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Wit Capital: A potent brew

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If first impressions count, then Wit Capital is intriguing. Its offices, for starters, are in a decidedly non-financial part of New York, occupying a couple of floors of an old tenement building two blocks south of Union Square. The entrance is through a narrow door to the side of the Strand second-hand bookstore and after an interminable wait for the lethargic lifts you finally walk out onto a bright reception area. The bank's founder, Andy Klein, arrives, and for a moment you're struck by a more-than-passing resemblance he has to actor Harvey Keitel.

This is not your usual banking story and the history behind its creation reinforces it. Back in 1995 Klein was a partner in a microbrewery in New York's Soho, the Spring Street Brewery. It needed new capital, desperately, so Klein decided to try to raise some venture capital over the internet. Instead, virtually by accident, he managed to conduct the first on-line IPO, raising $2 million.

from law to
beer to banks

As a result of continued interest in the company's stock, Klein then decided, in February 1996, to set up a bulletin board on-line as a means of trading the stock.