photo by Michael Miller

Ask the Expert: Richard Upton, venture capital

Thursday, October 1, 2009 - One in a hundred could be the odds of small-business success seeking investment capital, but if you don’t do your homework you’ll be a longshot, at best.

That’s the advice from our “Ask-the-Expert” guest for October, Richard Upton of Harbor Light Capital Partners, a private investment firm that invests in early- and growth-stage companies in the Northeast.

In an article posted exclusively on and, Upton says most venture capital firms “evaluate over 100 opportunities for each investment consummated.” Those are long odds to start with, but Upton goes on to add valuable insights on the selection process and the steps that will help businesses improve their chances.

His article details “the most important factor in your ability to secure venture capital” (the experience and talent of the senior management team), points out the importance of evaluating the size and growth rate of your target market, assesses the proprietary nature of your product or service and why that is important, and explains why having a scalable business model is preferred.

Upton also writes about the upcoming Speed Venture Summit Oct. 28 in Nashua , where he and his partners at Harbor Light Capital Partners will participate in what he calls the state’s “premier event for fast-growth businesses and investors.”

On Thursday, at and, Upton will kick off the third year of Ask the Expert, a popular online forum where newspaper readers and Web visitors can ask questions of local business experts and receive e-mailed responses.

The partnership between the Amoskeag Business Incubator, which created Ask the Expert, and the Union Leader, has offered readers and visitors 24 months of expert commentary on common business ideas and ideals, from accounting to ethics and IT to social networking. Readers are invited to submit questions through an online link, which will be answered and posted to both Web sites.

Upton founded and was president of Upton Advisors LLC, a boutique investment bank serving middle market and emerging health-care companies throughout the U.S. He has been advising early- and growth-stage companies since 1992 both as a senior health-care investment banker for Salomon Brothers and later as an independent advisor.

He has completed engagements representing aggregate transaction values in excess of $5 billion, served on the board of directors of six companies and helped start four companies.

He has an MBA from The Darden School at the University of Virginia and a dual bachelor’s degree in economics and English from Amherst College.

The “Ask-the-Expert” series — where past experts remain posted on the Web sites — has offered topics for discussion including international trade, tax management, government contract procurement, patents, trademarks and copyrights, disaster preparedness for business technology and leveraging the Internet for marketing success.

Access to the Experts series is at both Web sites, where visitors can click on the "Experts" tab in the business channel and submit questions. Past experts, who remain available for questions, have covered topics on venture capital, patents, trademarks and copyrights, disaster preparedness for business technology and leveraging the Internet for marketing success.

The ABI at 33 S. Commercial St., Manchester, provides affordable office space and technical assistance to early stage companies. For information, contact the ABI at 629-9511, or visit : Ask the Expert