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RAND CAPITAL SET A RECORD IN 2004 WITH INVESTMENTS IN 14 COMPANIES

Venture capital firm Rand Capital Corp. will likely be fully invested by 2007 if it continues at its current pace of using about $3 million to $4 million a year, its top officer said Thursday at the firm's annual meeting.

The prediction by president Peter Grum came after the Buffalo-based firm completed a record year in 2004, investing $4.6 million in 14 companies through 17 transactions. They included $1 million in boat maker Carolina Skiff LLC, $400,000 in Buffalo Internet firm Synacor Inc., and $200,000 in Buffalo natural gas pipeline operator Somerset Gas Transmission Co.

The firm invested more than once in a few companies. Its previous record was less than $3.5 million in 2002.

Rand ended the first quarter of 2005 with $12 million invested in 24 companies. When fully invested, it will have used almost $23 million.

"We had a really busy year last year. It was the largest investment period in Rand's history," Grum told his audience of about 20 people in a conference room of the Rand Building. "Our investment portfolio transactions will continue to grow."

Investment income for 2004 rose 68 percent to $757,704, while operating expenses fell 4.4 percent to $900,812.

Grum said Rand plans to continue investing its capital, including additional cash infusions into successful firms it is already working with.

Rand has $11 million remaining to invest through its Small Business Investment Co., which was formed in 2002 and licensed through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The firm borrows the money from the SBA, and has been making almost all of its investments through the SBIC since that entity was created.

By the time it invests the rest of the $11 million, officials expect some of its existing investments and loans to have been repaid, giving it more cash for the next round of investments.

Grum said the firm will "continue managing operating income and expenses" so that returns on new investments match the higher interest costs of using the SBIC.

"We have more upside than downside. It's been a good year for our companies," he said.

During the meeting, shareholders also overwhelmingly re-elected seven directors.