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Chapter 4: Recycling Investment Forums

Chapter 4 contains:

Recycling investment forums are events designed to bring recycling entrepreneurs together with investors, financiers and economic development officials for their mutual benefit. The design can be similar to those of the conventional investment forums or meetings documented in Chapter 5. Recycling investment forums, however, are unique in their focus on recycling-related companies-ventures that collect, process, remanufacture, reuse or compost recovered materials.

As of mid-1996, two such forums had been conducted. The Southeastern Recycling Investment Forum was organized by the South Carolina Recycling Market Development Advisory Council, within the state’s Department of Commerce, and KirkWorks and primarily sponsored by US EPA Region IV.(1) The forum was held on November 15 and 16, 1995, in Charleston, SC, immediately prior to Dare to Deal, an annual venture capital conference. (See Figure 4-1 below.)(2) The Northeast Recycling Investment Forum was held in Boston on May 6 and 7, 1996, organized by the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC) and primarily sponsored by the EPA New England regional office. Co-organizers included the Environmental Business Association of New York State, KirkWorks and the Technology Capital Network at MIT. Future recycling investment forums are being planned for the Northeast in the spring of 1997, the Southeast in February 1997 and the Midwest in early 1998. (See Chapter 5 for contact information.)

This chapter provides suggestions on designing and implementing recycling investment forums. It is based in part on organizing experience from the two forums noted above. The chapter also includes sections from the Recycling Venture Forum Study published in June of 1995 and conducted by KirkWorks. The Study was sponsored by the Recycling Advisory Council of the National Recycling Coalition, the Northeast Recycling Council, EPA New England and the New York State Office of Recycling Market Development.

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Just as with most small and start-up businesses, recycling entrepreneurs are discovering that the market for private equity investment or nontraditional debt is inefficient. Although there are many individual investors, investment firms, finance companies, intermediaries or other capital sources that are interested in financing strong recycling ventures, reaching these investors is a costly and difficult proposition. Similarly, investors are looking for efficient ways to find new investment opportunities and accurate information on companies, so as to reduce their marketing and due diligence costs.

Recycling investment forums promise to help make this financial market for growing recycling businesses more efficient. Financiers are familiar with forums and fairs as a means of learning about a range of selected companies in a particular region. Numerous recycling enterprises are in the market for new financing, ranging from a hundred thousand to a few million dollars. Often these companies already are generating sales but have not yet achieved the history of profitability or track record necessary for bank financing. They may also be seeking equity capital for aggressive expansion. Forums can facilitate capital access for recycling companies by bringing them together with an audience of targeted investors potentially interested in the size, stage and nature of the investments that the enterprises are offering.

Figure 4-1
South Carolina Department of Commerce Press Release-Excerpts November 16, 1995

The Potential Benefits of Recycling Investment Forums

Recycling investment forums offer a range of potential benefits for the recycling and financial industries by helping to:

  1. Heighten the interest in recycling firms among investors and financial institutions.
  2. Educate investors on the variety of recycling investment opportunities, and distinguish these opportunities from solid waste, environmental and other types of ventures.
  3. Educate recycling entrepreneurs and officials about the priorities of investors.
  4. Highlight barriers to recycling business expansion that public and private policy or procedural changes could remedy.
  5. Assist participating recycling firms in raising capital for business growth and expansion.

Recruiting Presenting Businesses

Most of the investment forums and meetings described in Chapter 5 are focused in a geographic or metropolitan region but are open to entrepreneurial ventures from any type of industry. By focusing on only recycling companies, recycling investment forums significantly narrow the field of potential business participants. For this reason, the recycling investment forums that have been conducted to date have been for regions comprising up to ten states instead of for a single state or metropolitan area. By broadening the geographic range for the company presenter applicant pool, forum organizers can help to ensure that enough good quality companies can be selected to be of interest to attending investors and economic developers. In addition to expanding the geographic range, forums could be organized for a broader set of industries including recycling companies, such as the manufacturing or environmental industries. Again, this would provide a larger population of firms from which the strongest companies seeking new capital could be chosen.

Recycling investment forums should recruit the strongest recycling companies with unmet capital demands in their geographic service area. In particular, those states with active loan or grant programs should have a good sense of the growing and reputable recycling firms within their borders that are ready for an infusion of private capital. Promotional forum brochures and presenting company applications can be disseminated through a range of networks, including:

In addition to mailings to these businesses and associations, direct phone contact should be made with the chief executive officers of those companies identified as “hot prospects” by forum organizers. Start-up companies in formation may not be on existing mailing lists but may offer exciting emerging investment opportunities. Some enterprises may need to be encouraged to apply if they are already actively raising capital. The forum should be marketed as one component of a company’s capital-raising strategy, helping to facilitate face-to-face meetings with financiers and providing contacts for future financing rounds.

From the experience of the first two recycling investment forums, it appears that the company application rate is higher if application forms are distributed along with forum brochures, rather than asking that companies specifically request an application form. By receiving the application form, an entrepreneur can immediately see the level of detail required of the business and ascertain whether the forum may be an appropriate activity for the firm.

The recruitment process for businesses and investors, especially for a new event, will inevitably be an iterative process. That is, businesses will be attracted by the investors that may be present and vice versa. As business presenters are identified, some anonymous descriptions of these businesses and their capital demands may be helpful to attract new investor attendees interested in these business profiles. Similarly, businesses will be encouraged to participate if they know that the event will be attended by the types of financiers appropriate to their capital needs.

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Selecting “Presenting” and “Displaying” Businesses

If businesses are allowed ten to fifteen minutes each to present and four hours of business presentations are scheduled for a one day recycling venture forum, up to sixteen businesses can be selected. The first Southeastern forum had nine business presentations while the Northeast event had twelve. Increasing the number of presentations beyond this range could result in less attention paid to each presentation by the audience.

Aggressive recruitment and a rigorous selection process are necessary to ensure that the best quality recycling ventures are presented at the forum. As noted in the excerpts from the NERC brochure in Figure 4-2, some of the initial screening criteria for applicants can include:

  1. Do the company’s activities qualify as “recycling” as defined by the host organization?
  2. Is the company located in or committed to opening a facility in the targeted geographic area for the forum?
  3. Is the enterprise seeking new outside capital for start up or expansion of operations?
  4. Has the company fully completed the application and attached a comprehensive business plan or summary?
Figure 4-2
Northeast Recycling Investment Forum Northeast Recycling Council Business Recruitment Brochure-Excerpts January 1996

About The Forum...

What Are The Benefits To Participating Businesses?

Who Shoud Apply?

Start-up and expanding recycling businesses seeking equity capital should apply to participate in the Forum. To be eligible to participate, businesses should be able to answer “YES” to the following questions:

The business presenter application form can be provided on paper or on computer disk for the company to return to the forum organizer with a completed business plan. The sections of the application for the Southeastern forum included questions regarding:

Assuming the applicants meet these initial criteria, applications and business plans must be reviewed to select the companies most likely to be attractive to investor attendees. Some existing forums have developed formalized selection criteria. For example, the criteria and evaluation weights by which submissions are judged for the Utah Venture Capital Conference include:

The selection committee should be composed of individuals representative of the target audience, so that the companies selected will likely be of interest to attendees. Candidates would include representatives of individual investor networks, investment partnerships, governmental finance agencies, banks and other financiers who regularly review business plans. Committee members must agree to recuse themselves from recommendations in which they have a potential financial interest and to keep information about company applicants confidential.

If the goal of the forum is to be successful in fostering access to capital for the broad recycling industry, then the potential for investment success should be the primary selection standard. Public policy goals, such as the need for increased recovery of certain difficult-to-recycle materials, should take a back seat in the selection process.

In addition to selecting “presenting” companies, the selection committee may also decide to identify other companies not ready for center stage at the forum but with promising investment potential. These “displaying” companies could be allowed one page descriptions in the conference booklet (see below) or table top displays at the forum event. Allowing displaying as well as presenting companies to attend provides financiers with a wider portfolio of ventures to review, including more early stage and small deals. However, it is important to give the presenting companies the greatest focus and access to investors.

Several important business characteristics to look for in company applications were suggested by the investor interviews conducted as a part of the Recycling Venture Forum Study, as presented in the “What Investors Look for in Companies” list included as Figure 2-4 in Chapter 2, p. 12.

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Polishing Company Presentations

Once presenting firms have been selected, forum organizers need to work with the presenters to ensure the quality of their presentations. Organizers should convene a training meeting to preview company presentations and make suggestions prior to the forum.

This preparation, though demanding of company management’s time, provides excellent training for other presentations to investors, bankers, and potential business partners. Presentations should cover some key areas such as:

The first Northeast Recycling Investment Forum organizers conducted a special presentation training session for all company presenters three weeks prior to the forum. The training session was organized by NERC and the Environmental Business Association of New York State and hosted by Price Waterhouse in Boston. The session began with a review of key business presentation skills. Then, each company made a trial business plan presentation. Following their presentations, they were critiqued by an investor network representative, an accountant, an investment banker and other company participants. Feedback covered a range of areas including:

Each of the companies also received a videotape of its presentation and critique session.

By the time of the Northeast forum, companies had significantly improved their presentations as a result of the training session. Indeed, several of the entrepreneurs remarked that even if they did not find an investment match at the event, the training session alone made their participation in the forum worthwhile.

Both the forum presentations and the executive summaries of business plans in the forum booklet will make important first impressions on the audience. Forum organizers and presentation committee members should review company materials for concerns such as the following:

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Recruiting Investor Attendees

One measure of the success of a recycling investment forum is the number and types of registrants. Two categories of investor invitees are recommended. The first priority invitees are those whose investment interests seem to most closely match the capital demands of recycling companies. The second priority invitees may be more appropriate for later stage financing or are already easily accessible to the business through local contacts.

First Priority Invitee Categories

Second Priority Invitee Categories

Contacts at targeted financial institutions can be obtained through finance trade associations, existing venture forum lists, investment networks and direct referrals.

Attracting strong attendance from targeted financial institutions and investors is a challenge. For a new recycling investment forum, it is important to establish credibility with investors through the name recognition of hosting and sponsoring organizations, professionally printed materials and referral from other peers in the field. Media coverage of the upcoming forum in recycling, finance and business periodicals can also help to establish credibility. Recognized keynote speakers who can address financier interests, perhaps in regard to recycling and environmental industry trends, could also be important. Finally, recruitment of top-notch presenting businesses will help establish the forum as the “place to be” to see the best recycling investment opportunities in the region.

Recruitment efforts for the two recycling investment forums conducted as of the date of this publication included:

The experience of the first two recycling investment forums indicates that attracting sufficient investor attendance is the greatest challenge in conducting a successful forum. The Southeast and Northeast forums attracted 100 and 150 attendees, respectively. These attendee totals were approximately evenly divided among three categories:

In each of these first two recycling investment forums, investor attendance was lower than hoped for by forum organizers, but sufficient for many fruitful contacts to be made by entrepreneurs that may result in new investments. In evaluations of the forums, company officials also mentioned the benefit of the contacts they made with state recycling and economic development officials and the other participating companies.

However, as new forums are organized, particularly in regions of the country with a lower concentration of active investors in entrepreneurial companies, special attention should be paid to the target audience. If strong attendance by investors is not anticipated, the event can be more designed to highlight its entrepreneurial training and economic development educational features. With such a design and understanding by all parties, a forum can be successful even if no new investments are a direct result of the event.

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Forum Agenda and Logistics

The venture forums and fairs and meetings listed in Chapter 5 vary in length from a half-day to two days. Typically, those events with nearby attendees have shorter schedules while the multi-state regional forums may run longer, including receptions and dinners. A recycling investment forum could be scheduled as a one- or two-day event, perhaps beginning with an evening registration, reception and open display area, followed by a full day of business presentations, meetings and the keynote speaker, as shown in Figure 4-3.

Figure 4-3
Sample Recycling Investment Forum Agenda



Attendance may be enhanced if the recycling investment forum is conducted in conjunction with another event that investors may be interested in attending. For example, the first Southeastern Recycling Investment Forum was scheduled immediately preceding the annual Dare to Deal venture capital conference in Charleston. Few investors ended up attending both events, since the programs and presenting companies were quite different. However, the joint publicity and mailings helped lend credibility to the first recycling investment event for the region.

The Northeast Recycling Investment Forum was held in conjunction with the New England Environmental Expo. Forum attendees received free passes to visit the expo’s trade show with its hundreds of environmental and recycling companies displaying.

The space for the forum should allow for a large enough meeting room or auditorium for company presentations to the entire audience. A display area, with refreshments, should allow for attendees to examine company products and information at their leisure. This reception area should be near but not in the same room as the presentation area, to allow company representatives and attendees to talk informally at times while other presentations are being made.

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Forum Registration and Attendance

Venture forums and fairs charge between $50 and $500 per registrant, depending on the length of the event and the venue. The first Southeastern Forum charged attendees $125 while the first Northeastern Forum charged $250. The registration fee should help defray costs and communicate the value of the event, yet not be prohibitively expensive for interested parties.

Presenting businesses could be charged an application fee to help cover the costs of reviewing the application and business plan and to help screen for serious ventures. This initial fee can be deducted from the registration fee if the company is selected to present or display.

The primary attendees at the recycling forum should be presenting company representatives and interested investors, financing sources and economic developers. Inevitably, other parties will be interested in attending, including finance intermediaries, lawyers, accountants, other businesses and recycling officials. Most venture fairs do not restrict admittance. Some use color-coded name tags or ribbons and conference materials to help identify presenting companies, sponsors, and investors. Seeking to exclude interested observers could engender ill will and may also reduce positive networking opportunities for businesses and investors. An open door policy would also help the recycling forums to move toward sustainability based on registration fees and sponsorships. However, certain securities law precautions should be taken regarding attendees, as noted below.

A conference booklet should be printed for the forum and given to attendees at registration. The booklet could include recognition of forum organizers and sponsors. Summaries of any keynote talks could also be included. Short business plan executive summaries for each presenting company in a standard format should make up the bulk of the booklet. A schedule for presentations should be included so that investors can easily follow the presentations and have further details at hand. Short descriptions of the displaying companies present at the forum could also be included. Finally, general business or investment analysis reports regarding the recycling industry can be included. Consistent with securities laws, after the forum the booklet may also be made available to financiers who could not attend the event, to widen the potential financing impact of the forum.

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Forum Sponsorships

Forum sponsors can help fund the event and make it sustainable on an annual basis. Well-known sponsors can also provide credibility for a first-time venture forum. In addition to recognition in the forum booklet, printed materials and at the event, sponsors at certain donation levels can be provided with limited complimentary registrations to the forum. Sponsorship levels at existing forums and fairs range from a few hundred dollars for smaller events to $10,000 or more. Potential recycling investment forum sponsors would include:

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Sample Recycling Investment Forum Budget

A sample forum budget is in Figure 4-4. The budget assumes that the forum host has access to significant volunteer assistance through the recycling and financial industries. Volunteers could assist with company and investor recruitment, business selection and presentation training. A start-up grant is assumed for the first year of a forum. Registration and sponsorship revenues could cover an increasing share of costs in future years, if the forum is conducted annually.

The budget shown in Figure 4-4 is only an estimate. Costs will vary based on the location for the event, its duration, staffing and contract costs. If forum organizers and sponsors are able to supply significant in-kind expertise and resources, costs can be reduced. If a forum is the first event of its kind for a region or a hosting organization, expenses will likely be higher.

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Federal and state securities laws and regulations place restrictions on individuals or organizations offering company securities for sale. A securities lawyer should be consulted to provide guidelines for the organization of any recycling investment forum or event so as to ensure that the event is conducted in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws. (See Chapter 3 for some of the restrictions placed on company’s or their agents regarding contact with investors, depending upon the legal structure of the equity investment they are seeking.) The information provided in this publication is not meant to take the place of appropriate legal and accounting advice for either forum organizers or participating companies or investors.

Figure 4-4
Sample Recycling Investment Forum Budget
Budget Assumptions
Registration Fees 16,500 16 presenting or displaying businesses with two attendees per company
100 investor and other attendees at $125/person
Presenter Application Fees 1,000 40 company applicants (not selected) @ $25
Sponsorships 5,000 5 sponsors at $1,000
In-Kind Support 10,000 Forum organizer and partner in-kind services
Start-Up Grant 37,500 Start-up grant
Total Revenue $70,000
Printing 7,500 Forum brochures and booklets
Postage/ Travel/ Communications 5,500 Mailings, calls, faxes, speaker travel
Reception/ Lunch/ Facilities 13,000 Evening reception, lunch, conference space
Securities Attorney 5,000 Legal opinion on forum organizing guidelines
Presentation Training 5,000 Travel and training expenses
Staff, Office and Contract Costs 34,000 Forum coordination, business recruitment and selection, investor recruitment, presentation training
Total Expenses $70,000

Several existing venture forums and fairs were surveyed for the Recycling Venture Forum Study. Organizers of those events that were marketed toward professional venture capital investors had fewer concerns about securities laws because they expected a level of sophistication from their accredited investors. Most had their own or a sponsor’s attorney familiar with securities law review their event plans and suggest safe operating guidelines. Those forums that involved individual investors took even greater precautions to assure compliance with securities laws and regulations.

The Northeast Recycling Council received pro bono advice from a law firm specializing in securities law for the Northeast forum. The firm recommended that NERC include the statement shown in Figure 4-5 in its forum booklet and included a similar statement in the registration brochure. Figure 4-5 is not meant to take the place of appropriate legal and accounting advice for either forum organizers or participating companies or investors.

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Forum Evaluation

Recycling investment forums can be evaluated based on the direct and indirect benefits they may offer to participants and the recycling and investment industries. Direct benefits result from the forums if new investments are made in presenting and displaying companies as a result of the forum. Organizers should make sure that companies agree on the application form to disclose to the host organization their financing results for one year after the event. With these disclosures, the direct financing benefits of the forum can be evaluated.

Indirect benefits of the forums could occur if financiers become more active in financing recycling firms, in general. Business applicants could also benefit if through the application, presentation training and forum process they develop a greater sense of investor priorities and how their company can best access new capital. Finally, all attendees and the general public, via press coverage and publications, can achieve a greater understanding of the opportunities in financing innovative recycling businesses.

These direct and indirect benefits can be measured through written surveys of forum participants immediately at the end of the event and telephone surveys of business presenters and forum attendees six months to a year after the forum.

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Limitations of Recycling Investment Forums

Recycling-specific investment forums are only one of many strategies for fostering capital formation and entrepreneurial development in the recycling industry. Forums as described in this chapter are most appropriate when conducted for a relatively large area with significant numbers of active recycling companies and interested equity investors. Prospective forum organizers should team up with firms or organizations with experience working with private investors, such as some of those listed in Chapter 5.

The start-up costs of organizing a new forum for an organization that has not conducted such an event are significant. Significant work must go into ensuring compliance with state and federal securities laws, as well as into ensuring strong recycling company and investor participation. Recycling market development officials should also focus on “mainstreaming” recycling companies by connecting them with capital sources, investment networks and events as summarized in Chapters 3 and 5.

Finally, for the recycling entrepreneur, participating in a recycling investment forum is only one component of a capital-raising strategy. Developing a complete business plan, assembling a management team and business advisors, and beginning to build a viable company are all essential. The opportunity to present at a recycling investment forum provides the entrepreneur with one way to contact a new circle of potential equity investors efficiently.

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Venture forums and meetings are effective means of fostering investments in new and expanding companies. If designed properly, recycling investment forums promise to be an excellent vehicle for financing well managed recycling companies. The forums also can educate the investment and economic development communities about trends, challenges and opportunities in the growing recycling industry.

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Figure 4-5
Northeast Recycling Investment Forum Northeast Recycling Council Forum Booklet-Excerpt May 7, 1996
  1. The Northeast Recycling Investment Forum is an opportunity for recycling businesses searching for financing to present their business plans to an audience of investors. The Northeast Recycling Council, its consultants and sponsors for the Forum, herein referred to as NERC, as the coordinators of this event, are not functioning as securities broker/dealer or investment advisers, and are not registered as such with the Securities & Exchange Commission.
  2. The company profiles in this forum booklet were provided by the participating forum businesses. NERC accepts no responsibility for and has not confirmed the accuracy or determined the legal adequacy of any disclosures or other statements (including the company profiles), which may be made, either orally or in writing, by entrepreneurs or investors participating in the forum.
  3. NERC has not examined and does not endorse or recommend any security which may be offered for sale by entrepreneurs at the Investment Forum. NERC makes no assurances to companies or investors regarding financing or other outcomes of the Forum. Both entrepreneur and investor participants agree to assume full responsibility for their representations and actions in conjunction with the Forum.
  4. All investors are encouraged to seek legal and other professional counsel prior to making investments in the participating businesses at the Northeast Recycling Investment Forum.

The information provided in Figure 4-5 is not meant to take the place of appropriate legal and accounting advice for either forum organizers or participating companies or investors.


  1. Additional sponsors for the Southeastern Recycling Investment Forum included the American Plastics Council, the Environmental Capital Network and the National Recycling Coalition.
  2. Additional sponsors for the Northeast Recycling Investment Forum included the American Plastics Council, the Steel Recycling Institute, Boxborough, MA, Waste Age’s Recycling Times, Price Waterhouse LLP, the Rhode Island Solid Waste Management Corporation and the New York State Office of Recycling Market Development.

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