Chamberlain builds new businesses
inside existing companies.
Special to Phillytech
Foster Chamberlain founders John Ulrich
(left), Stephen Shoff and Todd Peterson
help old economy companies join the new.
While most local start-ups that were formed during the
last five years changed their business models to survive
the dot-com downturn, Foster Chamberlain L.L.C. stayed
specializing in helping large companies launch new ventures,
the Philadelphia-based firm has grown steadily, while
bigger-name players soared to astonishing heights only
to crash and burn.
focus is different because we launch businesses for
established corporate clients," said Todd Peterson,
a founder and principal of Foster Chamberlain. "We
haven't really noticed a decline in our business. In
fact, our deal flow today is higher than what we saw
a year ago."
2000, Foster Chamberlain generated $1.6 million in revenue,
up from $1.2 million a year earlier. This year, the
six-person company expects sales to continue to climb.
It also hopes to add at least two employees before the
end of the year.
shabby considering that the Federal Reserve Bank of
Philadelphia recently predicted that weak business investment
and declining production would limit economic growth
in the United States this year to 2 percent, down from
an estimated growth of 2.2 percent predicted earlier
founders Peterson, 31, Stephen Shoff, 33, and John Ulrich,
35, credit Foster Chamberlain's success in a shaky economic
climate to four primary factors: First and foremost,
the company continues to focus on corporate ventures.
Foster Chamberlain's client list includes Boeing Co.,
Armstrong World Industries, and Prudential, Fox &
Roach, the Philadelphia area's largest real-estate brokerage.
the firm is not focused solely on technology. It is
willing to work with old-line business projects.
Foster Chamberlain has been self-funded since its launch.
the founders say that theirs was one of the first businesses
to help large companies start smaller firms.
Fortune 500 firm is usually better positioned to launch
a new business, but in many cases, they don't have the
resources to launch new ventures effectively,"
Ulrich said. "We help them marry the flexibility
and speed of a start-up venture with the assets a big
company brings to the table, including distribution
capabilities, brand equity and intellectual capital."
ECONOMY MEETS NEW
World Industries, a 141-year-old, Lancaster-based manufacturer
of floors and ceilings, called Foster Chamberlain to
help plan for more high-tech endeavors, said Barbara
Goss, vice president of innovation for Armstrong's building
wanted help marketing i-ceilings, a new product that
enables commercial architects, building owners and faculty
managers to integrate sound and wireless systems into
ceiling planes without wires and faulty acoustics.
wanted to clearly and succinctly communicate our business
plan to our senior management group, and Foster Chamberlain
worked with us to help us develop a framework for doing
business planning for new venture opportunities,"
Goss said. "They helped us focus on what the real
nuggets of information were so we could communicate
our strategy to people who didn't work on the project
for six months."
Chamberlain's capabilities extend beyond planning. The
firm has helped companies implement separate ventures,
from concept development to business launch.
firm is in the process of helping Boeing Ventures, a
division of Boeing, to capitalize on its vast research
and technology resources to develop new products and
services outside its traditional aerospace manufacturing
operations. Foster Chamberlain's Peterson is an interim
member of the management team of one of Boeing's ventures,
a new technology product expected to be launched in
the next 12 months.
are helping them secure funding and commercialize new
technology outside of the aerospace and military space,"
Whitford, director of Boeing Ventures, the new business
development arm of Boeing, said that when Foster Chamberlain
presented itself as a provider of corporate venturing
services, he felt the company could be a good fit as
companies don't have a lot of expertise on how to run
a small company," Whitford said. "A big company
takes for granted certain aspects of what a company
needs, like human resources support, accounting systems,
and getting all those things up and running. [Foster
Chamberlain's] expertise is in how to make that transition,
because if you're not careful, you can take up all of
your time focusing on housekeeping. They have provided
advice about how to enter markets, how to make preliminary
contacts, and also specific advice on fund-raising.
The relationship has been very fruitful so far."
Chamberlain has come a long way from humble roots, when
Ulrich and Peterson created it as master's degree students
at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
clients are not looking for a presentation in a three-ring
binder," Peterson said. "They want a business."
2001 - Phillytech
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