ARCHIVED  February 1, 1998

PredecessorÕs legacy vexes new Softpages

Software developed by the now defunct Softpages Inc. is being marketed by a new company in California, which plans to reintroduce the product in Northern Colorado.Softpages Inc. operated in Fort Collins for a little more than a year between 1995 and 1996. The company produced a CD-ROM product billed as "21st century advertising today." Business listings, customized ads, a free Internet site, maps and directions and online coupons were promised features of the product designed to compete with the Yellow Pages.
Shortly after the first CD was mailed, the company shut down due to lack of financing and problems with the product. Richard Hopkins, who owns the company with his three sons, Adam, David and Wayne, said at the time that the company would reopen as soon as financing was secured. But Hopkins was unable to pay vendors and employees, and the company is still out of business. Hopkins has moved to Salt Lake City.
Aaron Taylor, a young entrepreneur who invested in Softpages Inc. in 1996, opened California Softpages seven months after Softpages Inc. closed its doors. Through a stock purchase dependent on Taylor˜s ability to find investors for the new company.
"I need to make a distinction between Softpages Inc. and California Softpages," Taylor said. "We use technology that they developed, but we˜re a separate company."
Softpages Inc. had the right idea, Taylor said, but they became undercapitalized.
"They would get $100,000 and use it to get more equipment, so they had nothing to fall back on when there was a dry spell," he said. "A series of tragic events took place that they couldn˜t recover from."
Taylor has prepared a private-placement memorandum to submit to brokerage firms. He hopes to raise $5 million in capital and file a public offering in December.
This is of interest to Northern Colorado businesses because Taylor also secured the option to buy a controlling interest in Softpages Inc. and its interests in 17 states. He plans to make his first expansion into Fort Collins.
"If we exercise the option, Fort Collins is the first place we intend to look after," Taylor said.
All of the problems with the CD-ROM have been addressed and fixed, Taylor said. And he believes it would be worthwhile to reintroduce the product here.
"There˜s some name recognition, even though it˜s not all positive," he said, "and I think there˜s more market acceptance now than when Richard was getting this idea going. A second entrance could be a good thing."
Softpages Inc. is currently about $600,000 in debt, Taylor said, adding that the debt is the sole legal responsibility of that company. But he has met with former Softpages employees to whom wages are owed and says he feels a responsibility to them and to vendors owed money as well.
Hopkins, currently manager of sales and marketing at Horizons Publishing Co. in Bountiful, Utah, said he also intends to take responsibility for his debts. He˜s happy where he is, he said, but if things go well, one or more of his sons might re-enter the Softpages business.
"We˜ have to see how it goes, he said. "Aaron has youth, energy and the one thing you need in business — honesty."

Software developed by the now defunct Softpages Inc. is being marketed by a new company in California, which plans to reintroduce the product in Northern Colorado.Softpages Inc. operated in Fort Collins for a little more than a year between 1995 and 1996. The company produced a CD-ROM product billed as "21st century advertising today." Business listings, customized ads, a free Internet site, maps and directions and online coupons were promised features of the product designed to compete with the Yellow Pages.
Shortly after the first CD was mailed, the company shut down due to lack of financing and problems…

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