Fri, Sep 25, 2015 - Page 14 News List

NASDAQ center aims to build ties with start-ups

AP, SAN FRANCISCO

The NASDAQ has long been known as the “tech-heavy” stock exchange, where some of Silicon Valley’s best-known companies have gone to sell shares. Now, as it faces stiff competition from rival exchanges to lure the next hot initial public offering (IPO), it is reaching out to business start-ups before they go public.

New York-based NASDAQ, through an affiliated foundation, opened what it calls an “Entrepreneurial Center” yesterday in a trendy commercial district south of San Francisco’s Market Street. It is promising business training, mentoring and networking opportunities for early-stage start-up founders — maybe even the next Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page.

“We want to support amazing entrepreneurs, who may be starting a company today or their next three companies down the line, who will remember the things they were taught as part of the NASDAQ community,” said Nicola Corzine, a veteran start-up investor who will operate the center as its executive director.

NASDAQ executives say they have a long tradition of working with young companies, and the new center is open to entrepreneurs in other sectors besides tech. Still, it is no coincidence the center is in a region rife with new tech start-ups. Facebook Inc, Google Inc and Apple Inc are all traded on the NASDAQ.

The move comes as NASDAQ’s main rival, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), has increased its outreach to the tech sector in recent years and has lured some high-profile start-ups like Twitter Inc, which held its IPO on the NYSE in 2013.

Twitter’s decision to list on the NYSE came after Facebook’s debut on NASDAQ in May 2012 was marred by technical glitches that tarnished the exchange’s reputation.

“Your competitor always wants to make advances in your area of strength, and we also make advances in areas that may not have been our strength 10 years ago,” said Bruce Aust, a vice chairman at NASDAQ who is also president of the new center.

As an example, he said NASDAQ is now home to a number of airlines that might have chosen the NYSE in the past.

“NASDAQ is all about growth companies,” Aust said, while downplaying concerns about the rival exchange. “So we feel pretty good about our position.”

Silicon Valley is home to a number of tech “incubators” and other programs that support new start-ups, sometimes in exchange for equity.

Aust said the new center will work with those programs, while offering unique opportunities of its own, such as mentorships or informal classes taught by executives at successful NASDAQ companies.

There is no charge for entrepreneurs to participate, but they will be screened for at least two references from advisers, fellow entrepreneurs or even university professors, Corzine said.

Programs are also open to students or recent graduates with ideas for a new business.

In recent years, some high-profile tech start-ups, like Uber Technologies Inc, Airbnb Inc and Snapchat Inc, have delayed going public and opted to continue raising money from venture capitalists and other private sources. Aust said.

NASDAQ’s got that trend covered, as well: It launched a “private market” service last year that helps companies raise money from investors without issuing publicly traded stock.

“NASDAQ has always been about being a source for companies to raise capital,” he said.

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