitive DSL companies. Keener and Collier will address the issue by explaining the federal government's mandate that Verizon give up its privileged monopoly status. That means competitors like BrahmaCom will take market share from Verizon. BrahmaCom also has a technical advantage over Verizon because it can provide its phone/DSL service 22,500 feet from a central office, a much farther reach than Verizon's 12,000 feet. Because BrahmaCom can place its equipment in any town's central office, it will be able to market in areas not currently served by high-speed Internet cable providers.

Unlike DSL competitors such as Covad, BrahmaCom will focus on small business and residential markets with its bundled package of DSL and phone service. BrahmaCom has already begun to provide local phone service and DSL in Natick, Mass., and will soon expand to Harbor Towers in downtown Boston and Framingham.

Keener has 16 years experience in legal, marketing and general management. He worked in the legal department at BellSouth, founded his own business and served as general counsel for a direct marketing company. He holds a law degree from Emory University and a master's degree in history from North Carolina Central University.

Collier has 18 years experience in project management at NASA, attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology as NASA's 1997 Sloan Fellow and holds a Ph.D. in engineering from Virginia Tech and an MBA from MIT.

A panel of experts will offer advice to BrahmaCom after Keener and Collier make their presentation. In addition to speaker Howard Hoffman, David Sung, a partner with Commonwealth Capital, will offer suggestions.

About the WPI Venture Forum

The WPI Venture Forum was created in 1990 to promote the entrepreneurial spirit and to serve those who engage in technology- based entrepreneurial enterprises by providing advice, support and education tailored to meet their needs. The forum fosters entrepreneurship through such activities as monthly programs, a business plan contest, a weekly radio show on News Radio WTAG (Saturdays, 5-7 pm, 580am), and a monthly newsletter.

The Venture Forum, as part of the Collaborative for Entrepreneurship & Innovation in the Department of Management at WPI, serves individuals who are seeking to begin their own technology-based businesses; founders, presidents, and senior managers of start-up or early-stage companies; senior managers of companies that are restarting or making a transition for one mode of operation to another; and employees leaving large companies due to a reduction in force or to start businesses.