Investment Banking

What Capital Raising Services Do We Provide To Early and Mid-Stage Companies?

Centarus assists early to mid-stage companies with capital raising through its affiliate Exemplar Capital, LLC. Exemplar is a FINRA registered broker dealer and investment bank. We are investment bankers who make introductions to our network of small venture capital firms, small investment banks, angel investment groups, high net worth individuals, and other institutional investors. The banking fees include a contingent success fee that is based upon a percentage of the capital raise and a monthly retainer.

Centarus and Exemplar are one of a very small number of licensed broker dealers that seek to democratize capital raising for early and mid-stage businesses, that is, to make it more accessible to american entrepreneurs. If you search the web, you will find that licensed broker dealers will generally never return phone call inquiries because they only accept referrals from recognized law firms or other industry insiders. in addition, most US investment banks and broker dealers cater to small businesses that have already been successful in achieving $1M or more in EBITDA or whose owners are wealthy (ie. top 1% income earners).

While many of our clients are businesses that exceed $1M in EBITDA (profits), and while we have many wealthy business owners as clients, we don’t only primarily serve the wealthy and successful. Instead, we are contrarians, or gamblers in a manner of speaking, because we also have a large number of clients that have not yet achieved this status, and if they meet our criteria, we will frequently take a gamble on their business/ their dream by reducing our fees and co-investing in promising early stage businesses. We are one of the few fully staffed licensed banking firms that caters to fledgling earlier stage companies and their striving business owners.

In additional, typical fees for broker dealers and investment banks to represent an early stage company are between $300 to $400K, which includes $120K in legal fees for drafting private placement memorada, $50K in due diligence fees, $100K in marketing reserves, and $10K/ month in banking retainers. While our services are not inexpensive, we are among the most competitively priced banking firms in the USA today. The way we accomplish our lower threshold fees is by co-investing in our clients, but in order to do this, we must be selective, and the business must have the following attributes: (a) a compelling business model that will attract investors, (b) strong projected offering returns for investors, (c) a competent team, and (d) financial reserves to pay lawyers and bankers necessary to raise capital, typically a minimum of $30K.

We must immediately dispense with the notion that ANY US investment bank or broker dealer will accept a client without being compensated for their lawyers and bankers time. A sophisticated company owner shouldn’t waste his or her time searching for a banking firm or broker dealer that will work on contingent fees, just as he or she shouldn’t search for a unicorn. All competent and licensed professionals will seek compensation for their lawyers, bankers, and an early stage company and/ or its principals must plan to pay a minimum of $20K for legal expenses (for drafting private placement memoranda), depending upon the capital raise target and with the understanding that the balance of legal compensation to the legal team will be contingent on capital being raised, and a minimum of $5K/ month in banking retainers, plus a percentage of capital that is raised.

Our team comprises present and past investment bankers, and our investment bankers are licensed through our FINRA registered broker dealer. Our consulting and investment banking teams work closely with our client companies to review, create, or modify their business planning and presentation materials. Although we can attempt to improve the quality of a client’s existing materials, our experience oftentimes proves this to be more difficult (and hence, more expensive) than creating new materials.

Additionally, described below are four capital raising infrastructures that can be installed or utilized to assist companies in raising capital outside of the institutional investor community. The following are some of the “self help” approaches to raising capital that we can employ. We refer to them as “self help” because they don’t require “buy in” from any institutional firm or investor. Instead, the company would be guided by our management consulting and legal team to sell investments in its business directly to the retail investor market. There are wonderful control advantages to these options:

Raising Capital Through Public Offerings of Securities

We can work with our affiliated law firm to raise capital by taking your company public and by introducing your firm to investor relations and public relations teams. This method of distribution provides our clients with a high degree of control and flexibility in the sale of its securities. Clients will be able to sell to the public at large without being constrained by “general solicitation” and “accredited investor” restrictions.

Capital Raising Through Reverse Merging Into a Public Shell

We can assist our clients in raising capital through securing a “clean public shell,” crafting a public offering, and guiding your firm in issuing and selling the securities through a private investment in public equity (“PIPE”) and later through the public markets. This distribution option provides the same flexibility as one would find in a traditional public offering, but this method of distribution is faster. Additionally, our firm will utilize its network to attempt to provide PIPE financing to its clients. We are able to assess the availability of such funding prior to accepting an engagement.

Raising Capital Through Broker Dealers

We can assist your company in raising capital through our network of broker dealers. First, we would assist you in obtaining a due diligence review and developing a marketing infrastructure that will enables distribution through a nationwide broker-dealer network. This distribution method is one of the least expensive methods and one of the fastest. However, the challenges that our clients will face with this approach is that they will have to undergo an extensive due diligence process, and the threshold for most established broker-dealers to agree to execute a selling agreement is relatively high.

Why Us

Our team comprises present and past investment bankers, and our investment bankers are licensed through a FINRA registered broker dealer. We work with our clients to evaluate the key factors that institutional investors will consider in making an initial investment determination:

  • Investment Banker Introduction to Investors: After making certain that our client’s message properly communicates the value of their offering (the “message”), it is our job to sift through our database of approximately 5,000 investors to find the ones that will be most receptive to our client’s offering. Unlike the multitude of unlicensed “funding intermediaries,” inexperienced broker dealers, and newly formed investment banks, our database isn’t comprised of purchased leads, it has, instead, been largely created through the establishment of relationships over our broker dealer’s thirty years in business–it was formed in 1980. Next, we submit our client’s investment package only to investors that we believe would potentially be interested in that particular client offering and follow up with each prospective investor on a weekly or periodic basis. Early indications of “no interest” are expected, but the feedback we receive from investors is indispensable in assisting us with ways to modify the deal structure and message, as is necessary to sell the offering. Our offerings are made mostly introduced to other broker dealers, small investment bankers, and small institutional investors.
  • Institutional Quality Business Plans: Approximately 60% of a client’s offering message is conveyed through a well drafted institutional quality executive summary and business plan. The remaining 40% is communicated verbally by our investment banking team. We will craft institutional quality business plans and executive summaries or we can greatly improve existing materials to better suit institutional expectations. However, we cannot overemphasize that a business plan is a necessary supporting document in an institutional investment package.
  • The Overlooked Offering Executive Summary or Pitch Book: Most companies seeking institutional funding experience repeated and frustrating rejection. Our experience has shown us that there are generally two reasons for this:
  • Too many companies try to fit round pegs into square holes: That is, most companies seeking capital don’t know which of the thousands of institutional investors in the country might have investment criteria that match their business type. Each of these institutional investors typically maintains a very narrow set of criteria – a “box”. By way of analogy, it is a waste of time and energy to submit a retail product company to an institutional investor that only invests in technology. Our years of experience in the industry and our deep contacts provide us with access to the investment criteria of hundreds of institutional investment firms throughout the country. We know which firms may have an interest in your business.
  • Companies are just plain wrong to assume that any business plan and executive summary is sufficient to create a level of interest on the part of institutional investors. Companies have too many deals and too little time to sift through sterile, commonplace, and uninspiring documents, such as a majority of executive summaries and business plans. Companies must have materials that truly sell their business, not just describe it. Additionally, the materials must clearly and visually describe why our client’s business proposition is different from the clutter of other deals in the market. We provide institutional quality selling packages (ie. executive summaries and business plans), which incorporate your company’s value proposition, inputs from management, and high level selling approaches, to create a tool that is designed to inspire investor interest in your business. Moreover, our consulting team members have successfully used this proven approach to raise over $200M in capital over the last three years. So if you ask why you might need or want it, the answer is simple–because it works!

Louis Amatucci

Managing Partner

Mr. Amatucci serves as the managing partner of Centarus Legal Services PC, and he oversees Centarus Business Consultants, Ltd and its investment banking practice. His practice focuses on securities law and corporate law. He is a securities and corporate attorney who has more than 30 years of combined legal and business experience. Prior to heading Centarus, Mr. Amatucci was employed as managing partner and general counsel at a respected midsized Midwestern securities issuer, where he established and directed the firm’s captive securities broker dealer distribution infrastructure.

During that time, he had responsibility for drafting and overseeing the drafting of securities filings and compliance matters relative to the issuer and its broker dealer distribution, corporate formation matters, and employment matters. Mr. Amatucci has also served as managing partner of a boutique securities broker dealer where he had responsibility for all operations of the office, including management of registered representatives, profit and loss responsibility, communications, and oversight of day to day activities. He and Centarus have, also, represented clients in front of the Illinois State Securities Department the US Attorney’s office, subsequent to clients receiving improper direction from prior counsel. Mr. Amatucci and Centarus have litigated cases in Illinois state court ranging from breach of contract to investor fraud matters.

Additionally, he possesses more than a decade of investment industry and banking experience including sales, marketing and executive level experience; and he spent over four years of that time assisting clients in raising capital through wholesale, retail, direct, and broker dealer distribution. Furthermore, Mr. Amatucci has over ten years of combined commercial real estate and commercial finance experience, and over ten years of technology industry experience. In the technology industry, he held engineering, senior engineering and executive level management positions at numerous large and respected national and international companies, to include, Unisys, Motorola, and Varta Gmbh.

Mr. Amatucci holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering, and three advanced degrees, including a Master of Science, a Master of Arts, and a Juris Doctor. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College, New York University-Polytechnic Institute, and John Marshall Law School where he was an honored recipient of the Ronald Rosenberg academic scholarship, and where he graduated with Dean’s List honors. He has, also, been an active member of the Illinois bar for over a decade, and he is a former graduate level college professor of corporate and employment law.

Jason Powell


Mr. Powell works with Centarus Legal Services, PC, and he focuses on securities law and corporate law. He has been a practicing attorney for nearly a decade, during which time he has concentrated entirely on the practice of corporate and securities law. In addition, Jason received his securities legal training at a well-respected midsize law firm, and, then, served as general counsel and executive team member to two start-up companies.  During his time as general counsel, he was responsible for all legal, corporate and regulatory compliance matters. Jason brings a unique and welcomed approach to the practice of law in that he truly understands the daily struggles facing entrepreneurs and management teams, and as a result of his experience, he is able to bring his business and entrepreneurial experience to the legal problems faced by entrepreneurs and management teams. Jason earned his law degree from University of Montana School of Law. In addition, he holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and Economics and a Master’s Degree in Sports Management from Montana State University-Billings.

Paul Belanger

Management Consultant

Mr. Belanger possesses over 20 years of finance and accounting experience, and for the past 10 years he has been providing consulting services to a range of clients that include everything from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies. Mr. Belanger’s specialties include raising capital, management turnaround and cost reductions. Over $100 Million Dollars has been raised for his clients over the past 3 years, and he has also initiated cost savings of $32 Million for companies. Some of Mr. Belanger’s Fortune 100 clients include: Waste Management, Staples, Timberland Footwear, Dunkin Donuts, and Bose. In 2010 Mr. Belanger raised $38 Million Dollars for Annie Leibovitz with Colony Capital to refinance her well publicized debt. He currently provides equity fund raising to enterprises in the technology, life science, and retail sectors.

Edward Rhodes

Management Consultant

Edward Rhodes possesses over 29 years of investment banking and consulting experience. Since 2000, Mr. Rhodes has provided M&A, valuation, capital raising, strategic advisory, due diligence, financial modeling and business plan writing services for startup, small and middle market clients. During his career he has closed transactions with an aggregate value in excess of $400 billion across a variety of sectors, including, but not limited to energy, utilities, social networking, industrials, media/telecom and healthcare.

Earlier in his career, Mr. Rhodes served as an Investment Banker in New York with JP Morgan and BMO Capital Markets. He has closed significant M&A, Leverage Finance, Project Finance, Equity, High Grade and High Yield transactions for a wide variety of Fortune 1000 clients and strategic buyers. Prior to his investment banking career, Mr. Rhodes managed the closure of defaulted savings and loan institutions as a Case Manager/Financial Analyst with the Resolution Trust Corporation in Washington.

Mr. Rhodes holds an M.B.A. in Finance from Columbia Business School and a B.A. in History from the University of Virginia.

John Russo

Management Consultant

John Russo possesses over 15 years of Financial Services and Investment Banking experience. Since 2000, Mr. Russo has provided New Business Procurement, Capital Raising, Structured Lending, Banking and Wealth Management Solutions for Small Businesses and Middle Market clients. During his career he has closed transactions with some of the largest Exxon Mobile Franchisees in the Northeast, where he assisted them with complex Cash Management Strategies.

Previously, Mr. Russo served as a Banker in New York with JP Morgan Chase, a Financial Advisor for Merrill Lynch and a Risk Management Consultant at Goldman Sachs Position Control Group.

Prior to his Financial Services career, Mr. Russo Founded Wrapid-Pull, A Dispenser for the Restaurant Industry. He patented the design and sold the rights to a Restaurant Industry Manufacturer in New York City.

Mr. Russo Holds Multiple Financial Industry licenses including the FINRA Series 7, Series 66, Series 55 and Series 24 Licenses. He graduated From Pace University Lubin School of Business with a Bachelor Degree in Business.

Gobind Singh Khalsa

Management Consultant

Gobind Singh Khalsa is a Sr. Consultant at Centarus Business Services. He leads engagements providing business leaders and organizations with strategy, finance consulting services and business coaching. Gobind Singh’s knowledge and expertise include business planning, finance, creating and implementing strategy and leadership development. His extensive background includes 18 years experience in leadership, consulting and finance. He has led consulting engagements for executive management, human resources, operations, finance, and technology teams.

His engagement leadership includes servicing clients as a management consulting and CFO – providing leadership, developing creative solutions and project management in finance, business planning and strategy, organizational development, change management, merger integration, finance/technology transformation, process improvement and regulatory reporting. His clients include start-up, medium-sized, and Fortune 500 companies in the technology, energy, financial services, health care, LOHAS, marketing and consumer products industries. Some of the clients he has served include Eagle Energy, ECO Power Design, Kaiser Permanente, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Union Bank. His previous employment includes: Manager at Ernst & Young LLP within the FS – Business Consulting practice and a Controller at the boutique investment bank Donaldson, Lufkin, & Jenrette.

Tim O’Connor

Management Consultant

Tim O’Connor is a tremendous asset to our Consumer Products practice area and brings the innovation and passion of a proven entrepreneur plus the enormous volume of results from his classic brand marketing experiences on some of the world’s best known brands including Betty CrockerR, TropicanaR Juice, CoorsR, Star WarsR and many more.

With more than twenty years of experience in traditional consumer marketing, Tim is a hands-on leader in product development, strategic planning, sales management and operations issues. As an executive leader, Tim has built a reputation as a marketing & sales driven executive in corporate turnarounds and brings a level of analysis and urgency to strategic decisions facing large and small organizations. Tim has developed countless strategic plans and presentations in such areas as marketing strategy, business model innovation, consumer research, channel management, new product development, brand renewal and product launches to name a few.

Tim is also the Founder of Brightspot Brands, the company he created to focus on the emerging functional candy segment. His company created the world’s first healthy candy brand known as, gimmeR. The brand featured great tasting, premium chocolate candy packed with nutrition like real dairy calcium, Omega3 from flaxseed and probiotics. The business was sold to a strategic investor in 2010.

Tim earned his undergraduate degree in Economics at the University of Minnesota and earned his MBA from the JL Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University with emphasis in Finance and Marketing.

Jan Knight

Management Consultant

Jan Knight’s primary focus is on providing customized secondary market research to consulting companies, start-ups, entrepreneurs and small-medium sized businesses. Much of her work in the past 13 years has helped to shape business plans, strategic marketing plans and new business development in a diverse set of industries.

Having access to professional, subscriber-based databases that provide authoritative data, nationally and internationally, helps her to research far beyond what the Internet alone can offer. Her information gathering skills are also incorporated in her research-driving writing of white papers, her reviewing of global information products for a UK publisher, and the multiple presentations and workshops she provides on the topic of market research. Jan also brings marketing and advertising experience to her role as a market research specialist.

Currently, a member of the Association of Independent Information Professionals, she has been active in their committees and conferences since 2001. Jan has previously served as a Board Member for a local Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), is also active in various trade groups including the Arizona Technology Council and the Business Marketing Association, and is currently involved as a partner/mentor at a number of Arizona-based business incubators

Jan earned her M.A. in Information Resources & Library Science from the University of Arizona, and her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Deree Kobets

Management Consultant

Deree Kobets brings to the team over 14 years of experience working with start-up companies. Her specialties include business plans, raising capital, cost reductions, creating organizational efficiencies, conducting due diligence and developing working cash flow and proforma financial statements.

Earlier in her career, Ms. Kobets designed a fundraising strategy and sourced target investors to raise $170 million for Apex Venture Partners, a technology-based private equity firm in Chicago. Not only does Ms. Kobets have experience with helping startup companies, she is an entrepreneur herself. Ms. Kobets is the founder of Grow Modern Kids, a unique brand which sold organic and modern products for children. Annual sales grew 20% consistently over five years. In 2012, she successfully sold her business for a profit.

During the last two years, she has provided consulting services to small companies in high growth stages and in need of funding. She assisted these companies with growth plans, systems restructuring, and the preparation of business and financial documents. From her experience with investors, she is skilled in writing business plans and knowing what investors want. Due to her experience with entrepreneurs, she is adept in assisting start-up companies prepare their systems and financials for investment sourcing.

Deree earned her undergraduate degree in Economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned her MBA from the J.L. Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University with emphasis in Management and Strategy and Marketing.

Dharmesh Patel

Management Consultant

Dharmesh Patel is a tremendous asset to our Management Consulting practice area and brings the innovation and passion of Silicon Valley plus the Strategic Planning domain expertise from blue chip firms like Adobe, Schwab, Visa USA, Merrill Lynch, and Prudential Financial.

With more than thirteen years of experience in Product Marketing and Business Development, Dharmesh is a hands-on leader in product development, marketing, strategic planning, organic/inorganic growth and operations/process improvements. As an executive leader and hands on strategist, Dharmesh has built a reputation as a quantitative “Growth Hacker” leading business growth while meeting ROI and ROE objectives. Dharmesh has developed numerous strategic plans and business cases in such areas as marketing strategy, business model innovation, market/product research, customer acquisition & retention strategies, new product development, M&A/Capital Raise and Investor Relations.

Some of the notable highlights from Business Development/Product Launches include:

  • Over $90 Million in Capital Raise stretching across the major stages—Seed (~$100k), Series A ($8M), Private Placement ($2M), IPO ($80M)
  • Eight M&A Deals totaling over $400M
  • Twenty + product launches for both startups and larger blue chip firms bringing in over $160 M in incremental Revenue

Dharmesh earned his undergraduate degree in Business Administration at the University of Maryland – UMUC and earned his MBA from the Warrington College of Business at University of Florida with emphasis in Finance and Strategy.

Hillary Finne

Operations Manager

Ms Finne is the Operations Manager and lead paralegal at Centarus Professional Services. She provides us with more than 20 years of business experience in industries, to include, legal services, financial, and manufacturing. Educationally, she possesses a Juris Doctorate from Loyola University Chicago’s School of Law and a Masters and a Bachelors degree from Northern Illinois University.