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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Oct. 29, 2004 15 years ago

Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)

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This week's items: Panel discusses what venture capitalist wantJack Day seems to be leading the endorsement parade against Cynthia NewtonCavey Slowik & Hudson reoganizes after Slowik-Eldridge departure

Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)

Whatis hot?

The letters iPh.D.i followed many names at this yearis entrepreneurial boot camp, sponsored by the Tampa Bay Technology Forum.

The nametags of participants at the two-day seminar hosted by the University of Tampa suggest some have been working out of local research labs rather than their garages. Eggheads wanting to move from the campus to the boardroom o thatis a good sign for the area economy.

Coffee Talk dropped in on an Oct. 26 panel discussion among investment bankers and an intellectual-property attorney who were telling the bootstrapping boot campers which startup ideas are getting seed capital these days.

No longer do venture capitalists think, as the attorney Brent C. J. Britton put it, iitis got to be wild and crazy and something your grandmother canit understand.i

The VC firms, gun-shy after their rout following the Internet bust, are looking for entrepreneurs whose plans are infused with reality.

Tate A. Garrett, a senior vice president at Advantage Capital Partners in Tampa, says what he calls ireal homeland security companiesi are in favor. A stream of federal dollars is almost guaranteed for any innovator who comes up with a better way to inspect cargo coming into U.S. ports with little hassle, says Garrett.

Barry Alpert, managing director for business development at Raymond James Financial, says his St. Petersburg firm is big into getting new regional airlines off the ground.

The panelists say they would take a look at a business plan for a life sciences venture. But they strongly hinted they would drop a project predicated on Web advertising like it was covered with anthrax.

One final piece of advice from Britton, of counsel at Akerman, Senterfitt & Eidson PA, Tampa, who once worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technologyis Media Lab. Avoid buzzwords in your business plan and get to the point of how you intend to make money.

Anybody who writes, ithey leverage synergies,i is bound for the reject pile, says Britton.

Ladiesi man

Pinellas-Pasco circuit judge candidate Jack Day seems to be leading the endorsement parade against Assistant Public Defender Cynthia Newton in the Nov. 2 runoff.

Day gained the blessing of the three men whom he and Newton bested in the September primary. But the St. Petersburg attorney must have thought he was vulnerable with women voters against Newton, who came out ahead of all four men in last monthis voting.

Thus, an Oct. 21 news release from the Day campaign announcing that more than 30 prominent female attorneys and public officials are choosing him over Newton.

The Day supporters listed by the campaign include St. Petersburg councilwomen Rene Flowers and Virginia Littrell, Pinellas County School Board members Janet Clark and Linda Lerner, along with attorneys Patricia F. Anderson, Pamela A.M. Campbell, Tamara Dudley, Kathleen Ford and Alison Steele.

New beginnings

For years, St. Petersburgis Cavey Slowik & Hudson offered clients a team approach to solving workersi compensation, ERISA and Social Security disputes. Now the law firm Nancy L. Cavey founded has one less resource available.

Cavey and partner, Kathleen R. Hudson, are reorganizing the firm with the departure of Deborah L. Slowik-Eldridge, now an associate at Abbey Adams Byelick Kiernan Mueller & Lancaster LLP.

The job at Abbey Adams was too good of an opportunity to pass up, says Slowik-Eldridge.

Matter of coincidence

No one seems to recall controversy years ago over the decision by the Hillsborough County Bar Association to honor retired U.S. Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf with the Liberty Bell award. Not so with this yearis decision to honor retired U.S. Army Gen. Tommy Franks.

Bar member Susan Fox sponsored a petition drive to rescind the honor for Franks, who will speak at noon Wednesday, Nov. 3, at the annual Bench & Bar luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, downtown Tampa. Fox and others criticize the group for honoring Franks during political turmoil and so near the presidential election.

But William J. Schifino Jr., the associationis president, says the groupis Liberty Bell award committee picked Franks for the award last April in anticipation of giving it to him at the annual Law Day luncheon last May. However, scheduling conflicts prevented Franks from attending in May and in September.

There is no hidden political agenda, Schifino says, noting the selection committee included Democrats and Republicans.

Bar opposed to Amendment 3

The Florida Bar Board of Governors voted to oppose Amendment 3, a proposed amendment on the Nov. 2 general election ballot that would limit lawyersi contingency fees in medical malpractice cases.

In a press release, bar President Kelly Overstreet Johnson said ithe amendment strikes at fundamental legal rights, and will limit citizen access to our court system o which is of immense concern to the bar. The baris role is to regulate lawyers and protect access to the courts, both of which are affected by Amendment 3.i

The proposed amendment o backed by the Florida Medical Association o would limit contingency fees to 30% of the first $250,000 awarded and to 10% above that.

iAmendment 3 would place unreasonable limits on the ability of private parties to contract in the normal course of legitimate business, setting a dangerous precedent not only for lawyers but for other professionals,i said Johnson.

eGreat candidatesi

Unsuccesful judicial candidate Brad Souders offers an endorsement in the Hillsborough County judge race that pits Henry Gill against Elizabeth Rice in the upcoming runoff.

iI equally endorse both, because I think theyire equally great candidates,i he says.

Rice enters the final stretch with a considerable advantage over Gill. At the Aug. 31 primary, she won 48.45% of the vote o about 1.6% shy of the 50% majority needed. Gill earned 25.95%, beating Souders by less than a percent.

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