Utah Angel Investor of the Year

On Tuesday, June 23rd at the Hilton Hotel in Salt Lake City, FundingUniverse will be announcing the first ever Utah Angel Investor of the Year award winner.

The top 15 finalists for this award are Alan Hall, Craig Earnshaw, David Carter, Gary Williams, Hal Widlansky, JD Gardner, John Richards, Kent Thomas, Kyle Love, Mark Madsen, Martin Frey, Nobu Mutaguchi, Robert Kunz, Scott Frazier and Warren Osborn.

Having been a big fan of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards for many years, I think it is exciting that FundingUniverse is going upstream a little bit to recognize some of the many angel investors who help those entrepreneurs get businesses off the ground.

I personally appreciate several of these 15 angels because some of them were our early investors at Ancestry.com (back in 1998) and more recently in FamilyLink.com (2007-2009 funding rounds.)

I hope this becomes an annual event, and I hope it spreads nationwide too, because angel investors are the unsung heroes of our free market economy. VCs get a lot of attention because they back high-profile companies. But from what I’ve read, angels generally fund 30-50 times more startup companies per year than VCs, and they fund a ton of small businesses that never become high profile but do create jobs and add value to our economy.

Kudos to Brock Blake and his FundingUniverse team for launching this idea.

Hint to entrepreneurs: if you want some inexpensive networking time with Utah’s very best angel investors, I suggest you buy a ticket (it’s only $25 per seat) and show up Tuesday (with plenty of business cards for all!) :)

Last chance for Utah entrepreneurs to get $100,000 in funding at Governor’s Summit

Utah is a very friendly state for startup companies. It ranks in the top few states for entrepreneurship. We have a great economic environment, a well educated work force, and a very growth-oriented governor. Plus, we have FundingUniverse.com, headquartered right here in Utah.

FundingUniverse.com and Grow Utah Ventures will select five entrepreneurs to present their business plans on March 22nd at Governor Huntsman’s Economic Summit, in front of a live audience at Grand America Hotel (the finest hotel in Salt Lake City.) The audience will include angel investors from nearly every angel group in Utah. And the winning entrepreneur will receive an investment of up to $100,000 from these angels.

The application deadline is tomorrow, March 6th. Click here to apply.

Even if you aren’t chosen to present at this exclusive event, by submitting your plan to FundingUniverse.com (for free) your plan will be viewable by scores of angel investors in Utah.

FundingUniverse.com operates nationwide, with nearly 750 angel investors and VCs nationwide using the site to find early stage deals. Submit your plan and then call to find out when the next Speedpitching event will be held in your region.

Note: I helped found FundingUniverse.com in early 2005 and Provo Labs is a significant shareholder in the company.

FundingUniverse Speedpitching Events: Raise Money for Your Startup

FundingUniverse.com now has about 1,000 angel investors in virtually every state. The company, which I helped found in early 2005, is holding its 5th speedpitching event today in Sandy, Utah. It has held events in 6 or more states and has plans to continue to expand.

I’ve attended several of these events representing the small fund we have at Provo Labs, as a potential investor.

The coaching and practice sessions have been extremely helpful. Imagine trying to get your entire business plan onto a 1-page summary that will be distributed. And then imagine being forced to tell your story in 4 minutes. That’s what all the entrepreneurs learn how to do.

After the 4 minute pitch, the investors get 3 minutes for Q&A. Then you go to the next table and give your pitch again. You do this 5 times before lunch, and then 5 times after lunch.

The goal is a followup meeting. The staff at FundingUniverse say that the vast majority of companies that have attended these meetings have had follow up meetings with the angel investors who heard their initial pitch.

One of my friends who has done two of these events said the most important advice he has is to memorize your pitch word for word. He and his co-presenters did this but the passion for their business still came through loud and clear.

A week after the February 2006 speedpitching event, he gave the pitch again to a strategic investor and raised $4.1 million. He credited going through the process of boiling down the company’s story into its very essence and memorizing it and giving it so many times for helping him close the deal.

I know 3 entrepreneurs who are presenting today, and I wish them all well.

I’m going to invite the staff from FundingUniverse to do some training for the 30+ companies at Provo Labs Academy, since many of them will one day seek funding from angel investors. Hopefully we’ll get that scheduled in the next week or two.

Investor Meetings: by Referral Only

Most VCs don’t have time to look at the thousands of unsolicited deals that are sent to them "over the transom," an interesting phrase defined by Wikipedia. Most only look at deals that are referred to them by people they know and trust.

So when VC Forum comes to your town looking for local deals that are promising, the Forum requires them to be submitted by a local VC firm that has of course screened the deals.

So local companies that want to pitch at the VC Forum events will need to have already gotten in front of credible people and started telling their story. You have to get noticed, you have to have a good team and a good story, and then you get the referral you are looking for.

The team at FundingUniverse.com has been very grateful for the support of hundreds of angel investors, VCs, sponsors, and entrepreneurs in Utah that have turned its online angel investor matching service and its Speedpitching events into key components of the Utah funding scene.

We heard today that all of the deals but one that were featured at Utah VC Forum event last week had previously attended FundingUniverse.com Speedpitching Events.

Many of the best deals that I have seen at the Speedpitching Events were looking for more money than is usually available from angel investors; so I’m glad to see that some of these are moving on to the VC arena. I hope the coaching and feedback they have received at the Speedpitching Events will help them land the venture capital they are looking for. I bet that it helped some of them get the referral they needed to present at this prestigious VC Forum event.

New Jersey Backing Up Angel Investors

New Jersey has a new economic development program that guarantees up to 1/3 of the investments made by angel investors in startup companies. More details here. Members of the Jumpstart angel investing network (a pretty forward looking group) are the first to receive this government guarantee, for a $285,000 investment in software company Knowtions. Interesting concept.

Utah Business Magazine – The Magazine for Decision Makers

Brock Blake, CEO of FundingUniverse.com (a Provo Labs portfolio company) just made it on the list of Utah’s Top 40 Under 40. At age 25, he was the youngest person on the list. So he can stay on this list for the next 14 years! Way to go, Brock.

Brock is already being quoted in the Wall Street Journal online about how to raise money from angel investors, so maybe he’s gunning to make a national top 40 list soon.

His company recently got some great coverage with a Connect magazine article about Simpligent, the highest rated company that presented at the November 2005 speedpitching vent held in Provo.

Rix Ryskamp, Simpligent CEO said this: “We have been contacted by quite a few investors since the speed-pitching luncheon,” says Ryskamp. “This has been the most productive funding event that I have ever seen. The amount of exposure we received in a single day was amazing.”

FundingUtah Speedpitching Event Feb. 2nd

If you are an angel investor and want a fun experience, join me and a couple dozen other angel investors for FundingUtah.com’s first Salt Lake City entrepreneur speedpitching event Thursday, February 2nd.

The staff at FundingUtah.com have selected 10 promising entrepreneurs for the event. They have been coached on how to deliver informative and energetic pitches. It promises to be an exciting day.

Last November the first ever FundingUtah speedpitching event attracted journalists, photographers, and even KSL news, which broadcast a 2 minute report of the event on the evening news. Check it out. This is fun stuff.

Visit the FundingUtah web site for more information or call them at 801-805-4847.

Last September I blogged when FundingUniverse had 421 investors nationwide signed up, now it’s up to 797 angel investors and 5702 entrepreneurs.

I think that speedpitching events are being planned for other states. If you want to see one in your area let me know. I’m a board member and investor in FundingUniverse.com and am excited to see the company generating interest all over the country.

Angel Investors Acting Like VCs

A Business Week article (thanks John and Steve!) discusses that angel investors are banding together more often and investing larger amounts in less risky deals. The author mentions that more than 200 organized angel groups exist in the U.S. served by the Angel Capital Association.

I like seeing the growth from the organized angel groups.

FundingUniverse.com (one of our portfolio companies) helps by providing free online software (the DealFlow Suite) to help angel groups find quality business plans and growing companies that they want to learn more about.

But I still think that the vast majority of angel investments are made by individuals who are not part of organized angel investor groups. I think the largest investments are made by superangels who don’t join groups and I think the majority of deals come from angels who aren’t trying to be like VCs–they are helping entrepreneurs that they know and like to try to get something off the ground. They invest anywhere from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of times that amount.

I know quite a few superangels. I wish more of them would join angel investor groups because sometimes angel groups can’t raise enough money to get good deals funded. Superangels could easily solve that problem.

Meanwhile, FundingUniverse.com now has more than 700 angel investors (20 state sites have at least 10) registered on its network of states sites. They collectively have more than $500 million in "available capital." As more and more state sites attract angels, the company will be able to hold speed pitching events and larger regional events in more locations.

The Vision of Grow Utah Ventures

I’m sitting inside the old greyhound bus station on Ogden’s infamous 25th street.

But it isn’t a bus station anymore. Utah visionary Alan Hall and his team at Grow Utah Ventures have purchased the old bus depot. They are renovating it and today are christening it the “E Station.”

E, of course, stands for entrepreneur.

Alan Hall’s vision is for Grow Utah Ventures to be the most influential private sector force for economic development in the state of Utah, with a focus on Northern Utah.

In the next five years Grow Utah Ventures plans to launch 100 new companies, invest $15 million in entrepreneurs, and create over 2,000 good paying jobs.

The E Station will be a launch center for new companies, providing low cost office space, mentoring from GUV Advisors, and sales and marketing assistance.

GUV companies will also have access to expansion capital because GUV is closely allied with many angel investor groups in Utah, including groups in Salt Lake, Weber, Davis, Cache and Washington Counties.

The E Station ribbon cutting starts in 10 minutes.

It is conveniently located a block away from MarketStar, a global sales and marketing outsourcing company which helped its clients sell more than $8 billion in products last year.

I love Alan’s vision. I believe the economic impact from funding 100 companies and mentoring hundreds of entrepreneurs will be vast. It will be part of his lasting legacy.

At a time when people worldwide are complaining about slow government response to every external event and disaster, I love watching private entrepreneurship and philanthropy having such a major impact on the world.

From Larry and Sergey’s incalculable effect on the worldwide diffusion of knowledge, to Clara Barton’s Red Cross, which provides relief to millions, to Habitat for Humanity’s vision of providing homes to the needy, and on and on. These things come from individual initiative, not government fiat.

Remember JFK’s powerful words: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

Think of the kind of world we would create together if all of us tried to answer that question.

Thanks, Alan, for answering it with this wonderful Grow Utah Ventures initiative!

Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.