A veteran of three startups and mentor to many entrepreneurs, Al Davis is staying in familiar territory with his latest venture - a startup company that targets other fledgling firms as customers.

Davis and his son, Mike Davis, started Offtoa (as in "off to a great start") nearly a year ago to operate a site that helps budding entrepreneurs make financial forecasts to include with the plans they show to potential investors. He hopes the company's product will become as popular with start-up entrepreneurs as Intuit Corp.'s TurboTax is with taxpayers.

"I have mentored about 30 entrepreneurs, helping them hone their business strategy and build their financials, and decided about two years ago that I could develop a tool to interview the entrepreneur about their business strategy to create and analyze financials in a way investors would," Al Davis said. "We want to help entrepreneurs get to 'yes' with investors."

The interview format used by Offtoa is similar to how TurboTax works to build a person's tax return. But instead of asking about mortgages and medical expenses, as TurboTax does, Offtoa's software asks entrepreneurs about their company's product, market, prices, number of employees and pay rates and sales model, Davis said.

The online software, now in its second version, costs $20 to $40 a month if users sign a one-year agreement, or $60 for one month of use.

Davis said Offtoa has about 20 customers, including First Nod Inc. of Colorado Springs. The companyis producing a self-service website that small businesses can use to make special offers to customers.

First Nod co-founder Dan Bauer, who is developing the website with partners Joe and Margaret Breakey, said Offtoa's service is the best out of more than a dozen similar services and software he has tried, particularly in setting pricing for his company's service.

"It is the most complete and intuitive I have used for this purpose because it takes into consideration so many different variables," Bauer said.

Another customer is TaylorBaby LLC in Castle Rock, which produces sweet-tasting baby wipes so babies will like having their faces cleaned with them. Danielle Stangler, co-founder of TaylorBaby, said using Offtoa helped the company produce more accurate financial projections for potential investors.

"If we had worked with Offtoa from the beginning, it would have been a lot easier to consolidate all of our information into one place," Stangler said. "It allows us to look at our business the way an investor would. It has helped us analyze how the business will look at different stages so we can make thoughtful decisions and tighten our processes."

Davis doesn't see Offtoa as the next Google, but he believes it has the potential to generate $20 million to $30 million in annual sales.

"There are about 750,000 companies started each year, and about two-thirds of them are mom-and-pop businesses that have no concept of what investors want," Davis said. "We are a niche product that is targeting fast-growing startups as our primary market, or about 150,000 of the businesses started annually."

Mike Davis was a founder of Denver online gourmet retailer MondoFood.com, while Al Davis co-founded two software companies that eventually were acquired by IBM and L-3 Communications. He then started Omni-Vista Inc., a Colorado Springs software company that failed during the 2001-02 technology industry meltdown.

Al Davis also is a professor of business strategy and entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs; he plans to retire from that job after this semester.


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