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Coopers & Lybrand creates BBS to link business incubators.

When Coopers & Lybrand (C&L) created its BatorLink as a pro bono service for business incubator tenants throughout the country, it joined a popular move toward business bulletin board systems (BBS).

BatorLink is a joint project of C&L and the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA).

BatorLink's purpose is to facilitate technology transfer, provide tenant assistance, enhance facility management, create regional networking opportunities, assist in incubator development, obtain professional assitance for users and build peer relationships. BatorLink was adopted as a members service in late 1990.

According to Peter Collins, director of Emerging Business Services at C&L, "BatorLink's on-line communications software is specially designed with one clear objective in mind: to answer the networking needs of incubator managers and tenant companies."

BatorLink has several modules including private electronic mail (with linkage to facsimile and Telex transmission, as well as X.400 links to other E-mail systems), open discussion forums, databases and information sources.

The host computer is located at C&L's headquarters in New York City. The cost to use the service is $7 per hour with worldwide access available mostly through local nodes.

Collins explains that a high percentage of incubator tenants trade with each other.

All NBIA members received BatorLink front end communications software. Batorlink has enrolled more than 200 business incubators, including approximately 2,000 tenant companies in 35 states, Canada and New Zealand.

About 70 users log onto BatorLink weekly for at least one on-line session. Many users sign on several times a week, searching databases and exchanging electronic messages.

Incubator managers use BatorLink's databases to identify counterparts with specialized knowledge, then contact them directly using BatorLink's electronic mail system. Managers can also tap into several electronic bulleting boards offering advice from the BatorLink network.

Collins, a member of NBIA's board of directors, says, "It created a more cohesive group that shares information and helps each other more often. They exchange information with each other because memos can be sent to as many as 12 uses at a time. Anything a user sees on the screen can be copied with a personal message attached and forwarded to others."

NBIA updates its on-line newsletter each week and bulletins may be placed on the system at any time.

Collins is investigating links with federal research laboratories to stimulate transfer of government-developed technologies.

"We're also developing a liaison with the Small Business Association to assist with sources of funding. In addition, we're developing a service to match incubator tenants with investors from the Technology Capital Network. BatorLink is the 1990's version of the business card exchange," he says.

In addition to use of BatorLink, incubator managers and others have formed a management discussion group.

Collins says, "One question about group health insurance was answered by NBIA five hours afte it was posted. Follow-ups, replies and detailed responses from NBIA and officials of the incubators, as well as others interested in the insurance issue, have become a regular topic of discussion. There are a lot of 'here's how we handled it' responses to a variety of business questions."

BatorLink provides an electronic gateway to several other database, including the U.S. Department of Commerce's daily update of export opportunities.

C&L's computer networking "skunkworks" is headed by Andrew Zimmerman. His vision of developing electronic channels for organizations dates back to the mid-1980s.

Describing BatorLink, he says, "We've developed a tool they can use. Its use builds morale and feeds people who want to make a contribution. There's lot of good feeling about what this can accomplish."

In addition to standalone BBSs, a variety of other business networking systems have evolved. Three well-known consumer information utilities have business oriented BBSs used by subscribers.

The largest, with about 500,000 subscribers is Columbus, Ohio-based CompuServe. They have the International Entrepreneur's Network, in addition to various other professional forums.

Rockville, Md.-based GEnie (General Electric Network for Information Exchange) carries the Home Office Small Business round table. Prodigy Services Company, the White Plains, N.Y.-based joint venture between Sears and IBM, provides a business oriented BBS through additional-charge electronic messaging.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:bulletin board systems
Publication:Communications News
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Words:679
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