VENTURE DOLLARS ON DEMAND

Halsey Minor, the millionaire founder of technology news and products review portal CNET Networks and currently the chief executive officer of San ([A-z]+)-based software group Grand Central Communications, has started a $50 million venture capital fund entirely with his own money. His plan, in essence, is to use the vehicle to create more customers for Grand Central's “On Demand” software services by funding them as start-ups.

Minor's On Demand Venture Fund will provide capital for companies that will use Grand Central's on demand business-to-business solutions. The company's products are delivered online with the same functionality as traditional enterprise software but at significantly lower cost, are less complex to implement and likely to generate a faster return on investment, according to a Grand Central statement.

Minor is confident that there will be plenty of investment opportunities coming the fund's way. In an interview with Informationweek.com in October, Minor said: “These people come to us. They show up as customers. We're in a good position to see who's got ideas that make good use of our services”.

This customer-cum-investee approach is certainly unusual. But Minor believes it has produced results already: earlier this year, prior to launching the new fund, he invested $500,000 in a start-up called Inside Scoop, a supplier of on demand business information from sources such as Dun & Bradstreet and Thomson Financial. The company is built on the Grand Central software platform.

Nine months after inception, Inside Scoop's cash flow turned positive, Minor told Informationweek.com, adding that it was expected to generate $5 to $7 million in sales in 2005. No wonder he is confident his new fund will find similar opportunities.