Thursday, June 12, 2008

Did You Hear The One About...

This from a Technology Association of Georgia Blog: (The graphics are mine) It's created quite the stir...

If you haven’t heard by now (Lance Weatherby), ATM Direct won the 2008 TAG/GRA Business Launch Competition. On the one hand, I congratulate the ATM Direct team for their victory. They walked away with $100K in cash and $200K in services from various sponsors and partners. Not bad!

My other hand, however, is left wondering why a company that at one point was a significant going-concern, and was eventually bought out of bankruptcy court was even allowed to enter a competition aimed at fostering “new” companies. According to the rules of the competition:

The competition is aimed at “new” businesses, however the time and effort required to launch a successful business in the targeted areas may require that an entrepreneur form a company and begin certain limited functions before any meaningful business operations occur. These functions could include prototype or Intellectual Property development and for these or similar reasons up to $500K in external funding may be allowed. Market trials may also be required and for this or a similar reason some limited revenue may be allowed.

Some incredibly cursory research on the web revealed that back in 2005 or so, ATM Direct was bought by Pay to Touch for a little over $30M. One person told me that deal was a bankruptcy matter as well, although I can’t seem to find any reference to it. Just a few months ago (February, 2008), ATM Direct (or at least their patent portfolio) was sold under bankruptcy court supervision for a mere $600K to Accullink LLC (also located here in Atlanta).

No matter how you slice this, it bothers me. It bothers a lot of people that I’ve talked to over the past few days.

I volunteered this year as a pitch mentor for the other three companies that were in the competition (Skybloxx, Global Crypto Systems, and ProperNotice). Each of these embryonic teams worked extremely hard to make it to the finals of the competition. During our pitch mentoring sessions, ATM Direct was absent - no idea why.

But I know the other 3 teams came in and walked away with newly gleaned insights into their stories, and a genuine hope that they had a shot to win and get their companies off the ground. Instead, they lost to a company that had been auctioned off on the bankruptcy circuit (at least once, possibly twice).

In any event, the TAG/GRA business launch competition should be aimed at promoting and fostering the launch of new companies here in Georgia. Unless I am missing something obvious here, I can’t help but feel a little shame in this year’s affair.

It sort of reminds me of a 16 year old trying to play on a little league team - great for the team that recruited him, but not terribly fair for the other teams. I suppose one argument would be that since the assets of ATM Direct were sold to Accullink, it is a new incarnation, new company, etc. So that would qualify them for the competition. I still don’t like it, though. It just doesn’t give me that warm and fuzzy feeling that I expect from a winner of a competition like this.

In fact, one could counter-argue since the assets were purchased for $600K, that alone would disqualify Accullink/ATM Direct as that would constitute an investment that is greater than the $500K limit outlined in the rules of the competition. I’d have much rather seen a true green-field idea company in that slot (like the other three contestants).

Nevertheless, I sincerely hope that TAG/GRA addresses this matter at some point, if nothing else than to send a message to would-be entrepreneurs here in Georgia that your dreams and efforts still matter. Due diligence is a good thing. Hopefully, someone from TAG or GRA will come and post here and help make some sense of this.

Editor's Note: There's some interesting comments about ATMDirect not being "a startup." You can read them here

and here.The 2008 GRA/TAG Business Launch Competition Fiasco...

and here:

ACCC Proposes to Revoke eBay's PayPal Only Policy

The ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commissiion) proposed to revoke immunity for eBay's PayPal only policy. The ACCC has issued a draft notice proposing to revoke a notification* lodged by eBay International A.G. on 11 April 2008. Under the notification, eBay proposes to mandate the use of PayPal for almost all transactions on the eBay site.

"The ACCC is concerned that the notified conduct will allow eBay to use its market power in the supply of online marketplaces to substantially lessen competition in the market in which PayPal operates,"

ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel, said today.
"PayPal currently competes with a range of other providers to supply online payment services to users of online marketplaces. If the notified conduct is allowed to go ahead, there will be no competition for the supply of such services to buyers and sellers using eBay. "Given eBay's position as Australia's leading online marketplace, the notified conduct will substantially reduce competition to supply online payment services to users of online marketplaces more generally.

"The ACCC acknowledges that having PayPal as the only payment provider has the potential to deliver some benefits to users, such as increased buyer protection insurance in certain circumstances. However, the ACCC believes that consumers are in the best position to decide which payment method is most suitable for them.

"The notified conduct denies them that choice. Accordingly, the ACCC considers that these benefits do not outweigh the anti-competitive effects of the conduct," Mr Samuel said. eBay proposes to implement the conduct in two stages.

From 21 May 2008, all sellers on eBay were required to offer PayPal as one of their accepted payment methods. The second stage of the conduct is due to commence on 17 June 2008, with the requirement that all transactions on eBay must be paid for using PayPal or cash on pickup.

"In light of the serious competition concerns raised in the draft notice and the significant concerns raised by interested parties, I have asked eBay to delay implementation of the second stage of the conduct until a final decision is made by the ACCC," Mr Samuel said. eBay and interested parties now have time to lodge submissions in response to the draft notice, before the ACCC decides whether to issue a final notice revoking the notification.

More information regarding the notification and a copy of the draft notice will be available from the ACCC's website, or by emailing the Adjudication Branch at

Media inquiries
  • Mr Graeme Samuel, Chairman, (03) 9290 1812 or 0408 335 555
  • Mr Brent Rebecca, Media Unit, (02) 6243 1317

    General inquiries
  • Infocentre 1300 302 502

    Release # MR 164/08
    Issued: 12th June 2008

    Related register records
  • eBay International AG - Notification - N93365

    *By lodging an exclusive dealing notification with the ACCC, a party obtains immunity from court action for that conduct. In this case, immunity is conferred automatically when the notification is lodged. Once the ACCC receives a notification, it reviews the purpose and effect of the notified conduct. If the ACCC forms the view that the conduct substantially lessens competition, and that it does not deliver a net public benefit, it may issue a draft notice proposing to revoke the notification. After considering any submissions from interested parties in response to the draft notice, and conducting a conference if any of the interested parties call for a conference, the ACCC must decide whether to issue a final notice.
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