Originally created 10/31/00

Angels assist start-up



Two local businessmen are more than $1 million closer to taking their online commerce company public - thanks to the interest of angel investors.

The company, e-schoolz.com, was developed by Shankar Balan, chief executive officer of Augusta-based Palmetto Industries, and Fred Davison, former University of Georgia president and current president and chief executive officer of the National Science Center Foundation.

Mr. Balan said he has interested angel investors throughout the country to the tune of $1.25 million. Angel investors typically are wealthy private individuals who bankroll start-up companies in exchange for a high return on their investment.

"We have people interested in Atlanta, and I've flown out to Seattle and Silicon Valley and talked to investors out there," he said. "It's been getting a very positive response, and we're right on schedule."

Mr. Balan said the next step is to raise between $6 million and $10 million from venture capitalists. Unlike debt financing through banks, venture capital groups fund companies in exchange for an ownership stake, usually 40 percent or less.

The company should go public in 24 to 36 months, Mr. Balan said.

E-schoolz.com is designed to give teachers, parents, students and administrators the ease of communicating and buying school-related merchandise via the Internet. The fledgling service is being used on a limited basis by the Columbia County School District.

The Web site will feature the EZ Comm Learning Module, which will provide online tutoring and virtual field trips. The service also will allow pupils to chat with friends and research study topics.

ShopINN, e-schoolz.com's online retailing service, will sell school supplies such as books, stationary and software.

InstaBid Suite, another of the Web site's services, will offer school districts a business-to-business procurement service designed to streamline and reduce the cost of purchasing.

Mr. Balan said he was inspired to develop the site after several of his employees had to take time off to register their children for school.

"We said, `There should be a better way to do this thing,"' Mr. Balan said.

Reach John Bankston at (706) 823-3352 or john.bankston@augustachronicle.com