Venture showcase put on ice

The Silver & Gold Venture Capital Conference an annual Reno event billed as the Intermountain West's premier venture capital event has been canceled this year.

The problem? Scant registration from companies that wanted to pitch their ideas to venture capital funds and individual investors.

As last week's registration deadline approached, only five companies had registered for the October event, said Dave Archer of Nevada's Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, one of the organizers of the conference.

Between 30 and 40 companies have made presentations at each of the eight previous Silver & Gold conferences in Reno.

"The interest on the investor side was as strong as ever," Archer said last week.

But investors aren't willing to put time and money into attendance at a conference to hear only a handful of presentations.

The Silver & Gold Venture Capital Conference has focused on entrepreneurial companies with big ideas concepts that could be scaled up to meet the demands of major markets.

In the past, the conference has drawn executives of young companies from Nevada, California and the Rocky Mountain region. Fifty to 100 investors, most of them from the West, attended previous conferences.

Presenting companies would pay $695 to make a 10-minute pitch to investors and mingle with them at other conference events.

Along with NCET, hosts of the conference have included California's Golden Capital Network, the Sierra Angels, the Reno Angels and the Vegas Valley Angels.

Archer has said the Silver & Gold Conference is particularly important in Nevada, which has few established channels to match entrepreneurs with venture capital funding sources.

The lack of interest from entrepreneurial companies didn't come as a complete surprise to conference organizers.

The Sierra Angels, an Incline Village group that pioneered early-stage angel investments in the region, has seen a modest slowdown as a result of the recession, said Bob Goff of the investment group.

And some angel and venture capital groups in the region, he said, have become pickier about their investments as the economy has slowed. That's led to increased interest in collaborative and risk-sharing efforts among angel-investment groups throughout Nevada and northern Nevada.

"But we continue to fund deals. We continue to add funding to our higher quality portfolio companies," Goff said.

He said members of Sierra Angels expect to see a steady increase in investment possibilities in early-stage companies as the national economy continues to right itself.

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