Fred Allegrezza is hoping that the seventh time is the charm.
The longtime Philadelphia entrepreneur and Drexel graduate, fresh off AnySource Media’s sale to DIVX for $15 million, is trying his hand at something new. Again.
As Chairman of AnySource, Allegrezza capped off a run of six companies which were acquired, most in the cable industry. Now he’s the CEO and co-investor in Venture 3 systems based in Chalfont. The company’s first product, the Telikin was released on Black Friday.
“My interest in Telikin is more of a departure from the usual. This is my first straight to consumer play. Before, it was mostly B2B,” says Allegrezza.
Venture 3 is currently at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas showing off Telikin, a $700 bare-bones touchscreen computer for the over-40 crowd. We asked him how the Philly entreprenurial lanscape has changed, what it feels like to sell a company and how his mom was the inspiration for the Telikin.
So how did the Telikin come to be?
It arose out of a need. My mother had been living in an assisted living facility and she had a stoke. She does ok. But my brother put together an Apple computer that would auto-answer Skype calls for her and had a screen saver that was a slide show with pictures from our family and she loved it.
What we found out, is that we were targeting people that were over 60 years old, but we found that people 40 and above enjoy it. It’s really for people that want a basic computer without all the hassles. Windows can get pretty complicated
Is it Mac or Linux? Or something custom?
It’s a Linux-based machine running TinyCore to keep it simplified. 320 GB hard drive, 2 GB of RAM and a duel core Intel CPU. Eventually we see other versions that are lower cost that don’t have as many functions, such as Open Office.
How does someone snag one of these?
They can order from the web and we’re partnering with Clear to have our machines in eight area malls. We’re still working on getting one in a downtown mall.
How are sales?
Good. We launched right before Black Friday and we were surprised we didn’t get that many sales. But what we found is that sales rolled in the week after. It’s not an impulse buy. People do a little research before placing an order.
To switch gears a bit. What was it like when AnySource Media exited to DIVX for $15 million?
We were very excited about the sale. DIVX is a good company with a similar vision. When you get down to the nitty-gritty of any negation it gets a little challenging. But strategically they were a good fit they had access to the market they were targeting and they were starting a similar product. I’ve been involved with six different companies that were acquired and it’s always a challenge. Especially when the lawyers have their work to manage.
You’ve had six startups, most locally based. You were a Drexel grad as well. What’s your thought on the region’s evolution as a technology community?
I’m very surprised that there are four times more venture capital money invested in Boston than here. There’s a lot of good talent and good people in the Philadelphia area. Probably not the most flourishing venture community, but its a good one.
I just pulled up the numbers. New England had $2 billion in deals in 2010, Philadelphia had $338 million.
That surprised me why do you think that is?
I’d guess its the high number of biotech investments in Boston. If you look at number of deals, they have 300+ we have 88, you see the ratio tighten.
I thought it was closer to twice as many.
I noticed a lot of your companies if not all of them kind of revolve around businesses that involve Comcast. Is that why you are in Philadelphia? You are looking at Comcast as an exit partner?
You’re right. For the first few years I was involved in cable companies in one way or another. Cable and video on demand was very fertile a few years ago. Now its all a little more well-known. My interest in Telikin is more of a departure than usual. This is our first consumer play.