Despite losing his laptop case, business cards and even the ability to change slides during his key, five-minute presentation, Andrew Gao never lost his cool. That helped him win a business-plan competition at Sunday's Asian Information Technology Venture Capital Forum. The forum was the first such global get-together of Asian entrepreneurs and seed investors organised by non-profit organisations, including the Island Junior Chamber, the Federation of Hong Kong Industries and the Hong Kong Jayceettes Junior Chamber. The organisers received more than 50 executive business summaries from around the world, including the United States, India, Malaysia and Hong Kong. The summaries were whittled down to 14 presentations. Mr Gao was promoting a new business called SinaCentral, which plans to start a business-to-business barter marketplace over the Internet in China and make a profit by taking a 5 per cent commission from each successful transaction. Mr Gao, originally from China but now based in San Francisco, had suffered several setbacks on his trip until he won the gold-and-red trophy. A partner had planned to come with him to Hong Kong but could not get a visa in time. During his trip, he took out his laptop to do some work while waiting for a flight. When rushing to the plane, he forgot his laptop case containing his name cards. During his speech, the computer screen froze on one slide. As a technician came to his aid, Mr Gao quipped: 'The mouse is dead. But I am still alive.' He admitted he was nervous but his presentation helped persuade the judges that his idea was the best. Other ideas presented at the forum included an artificial intelligence system which can search through Web content, a logistics tracking system for freight, an Internet service provider in India and a Web game, City of Life. SinaCentral has 83 offices in China functioning as barter centres where, for example, a hotel can offer its rooms to a media outlet, which then offers advertising to a renovator which could do repair work for the hotel. Mr Gao said most companies in China had severe cash-flow problems, preventing them from simply buying what they need. SinaCentral has already signed up US$300 million in contracts but Mr Gao and his partners just wrapped up their future plans this month. They have just begun to talk to venture capitalists in an attempt to secure initial seed funding of US$1.5 million. The company has two technology patents pending. The first is for a type of search engine called 'Swaplet' which finds what companies want and what they have to trade. The second is for an application called 'Bidengine' which does the negotiating via the Web, acting as an agent between buyers and sellers. The company's Web site will be at www.sinacentral.com .