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When he knocked on the door, he was greeted by one of the associates of the research analyst who followed SofTec’s stock for Goldsmith. The prior appointment had just ended. SofTec’s CEO, CFO, and investor relations director were crowded around a small table with two chairs left open for guests. Jasper went over, introduced himself, sat down, and exchanged business cards with the others.

After the IR guy asked Jasper if he already owned the stock, which he did not, the CFO slid a pitch book in front of him, and the CEO started her presentation. She went into a long-winded explanation of the type of software that SofTec provided to businesses, and that it came in various modules for different functions that all interconnected. Jasper wasn’t impressed when she claimed its customers were mostly leaders in their industries.

She makes it sound as if any company that doesn’t use her products is doomed.

After she belittled her competitors, who were all much larger and more established companies, the CFO followed with a rosy forecast for anticipated revenues and earnings.

Following a few basic questions from Jasper, the meeting ended. He thanked each of them politely, but left the room wishing he could have that half-hour back. Investing in small software companies was, to his way of thinking, a crapshoot. They habitually close the bulk of their business in the last few weeks of every quarter, so it’s always a nail-biter waiting to see if they made or exceeded the market’s expectations. On top of that risk, a bigger competitor might decide to enter the space by cloning their software and sometimes even giving it away for free. Jasper always believed that the smaller companies in this industry needed to be very nimble to carve out a market niche, or else they needed to sell out to one of the bigger firms. He wasn’t feeling that either of those alternatives was in the cards for SofTec, so he had no interest in the stock and didn’t see the need to research it further.

That evening, Jasper took a cab from his hotel to an Italian restaurant, where he had yet another meeting. When he walked in, he saw Tom Williams, the WebberPeabody salesman who had arranged the dinner. Tom led him to a private room in the back that was set up for fifteen people. The CEO and CFO were already there, talking with the others in attendance. Tom took Jasper over to the CEO, Marlon Johnson, and introduced him.

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