The creator of the "Garfield" comic strip will lend his expertise to a Columbia-based Internet company that aims to simplify licensing for celebrity, cartoon, entertainment and sports products.
FastTrends.com, a Web site to help guide licensed products from concept to retail store, was launched yesterday by Tom Andrews and Eric Henry, co-founders of Logotel Inc., a Columbia-based licensee manufacturer of T-shirts that owns the rights to many television show logos.
One investor is Jim Davis, Garfield's creator and owner of worldwide licensor, Paws Inc., who will sit on the company's board. Davis will advise the new company on an online function that will allow Web users to track the product licensing process.
Henry, FastTrends' president, and Andrews, chief executive officer saw an opportunity to offer an online networking tool to the highly fragmented, $144 billion licensing industry.
"We started with the mission of using the Internet to foster increased communication between different constituencies and help them transact business," Henry said.
The site will be available to license holders, manufacturers, suppliers and retailers, who will be able to locate one another through the industry's largest online directory, which will profile more than 9,000 companies
License holders also will be able to solicit for licensee manufacturers, and manufacturers will be able to respond, confidentially, by submitting bids electronically.
The company that wins the license would have to pay FastTrends a one-time fee of 3 percent of the royalty guarantee sum.
The company, which employs 15 people in its Columbia corporate office, expects another source of revenue to come from membership subscription fees, charged to all companies but license holders, who are expected to form the hub of the site. So far, more than 100 licensors representing 1,000 properties are represented on the site.
All other members will be charged fees ranging from $480 per year to $4,800 per year for memberships that include enhanced presentations about their companies.
FastTrends.com was the first company to win financing from the Maryland Angel Council, a limited liability corporation that comprises 75 venture capitalists who invest in emerging, entrepreneurial initiatives in the mid-Atlantic.
The company has raised $1.7 million in financing, including the $250,000 investment from the MAC, through an institutional round of financing led by venture capital firm Walker Ventures of Glenwood.
"This is a classic example of the Internet's ability to bring the two ends of any business process together," said Gina Dubbe, a partner at Walker Ventures, who said the firm was impressed by FastTrends' management team
The team also includes Jeanette Smith, the former vice president of licensing at United Media, who led development of "Dilbert" licensing.