Selling Out, Staying On
Like any other mountain biker at a crossroads, Steve Christini, 28, relies on experience to choose the best path. In deciding which way to go on selling his mountain bike company, he relied on something else: a cold calculation of the chances Christini Technologies Inc. could ever, on its own, become the big, successful bike manufacturer he dreamed of. u The problem was not a lack of inspiration. Christini had devised an ingenious design for a two-wheel-drive bicycle--the biking equivalent of a sport-utility vehicle--while he was still a mechanical engineering student at Villanova University in 1994. Two years later, with help from his patent-attorney brother, he launched his Philadelphia-based company and set out on what would prove to be a long uphill journey. u After raising about $500,000 from credit cards, family, and a state loan, he spent the first two years perfecting his design and patenting it. Over the next two, he built prototypes and cobbled together a distribution deal to sell bikes through a larger company. "We pulled a lot of all-nighters," he says. "I was sleeping on the office floor, running power tools without sleeping for three days." The hard work paid off. Christini's prototypes, displayed at trade shows, started to build buzz among biking enthusiasts and manufacturers. u However, by late 1999, Christini faced a choice: Seek additional financing to make the bikes himself as a high-priced premium product, or find a buyer for his company. In August, he agreed to sell his fledgling business in an all-cash deal to Stamford (Conn.) biking giant Derby Cycle Corp. The sale is expected to close shortly. "People don't realize how difficult it is to make it on your own as a manufacturing company," he says.
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