Brave New Economy
Start-ups, dot-coms, e-businesses
Laurentians are bringing their
liberal arts education to bear on the "new economy" in a wide
array of ways.
Jenkins Alford '96
The Dot-com Life
For Hilary Alford, working at a dot-com was "an unbelievable experience."
Two years ago, she was one of the first 50 corporate employees to join
the staff of Streamline.com, an online grocery company that also offers
such services as dry cleaning and film developing delivery. As a field
marketing manager, her duties included coordinating sponsorship opportunities,
making corporate presentations and attending community events to put
a human face on the dot-com industry. "I was a sociology major
at St. Lawrence, so my classes were about people and society, and that
relates centrally to the dot-com field," Alford says.
Alford adds, "Dot-coms offer a real relationship-building opportunity."
She says the dot-com environment fosters teamwork. "No one ever
does just what they're asked to do; they go above and beyond,"
Alford's husband, Jonathan '96, is also part of the "new economy."
He works for Brainshark, a company that makes software for adding voice
to PowerPoint presentations. And even though Streamline.com's future
is up in the air and Alford was part of a recent division-wide layoff,
she says employment with a more traditional company, with its less stimulating
environment, does not appeal to her. "I can't even imagine doing
anything traditional after being at a dot-com," she says.
--Tanya Parrott '96
Technically Speaking, A Financial Writer
Beth Angerosa graduated from St. Lawrence with a double major in English
writing and music. The liberal arts being what they are, that naturally
qualified her to be a financial writer for IDEAglobal, an online company
that does financial forecasting and analysis, covering everything from
equities to fixed income to currency trading. IDEAglobal is headquartered
in Singapore, with offices in London, New York, Fort Worth, San Francisco
Angerosa's task is to filter what the analysts forecast and explain
the implications for the general economy, interest rates or currency
trading. "I write for a few different online sites," says
Angerosa. "People buy our products or access our Web sites. They
can have round-the-clock access to financial advice, minute-by-minute
market summaries, regional calendars of economic events and the like."
A great deal of Angerosa's research is accomplished through computer-based
research tools, as well as over the good old-fashioned telephone.
Angerosa is convinced that St. Lawrence's liberal arts education gave
her the foundation skills needed to compete in a world that is changing
at an increasingly fast pace. "This is especially true when I think
about today's 'new economy,' where dot-coms and Internet start-up companies
are increasingly prevalent in everyday life," says Angerosa. "Although
I did not specifically study finance and economics, St. Lawrence provided
me with a broad-based education, which allows me not only the flexibility
to choose my area of expertise, but also the ability to comprehend it.
"St. Lawrence's writing program trained me as a journalist, and
as a journalist I have to do everything from interviewing political
candidates to describing how political turmoil in Argentina affects
government bonds in Brazil," says Angerosa. "Thanks to the
training I received as an undergraduate, and the skills I developed
through meeting the demands of my professors at St. Lawrence, I feel
that I can tackle any challenge, even working at a fast-paced, highly
demanding, high-tech financial analysis firm."
--Eveline Carlen '01
Eleven thousand. Twenty-seven million. Nineteen billion. Eighty billion.
Betsy Bernard lives large.
As executive vice president of the Denver-based telecommunications company
Qwest National Mass Markets, Bernard leads an 11,000-person organization.
Her challenge over the past few years has been to help transform a traditional
organization into a new-economy powerhouse that can effectively market
and sell data, Internet and wireless services to a mass audience.
"I'm proud to say we now lead the industry in these capabilities,"
Qwest National Mass Market works with 27 million consumers and small
businesses, generating one-third of parent corporation Qwest Communications'
$19 billion revenue stream. Qwest, she says, represents a new model
telecommunications company in a new economy: a large-cap, high-growth
company that's been around only since 1997 and that, through a series
of strategic acquisitions, has a market capitalization in the $80 billion
range. Its mission is to be a leader in Internet and broadband services,
nationally and internationally.
Such success takes drive, intelligence and courage, and Bernard credits
her "fantastic liberal arts education" with developing her
fundamental skill set.
"I learned the value of being outside my comfort zone when I spent
the second semester of my sophomore year in Kenya," she says. "My
first few nights there were on a tea plantation in a one-room house
with a family of eight."
At St. Lawrence, she says, she learned to read, write, analyze, synthesize
and critically evaluate information; she learned communications skills,
both written and verbal; she learned to be excited about being in different
cultures and situations. And she experienced being part of a team, and
being its leader, through athletics and student life roles.
Her 25 years in the telecommunications industry have taught her this
lesson: "treat every experience as an opportunity to learn. Failures
can actually teach more than success." --Lisa M. Cania M'82
John Colston '79
Now that an Internet connection is as much a part of a standard college
residence hall room as a bed, lamp or desk, "No one is remote any
more," according to John Colston.
Colston is a former America Online executive who worked at the firm
while it went from a company with 200 employees to a huge one. He is
now a consultant to and investor in high-tech firms that sell Web-based
products. How does he decide which companies to get behind?
"I think people are more important than business plans,"
he says. "Business plans can change. I invest in the people who
make up a company."
Colston was an intern at Microsoft while in business school, after
10 years in television news. "I'm very bullish on the liberal arts,
and especially on study abroad," he says, noting his experience
in Kenya. "Our 20s is the decade for experimenting. You rarely
know where you'll end up professionally, but remaining flexible to all
career possibilities maximizes your potential."
That's true of Colston, who lives in Maryland and the Adirondacks,
where he's become involved in efforts to get a natural history museum
near Tupper Lake off the ground. "My St. Lawrence education prepared
me to do just about anything," he notes. "I certainly developed
the communication skills I needed. My only regret is that I didn't study
another semester abroad, in addition to Kenya. The overseas experience
has literally as well as figuratively helped me see things from a global
perspective." --Macreena Doyle
William Cowan '86
Bill Cowan was a student at St. Lawrence at a time when the Internet
was still a figment of the imagination. Today, Cowan's Web-based business,
@Outcome, is thriving in a world where reliance on the Internet is growing
Based in Austin, Texas, @Outcome (Web address: www.atoutcome.com) links
people in health care through technology. Cowan, who is president and
chief executive officer, says his company supplies technology that brings
medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and physicians
together to improve the process of care management.
Patient use of his service, he says, is guided by physicians. "It's
really powerful technology that helps patients participate in a greater
way in their own care," he explains. "It's not a generic Web
site. It's targeted technology."
The company, which employs 75 people, has been well received by the
industry because it helps to improve the flow of information among all
segments of health care. "We're helping to improve dramatically
what the health care industry is doing today," Cowan says.
Cowan adds that the recent shakeup in the dot.com industry is proof
that all businesses must follow realistic revenue models. He says he
has always been somewhat cynical about differentiating between the "old"
and "new" economies, but he acknowledges that technology is
taking people places they never used to be able to go.
"I think technology has progressed to the point where we can solve
problems today in ways we couldn't years ago," he says. "We're
able to apply new kinds of information solutions."
All Web-based companies must employ their share of "techies,"
but Cowan says he has plenty of people who were educated at liberal
arts universities like St. Lawrence. "The thing that drives us
as a successful company is the people who solve problems, think critically
and have good interpersonal skills, abilities you pick up at a liberal
arts college," he says. "You deal with a broad base of people.
Having a wide educational background like St. Lawrence provides is a
The Information Dirt Road
Ian Grant has started and sold three Internet companies in the last
five years. He says he learned how to do that while stranded beside
a lonely dirt road in Kenya.
"While on St. Lawrence's program, I was dropped off in the middle
of nowhere to meet my rural host family," Grant explains. "But
there was no one there. I had a small flash of panic, but quickly an
inner confidence that I could do this took over. Ninety minutes later,
my host mother arrived with one of the warmest smiles I have ever seen.
I learned that day that I could stretch my comfort zone."
Stretching his comfort zone is what Grant has been doing ever since.
In 1994, after quitting the Boston real estate scene and spending a
year back in Kenya, he and a partner co-founded PlanetResume.com, one
of the original Internet resume database recruiting services in America.
Taking a more localized approach than their few competitors, such as
Monster.com, they were profitable immediately.
Next up was HotChili Technology, launched in 1996 on the theory that
companies would rather have someone else manage resume flows, as part
of the job search and recruitment stream, over the Internet. That theory
Grant's current venture, VillageGenie.com, "started up" in
late 1999. He defines it through example: "Many college alumni
find the value of their education declining over time, and colleges
don't have a system in place to tackle this. We help the colleges establish
that system by creating modules for them, such as career advice, health
care and financial management, that keep alumni coming back." He
sold VillageGenie.com to Lee Hecht Harrison, a global career services
firm specializing in outplacement, career development and executive
coaching that is a division of Adecco SA, in December 2000.
As his companies' self-described "chief visionary officer,"
Grant is skeptical of the term "new economy." "It's the
same old economy, but with new ways of doing it," he avows. "The
basic laws haven't changed: supply and demand, finding a niche, hiring
good people, providing good service.
"A good liberal arts foundation is still the best preparation,"
Grant continues. "What I learned at St. Lawrence was how to learn,
solve problems, stretch my comfort zone and take risks. That has enabled
me to lead a liberal arts kind of life."
Erin Halliwell '98
Playing the Internet Game
Uproar Network of New York City is a leading online game/entertainment
destination on the Web where visitors can play games like Family Feud,
Bingo and lotteries. Account executive Erin Halliwell sells advertising
space on Uproar's Web site. "We offer our users a wide variety
of online games," she says, adding that players can win monetary
prizes or vacations.
When asked what "the new economy" means to her, Erin laughingly
responds, "It's given me a job." She describes the Internet
industry as "very young and fast-paced. That in itself makes it
very exciting. As a Top 20 site we have a lot of leverage and can draw
larger advertisers and can market to a broader demographic spectrum.
There is never a dull moment," she says.
Halliwell has witnessed rapid change in the Internet Industry in a short
time, a testament to the transient nature of the "new economy."
"I started at Uproar a year ago and it was a definitive start-up,"
she recalls. "We didn't have many resources. I've seen it progress
rapidly to a corporation that has acquired two other companies."
When asked the direction she believes Internet companies are going,
she predicts that mergers and acquisitions will become more prevalent.
"Some companies will either go bankrupt or will be picked up by
larger dot-coms," she says. "A couple of years ago the Internet
industry created a huge number of jobs. In today's market there is a
new dot-com going broke every day and agencies are laying people off.
The market is really soft right now."
An environmental studies-psychology major at SLU, Halliwell recalls
working with Professor Tom Greene, psychology, on projects that proved
pertinent to her career path. "I gained knowledge not found in
a textbook," she says. "I was able to expand my horizons beyond
my immediate environment, and that's what the 'new economy' is all about."
--Rachael Leiserson '98
Financing a Transformation
Want to find out the value of an Internet start-up? Or learn the risk
of acquiring a particular Internet company? Amit Jain, an investment
banking financial analyst in the field of e-finance at Salomon Smith
Barney, a premier Wall Street investment bank, could provide the answers.
"We not only help companies raise capital, either through public
markets or private investors, but also advise them on mergers and acquisitions,"
Jain explains. "I use financial modeling techniques to find the
right value of a company and to analyze outcomes of mergers and acquisitions."
The position also requires analysis of "competitive landscapes
of different e-finance industry sectors like online brokerages, e-payments,
smart cards, online financial services, electronic exchanges and others,"
Jain's year and a half in e-finance have led him to believe that "the
'new economy' is generating massive global efficiencies through an explosion
in the use of high-tech devices and is an economic transformation as
profound as the one that led us into the Industrial Revolution. In this
truly global marketplace you have to stay on your toes at all times
to keep up with the competition," he notes.
Jain recalls his time at St. Lawrence as influential because it provided
him an opportunity to acquire leadership ability and be a team player
in diverse arenas. "I was very involved in campus activities,"
he says, adding, "if I had gone to a big national university it
would have been much harder for me to build such strong rapport with
the faculty and my peers. The liberal arts education encourages you
to work in a team and think creatively," he says.
"Those are keys to success in the 'new economy.'"
--Rachael Leiserson '99
A Blank Piece of Paper
Does the president and CEO of Forbes.com believe that there is a "new
economy"? Yes. But
Seeing the Internet as a "catalyst for innovation," Jeff Killeen
'75 believes that we are in a phase of speculation. "Sooner or
later, there will always be a separation of good ideas and good business
ideas. The fundamentals of business don't disappear," he says.
"You eventually have to deliver value to the customer, and be profitable."
A player in the Internet world since its early days, Killeen knows
how to do both. Lured to California in 1994, he began his first online
venture in a cooperation between Pacific Bell and the Los Angeles Times.
"We created the first electronic shopping service, At Hand, through
a merger of the yellow pages and the classifieds," he says. (Think
Moving back to New York in 1998, Killeen brought the entrepreneurial
spirit of the Internet to two iconic brands, first as CEO of BarnesandNoble.com
in 1998 and moving on to launch Forbes.com in 2000. "Big brands
are going to be increasingly important on the Internet," he says.
"The surge in technology creates a platform to run one's business
better, faster, cheaper. It's not that you throw the old business model
away, you just embrace the new technology to do it better."
Accountable for all aspects of the strategic and operational management
of Forbes.com, Killeen believes that St. Lawrence prepared him for his
career by teaching him "to deal effectively with a blank piece
of paper." He credits St. Lawrence with giving him the ability
to communicate, do research and "think broadly, almost philosophically,"
about business. St. Lawrence, he says, also prepared him to "present
ideas and concepts clearly and effectively," in a career that has
often found him recommending things that have never been done before.
Killeen believes that the role of a liberal arts education is "fundamentally
to teach one how to think." It comes as no surprise then, that
his advice to those starting out in the new business world is "don't
ever stop being a student of your business."
--Dawn-Marie Webster '96
Heather Lennon '91
Tradition, with a Twist
When I spoke with Heather Lennon, she had just returned from meeting
with Amazon.com personnel on the West Coast, a confirmation that one
aspect she says she loves about her job is the opportunity to travel.
Lennon is an on-line sales manager at HarperCollins in New York City,
marketing children's books to on-line retailers. She describes her job
as a traditional position with "a 'new economy' twist."
In addition to traveling, Lennon also enjoys the creative aspects of
online product placement and marketing. She coordinates author interviews
and author essays that appear on Web sites to promote featured books.
The introduction of book-selling on the Web has also afforded her an
opportunity to market differently. "Working online is like working
in a store that has no limits. You can be a lot more creative because
you aren't confined to a store with shelves," she says.
Lennon says the "new economy" broadens the choice in jobs.
"I graduated in 1991 in the middle of a recession," she says,
noting that now there are "so many more communication-oriented
positions available" for new graduates.
When asked how SLU helped shape some of her professional skills, she
responded, "being at a small school, I had a lot of opportunities."
For example, English Professor Joe Bellamy encouraged her to become
an editor of The Laurentian, and she was also an intern in the office
of University communications. "If I had gone to a really large
school I don't know if I would have been able to do those things,"
she says. "I felt comfortable sticking my neck out."
--Rachael Leiserson '99
E. McClain P'04
The More Things Change
The opportunities of the dot-com world attract young folks of all ages.
Take Bob McClain for example. Co-founder and executive officer of PLmarket.com,
a year-old e-commerce company that specializes in marketing private
label (store-brand) products and increasing their profitability, he
sounds like any of the dozens of new St. Lawrence graduates who head
into cyberspace each year-except for the fact that he received his college
degree in 1972 from the University of Dayton.
"It's a bigger world out there today, and there are more and more
ways to connect with it," says McClain, whose son Matthew is a
first-year student at St. Lawrence. The elder McClain adds that the
Internet is the most obvious, but not only, demonstration of that fact.
With more than 25 years of experience in the private-label industry
under his belt, he says that to him the "new economy" isn't
that much of a departure from the old.
"It's a faster, more informed world," he says, "and
that kind of atmosphere benefits both consumers and manufacturers."
His basic job, though, hasn't changed. "I work to create and build
a brand so that it is interesting to consumers," he says. Martha
Stewart products and Kathie Lee Gifford's line of clothing, for example,
fall under the private-label umbrella, he explains, noting that "Those
names are something that consumers can relate to and recognize,"
which he translates to an increased customer base for retailers.
"In many ways the old economy will always be with us," says
McClain. "Stakeholder values are not going to change." In
these times of explosive and sudden growth, of fortunes made overnight
and initial public offerings right and left, investors are still demanding
results-one important aspect of McClain's world that hasn't changed
All that aside, "The 'new economy' is an exciting thing for me,"
McClain concludes, adding that he looks forward to the new challenges,
changes and advances that the future holds for us all.
--Joe Kerper '00
Warren "Barry" Phelps '69
The Joy of Being Used
The 'new economy' needs Barry Phelps. It can't proceed precisely without
him, actually. For every time you access the Internet and the information
appears correctly on your screen, Barry Phelps, group chief operating
officer and Broadband Division president of Sprint Communications, is
the one to thank.
His company's performance-measuring products may have a little to do
with this process. But under Phelps's direction, every piece of electronic
information now available on the Internet passes through systems that
have been designed, manufactured or evaluated with Sprint Communications
Phelps admits, "Everyone uses us." From Cisco Systems to
Internet service providers to the newest start-up, every company needs
Sprint's products in order for its systems to operate properly. To Phelps,
this very variety represents his idea of the "new economy."
He thrives on the pace, the daily challenges and the excitement of
his industry and credits his success to the skills he developed while
at St. Lawrence. "The technical skills take you only so far,"
Phelps explains. "You need the communication skills - both written
and verbal - and the problem-solving skills to get to the next rung
--Gretchen von Schlegell '94
David Powell Sr. '59
Report from Silicon Valley
Dave Powell knows the Silicon Valley. "I was lucky to land there
in the late '60s," he says. "The phenomenon was just beginning."
He grew with it, first working for some leading high-tech companies,
then setting out on his own "to create a business that provided
services to the emerging venture capital (VC) community and the high-tech
and biotech start-up companies the VCs spawned," he explains.
Today, 25 years later, he has 80 employees and four businesses under
the eponymous umbrella David Powell Inc., reaching into such areas as
executive search, interim finance services and business mentoring to
portfolio start-ups (for details, go to www.davidpowell.com). One of
his companies provides these services to the growing European and Asian
VCs "that want the Silicon Valley 'DNA,'" he says, and he
has just opened an office in Austin, Texas, because Austin "has
all the opportunities and instincts the Silicon Valley had 20 years
From his headquarters in Woodside, Cal., Powell says, "The 'new
economy' is no more than businesses, organizations and agencies that
have been created or enhanced by high technology. Almost everyone is
part of it. It's a market and a process, and most of all an attitude.
It's a 'can do' spirit.
"When I graduated from St. Lawrence there were no computers on
campus, and now every incoming student is not only computer-literate,
but lives by computers, wireless hand-held devices and the Internet,"
the principal tools of the "new economy," Powell notes. He
says St. Lawrence needs to adapt its curriculum and its faculty to this
"new kind of student." He has urged President Sullivan to
"continue to imagine ways to strengthen the curriculum to stimulate
entrepreneurial thought leaders, a course of study that will stretch
a student's intellect and confidence.
"What I learned at St. Lawrence that helped me the most in building
(my) firm came from dealing with people, providing leadership and learning
to be honest and decent," he says. "That's not part of the
liberal arts curriculum, but it's certainly part of a liberal arts education."
Getting in the Game Online
When he was introduced to speak at his Commencement as the Class of
1990 president, Mitch Thrower's career objective was described as "international
business and business development." That turned out to be pretty
accurate, even though, at the time, Thrower's realm -- the Internet
-- was years away from general consciousness.
Thrower is co-founder and vice president for strategic development
at Active.com, the leading online registration company for participatory
sports and recreational activities, based in La Jolla, Cal.; he's currently
leading the company's international expansion. Through the Active.com
Web site, you can find calendars, content, community features and training
tools for a wide range of sports and activities, as well as locate,
learn about and register online for events and activities. Thrower's
primary focus now is taking the features of Active.com to a global audience.
"Everything changes and everything moves very fast," Thrower
says, describing not only business in the "new economy," but
also life in general. "You have to be ready to adapt." He
should know -- he came to St. Lawrence to play lacrosse, but switched
gears after fracturing both knees. Instead of athletics, Thrower's extracurricular
life revolved around the debate team, which he led to several championships.
"St. Lawrence is a great school for learning how to establish
relationships," he says. "The Internet economy is all about
relationship architecture -- bringing people together to get stuff done.
And I really learned how to do that at St. Lawrence."
As an example, Thrower talks about how he started running with his
roommate during his senior year. That simple act of getting involved
in an activity to spend more time with a friend led, he says, "to
my passion for participatory sports." The word "passion"
doesn't overstate it -- he is a seven-time Ironman finisher, a long-distance
runner and recreational triathlete. Thrower also began his first business,
College Connection, while a student at St. Lawrence.
Asked what advice he'd have for today's University students as they
prepare to start careers in the "new economy," Thrower says,
"Use your time there to figure out what you're passionate about.
If you can figure out a way to have a job doing something you're absolutely
passionate about, you can't go wrong." --Macreena Doyle
A Year is Only Three Months
Here is how the "new economy" has impacted the world of
advertising: in the "old economy," I talk, you listen; in
the "new economy," we have a conversation.
I moved to Grey Interactive this summer after four years in traditional
advertising, looking to explore the new world of e-business. What I
found was a lot of complicated jargon and a "space" that seemed
completely different. I was overwhelmed. So I surfed religiously, learned
the new dot-com language, and have come to realize that the "new
economy" is not as different as it may appear.
Technology allows me a more direct dialog with the customers I've been
trying to talk to all along. Rather than interrupt them to deliver a
message through television or print ads, now I can invite them to interact
with my client's brand personally through an ad or a Web site. The challenge
is to use tools like personalization and real-time response to provide
the customer with a benefit in the advertising itself. And online the
customer is the one deciding whether or not to see your ad, so you'd
better offer something more interesting than an old-fashioned product
St. Lawrence prepared me well for the challenges of the new advertising
world. With the interdisciplinary approach to teaching at St. Lawrence,
I learned how to "search and reapply" knowledge to new challenges.
St. Lawrence also gave me a thirst to learn about and try new things,
and since they keep telling me that on the Internet a year is only about
three months, I'll have plenty of learning to do. --DMW
Circa1960. The busy executive presses an intercom button and says "Betty,
get me Mr. Johnson on the phone." Betty consults her Rolodex, places
the call and ultimately connects the executive with Mr. Johnson, all
while the executive continues to work on that important report.
Fast forward to 2001. Betty's updating the Web site and Mr. Johnson
(or Ms. Johnson) has an office number, cell phone, pager, e-mail address
and fax number. Tracking him (or her) down is a full-time job.
Jon Wheeler'80, senior vice president of sales and marketing of Axiom
8, is working to solve that problem. Launched in spring 2000, Axiom
8, with 100 employees, is in product development, client recruitment
and beta testing for the "only integrated communications software
on the Internet." The company's goal is to create a tool for people-to-people,
real-time communication, thereby enhancing service and effectiveness.
"It's merging telephone and data, using software to 'search' for
contacts, friends, family," says Wheeler. "I could say, out
loud, 'Find Lisa' and my computer will search through all available
ways to communicate with you until it locates the one method that will
put us in touch immediately." Wheeler allowed that some people
don't want to be "found" at a particular moment, and the software
makes it possible for its users to establish availability parameters.
The chemistry major sees a direct correlation between his St. Lawrence
education and the skill set he brings to this new business. "I'm
always asking 'what's our hypothesis?' and then challenging myself and
colleagues to find the evidence to support or disprove the theories.
Also, my work requires me to respect a broad diversity of opinion, to
realize that no single point of view is the 'right' one. I learned that
in the St. Lawrence classroom, " he avows. --Lisa M. Cania M'87
Michael Wishart '78
Fueling the New Economy
Despite the implications in the term, the "new economy" doesn't
include just Internet companies, according to Michael Wishart, an investment
banker with Goldman Sachs in Silicon Valley, Calif.
"It's not just the young businesspeople wearing black T-shirts
who are using new technology to be successful; established companies
like Ford are also using the Internet (to promote or sell merchandise),"
Wishart says the term "new economy" is "a misnomer"
because using technology in business is common among all businesses.
"The Internet isn't a business; it's a tool for businesses,"
Wishart helps technology companies-- such as Intel and Cisco-- find
investors when they want to "go public," or offer stock for
sale on the stock market. If he determines that a company has the potential
to remain successful, he helps arrange the "IPO," or initial
A mathematics and economics double major at St. Lawrence, Wishart says
a quantitative background has been essential throughout his career.
He adds that a liberal arts education will be more important in the
future, as opposed to a specialized degree. "People who can take
a tremendous amount of information, distill it and make decisions will
be increasingly valuable," he says, explaining that information
will move faster and employees will have to be less specialized as the
economy continues to evolve.
-Eva Dunn-Froebig '98
Out of the Box: The Private Equity Gift Partnership
Dekkers Davidson '78 and his wife, Barbara Shea Davidson '77, wanted
to make a statement of support for St. Lawrence, but their assets were
largely tied up in private stock in AntiquesAmerica.com, where he was
chief executive. With the fate of the company uncertain, how could they
know what they could afford to give? They pledged 15 % of their equity,
or just over 1 % of the company, to St. Lawrence, to be paid later when
the company goes public, is acquired or otherwise liquidates the shares.
Time will tell what this gift will ultimately be worth.
Welcome to the brave new world of St. Lawrence philanthropy through
gift partnerships. Here's how it works - an individual who has been
granted equity, or "options" at a low price, completes a written
pledge agreement to contribute a percentage of his or her equity (or
number of shares) to the University, often for a specific project. After
the stock is liquidated-through an initial public offering (IPO) or
acquisition, for example-the donor transfers the shares to St. Lawrence
and may realize a significant tax benefit through the charitable deduction
and the avoidance of capital gain on the gift shares. The donor may
have to wait out a "lock-up" period, although it may be waived
for charitable purposes.
Says Davidson, "Whether you're a company founder, a management
executive, a venture capitalist or on the finance side taking a company
public, if you have stock or options in a privately held company you
should seriously consider this method of giving." Adds Director
of Major Gifts Michael Archibald, "The donor can state his or her
intentions for the University without making a specific dollar pledge.
As the donor prospers, so prospers St. Lawrence. Beyond the substantial
tax benefits, donors like the idea of peeling off a portion of their
gain to help with a project at the University."
St. Lawrence recognizes that not every start-up company succeeds and
that some commitments will not end in a substantial gift. "But,
when a company takes off it can result in a really special contribution
to St. Lawrence," Archibald says.
St. Lawrence has also established a mechanism to consider, and in certain
cases to accept, shares of stock while they are still privately held.
These gifts often do not provide the same tax benefit because the shares
are typically conservatively appraised in value prior to becoming marketable
Gift agreements are simple and non-binding. Donors wishing more information
about this program may contact Michael P. Archibald, Director of Major
Gifts, at 315-229-5507 or firstname.lastname@example.org.