Category Archives: Investment Terms

General Solicitation

Once again, through inadvertent action, the federal government is about to threaten Angel Investing. This all started as a way to increase investment in startups, when congress passed, and the Obama signed the JOBS Act (see: http://blog.drosenassoc.com/?p=97). Title II of the JOBS Act allows “General Solicitation and Advertising” of private placements (like Angel deals). One would think this is good for two principal reasons: (1) it roughly brings current practice into compliance, since many angel groups post their deals on a web site (like Gust, which is used by many angel groups) or run events where companies present to their members and others; and (2) more and more angel deals are funded by many angel groups (usually called syndication), so there is an implicit solicitation. We liked this idea. It allows our companies to reach a broader audience of only accredited investors. All good, right?

Well, not so much. The legislation also asks that the SEC use “reasonable steps to verify” that they are accredited. Even with that, it seems pretty straightforward. The reasonable steps to verify have been around a long time (under Rule 506B). Every time angels (or other accredited investors) make an investment, the deal documents come with a short form that you fill out how you qualify as an accredited investor. The SEC has given “safe harbor” using this mechanism.

But the SEC is considering that this long-accepted method will not be acceptable if an issuer (a startup company raising money using Regulation D) uses the new General Solicitation rule (Rule 506C). Instead, the SEC originally proposed that investors would have to give the issuer copies of their tax returns. The Angel Capital Association (ACA) wrote a very strident response that this would severely diminish angel investing, since few angels would turn over their tax returns to a startup. And, of course, the startup would have to find a way to preserve these records and keep them confidential – a real mess, given that most startups don’t even have permanent offices.

The ACA Public Policy Committee fought hard to ensure that existing “quiet offerings” (Rule 506B). Therefore, if you don’t take advantage of the General Solicitation (“noisy offerings”), you still can take advantage of the existing rules.

If you do use a noisy offering, then you will need to follow new rules, which have not yet been written. But the preliminary rules (and discussions with SEC) show that the SEC is unlikely to allow “self certification” for these offerings. Therefore, one of two outcomes now looks likely: (1) issuers (or their attorneys) will have to collect a lot of information about their investors and investors will have to share a lot of personal information; or (2) new third-party certifiers will emerge to do this.

Is this really so bad? YES – this is bad. First and foremost, we all rely on the “safe harbor” on the Reg D investments. At this point, the rules don’t give this safe harbor for any particular mode of validating accreditation. This means that deals can be challenged and unwound. Very bad. Secondly, even using third party validation, will cause the costs of these deals to increase. Instead of money going to hire engineers and sales people, it will be used on deal overhead. Very bad. And lastly, most angels HATE extra paperwork. If the validation requires that you hunt through and list all of your deals for the last 5 years (it would take me hours to do this!) And, I would be generally unwilling to provide my tax returns to anyone. In the end, it would just mean a lot of extra paperwork and time. I would probably avoid any deal that used a noisy offering.

I think that the SEC (and the legislators who supported the JOBS Act) really needs to recognize that the angel investing arena has self-regulated very well and the current system has worked well. Extending the current process for noisy offerings makes a ton of sense. It is the right way forward.

After all, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

Crowdfunding and Angel Investing

My friend, Bill Carleton, posted a very thoughtful blog on Crowdfunding and angel investing: http://www.geekwire.com/2012/angels-crowds

Bill has teed up some excellent questions. See my response.

While you should definitely read the entire post, here is brief excerpt:

Crowding out angels from startup financings?

March 3, 2012 at 1:52 pm by William Carleton

As early as next week, we may know whether Congress will change US securities laws to permit startups to sell stock to the general public over the internet.

You know how, today, companies raise money on Kickstarter by offering products, t-shirts, and other bennies? Imagine those same companies selling stock to investors over a Kickstarter-like platform. If the law changes – and this is something that one chamber of Congress has already passed and that President Obama supports – entrepreneurs seeking capital will have one more alternative to angel investors and venture capital firms.

Sound too good to be true? There is a catch. The proposed law (known as a “crowdfunding exemption”) would apply only to offerings that place strict limits on how much money can be raised and how much an individual investor may invest. For example, the new crowdfunding exemption might say that the startup may raise no more than $1,000,000 in a given year. And that each investor may invest no more than $1,000 per deal. (Actual limits are still being debated in Congress.)

My reply to his blog:

Bill – as always, great and thoughtful post. The original intent of the Crowdfunding bill (as drafted by Scott Brown) was to help replace Friends & Family money that has dried up with real estate prices. (Gone are the days when an entrepreneur could take out a mortgage on their home!)

As every professional angel knows, angel investing is not for the faint of heart. Many deals (even ones that seem like a sure thing) go to zero. Some are successful, but take a very long time. Almost every deal will take multiple rounds. (There is a reason for the “accredited investor” rule!) I don’t think anyone believes that a company can be funded from inception to exit by Crowdfunding.

And, angels provide much more than capital – they provide knowledge and assistance.

One historical perspective: in the early days of angel investing, VCs often would not invest in angel deals. Less experienced angels (particularly those not in groups) would screw up the valuation and terms, so VCs wouldn’t want to take the time to fix them up. As you highlight, Crowdfunded deals might follow the same path – the terms might just not be right to incent angels to invest. And cleaning up the deal for angels to follow might be a great deal of work, especially at a time like this where there are a lot of deals vying for our attention.

This next year will tell a lot about how this will play out. It’s going to be interesting!

Early Stage Company Valuation

To outside observers, it sometime seems that investors are very lucky when they get an exit and make a spectacular return. Those of us who invest regularly in startups, and then take an active role, know that there is a great deal more than luck involved. It’s really hard to have a startup survive to get to exit. There is no formula, nor is there an algorithm to follow that makes this so. Would that it were so! If you drive your car by looking intently in the rear-view mirror, you will know with great precision where you have been, but are unlikely to avoid the truck that is driving straight at you.

But.. there is one thing that is generally predicative of success – valuation. If the valuation is set too high, you risk crashing on a down round when the inevitable happens and things that can go wrong, will go wrong. If you set the valuation too low, then the entrepreneur owns too little of the company to be incented; and follow on rounds with new investors is difficult because ownership is too concentrated in the hands of the early investors.

From both the entrepreneur’s and Angel’s point of view, it is better to grow the valuation steadily (and most usually slowly) than to have a high valuation at the start and then not increase the valuation later. Raising money is difficult at best; it becomes ever more difficult when valuation expectations are not aligned.

So, I make the following three recommendations:

  1. Balance, balance, balance. It is critical to understand the amount of capital that must be raised in the first round, what milestones that money will attain, and if that is sufficient to achieve the following round. Some businesses are just not financeable by Angel investors. If, for example, if your company really needs to raise $2M to ship your product that only addresses a potential $10M opportunity, you are unlikely to raise that money. And.. raising only $250k with the hope that, before you hit a meaningful milestone, you will later raise more is not fair to you or your investor.
  2. Try to project capital needs for future rounds (yes.. I know that most plans say this will be the ONLY money that the company will ever need. But I can’t think of an example where that was actually the case). Understand that each new investor in these future rounds will expect that their investment will lead to a good return – in short a good deal. The existing investors will like their investment to grow; they took a risk on the entrepreneur and the company and would like to see value commensurate with the risk they took, especially if you need them to continue to invest. And lastly, the entrepreneur team wants to maintain a reasonable stake that can lead to a good value on exit. While this is hard in the initial round with only one set of investors and the entrepreneur team, it is much more difficult when there are also new investors joining the process.
  3. Know the market. Angel Groups, like the Alliance of Angels, see a lot of deals and know what Angels consider a fair valuation for the risk and reward that those companies present. There is a market for Angel financing of startups. And, like any market, supply and demand matters. Seek advice on valuation from trusted sources, but weigh the advice heavily towards those that write checks to startups. We often ask entrepreneurs how they came up with their valuation. The most common answers are: (a) my lawyer told me that was fair; (b) I looked on the Internet to see what bloggers were suggesting; and/or (c) I build an excel spreadsheet that shows the valuation after we are successful and did a backward projection. While all of these methods have merit, they rarely lead to a true market-based valuation that leads to a quick and successful financing. While it is no fun to explain to an entrepreneur that the current value of their company is significantly less than they believe it should be, this is why “professional Angels” have become a trusted source for setting fair valuations.

In summary, the best way for an entrepreneur and Angel to agree on valuation is to see the deal from each other point of view.

More startups fail because of poorly set initial valuation (both too high and too low) than almost any other cause. This is an easy problem to solve, but it must be solved up front. We are lucky to have professional Angel groups that are willing to work with entrepreneurs to help startups succeed.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is about to be approved by Congress and signed into law by the President. For those unfamiliar with the concept, you can read Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowdfunding) or simply put it is raising money for startups, typically via the Internet, in small chunks from people who may never meet with or diligence the company. Crowdfunding has been used in some non-profits for years and has been successful in Europe for the last two or so years as well.

Most existing investors in this early-stage asset class hear of crowd funding and have the immediate reaction: “Won’t this lead to massive fraud?” Today, investments in unregistered securities require that all investors be “accredited” so that they are assumed to understand the risks in these investments and ensure that sophisticated investors carefully vet deals to ensure that there isn’t fraud.

But, times change. Some VCs and Angels have become fabulously wealthy and famous by investing in early-stage companies, and the media has made a big deal about this. Think Google, Facebook, and even Microsoft. And, in our current economic malaise, creating high-growth, innovative startups is seen as a way out of the mess. But many innovative startups fail in trying to raise money. Angels do their part (see many of my previous posts). But many believe that the need is greater than sophisticated (“accredited”) Angels can finance.

So.. the idea of Crowdfunding has gained great momentum. The current vehicle, H.R. 2930, the Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act, as amended and approved by the House Financial Services Committee on October 26, 2011, (see http://financialservices.house.gov/UploadedFiles/hr2930ai.pdf for the original). The amendments are important, since they lower the size of the amount raised. While the situation is still fluid (the House reportedly just passed its bill and the Senate is in draft), it appears that there will be a $1M annual cap on raising money through Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is exempt from current broker-dealer rules. Other issues, like how companies handle scores or hundreds of investors or allowable fees that Crowdfunding platforms can charge, remain up in the air.

I have heard rumors about this being done in Europe for the last several years, but cannot substantiate that startup companies have been funded this way. Wikipedia reports that “One of the pioneers of crowd funding in the music industry have been the British rock group Marillion. In 1997 American fans underwrote an entire U.S. tour
to the tune of $60,000, with donations following an internet campaign…” And movies have been known to use Crowdfunding. Any readers with more data?

This is a brave new path for the US. While many (myself included) think that our current SEC regulations that limit investments in startups to “accredited investors” are too narrow and should allow other knowledgeable investors to participate, there is established law and precedent for the investment market. I worry that we might be opening Pandora’s box. Many startups fail and investors that are not willing or able to do due diligence should not be investing in them. It is one thing for sophisticated, accredited investors, like me, to invest in a company and loose their investment. We understand the risk going in. We did our due diligence on the management team, the market, and the technology and reached a positive conclusion. It is quite another thing for someone to “advertise” a deal to the Crowd and have people send them money based solely on the company’s information without any substantiation.

I believe that broadening the participation in the early-stage asset class is a good idea and Crowdfunding is one way to achieve this. I just don’t want some bad actors who use the Crowdfunding mechanism for fraudulent transactions to poison the entire asset class. I think it would behoove both the entrepreneurs that raise money with Crowdfunding and the investment community to find a way to have a trusted platform that verifies that the company is who they say they are and that some investment professional has done due diligence appropriate to the investment.

I also worry that Crowdfunding could lead to some very high priced deals. Investment professionals (including “Professional Angels) have a great deal of experience setting the price for early stage deals. This experience comes from many years of investing, forecasting companies’ success and capital needs, and understanding how exits are likely to occur. Without this discipline, prices might not reflect true value. For example, if an entrepreneur is told by the investment professionals in their community that an appropriate valuation for their company is $2M, but they go to the Crowd with a $10M valuation and raise $500k, what happens when they need to do their next round? After they have spent the $500k, they might approach either Angels or VCs who will then set the price well below $10M. The Crowd will then find that their investment is worth very little. If the Crowd understands that risk, I have no problem with Crowdfunding, but if this isn’t transparent or well-disclosed, I think we could have many disgruntled investors.

I really want Crowdfunding to work. I don’t want a bunch of “mom and pop” unsophisticated investors ripped off.

Should Entrepreneurs Pay Angels?

Should entrepreneurs be asked to pay angels and angel groups for the opportunity to present their business?

As the seed stage/angel asset class becomes more prominent and popular, this becomes an ever more frequent question. There was a blow up about a year ago when Jason Calacanis took on the Keiretsu Forum and the amount they charged early stage companies. Not much has changed, but the number of people trying to part the entrepreneurs from their money has done nothing but increase.

Let me start with my emotional answer. It is hard for me to understand why an entrepreneur who has quit their job, mortgaged their home, and gone “all in” on their startup should pay a bunch of rich people for the privilege of pitching their deal. It just seems wrong. And, from my point of view, not something I would do.

But, if I take an entrepreneur’s point of view, I need to raise money. It’s such a daunting task and many entrepreneurs really neither have the time nor resources to pull it off. So, unless I see an alternative, if someone offers me a path to raise money, I take it. If I have to pay $10-25k to raise my needed $500k, I probably take it. I don’t ask questions like:

  • “Are the investors coming in aligned with our strategy?”
  • “How many investors are in my deal?”
  • “What impact do they have on my structure?”
  • “Do the deal terms mesh with raising more money later?”
  • And perhaps most importantly, “If I take this money, does it eliminate other sources, especially if I pay a fee to a broker?”

Experienced, professional angels have been through this lots. Groups like the Alliance of Angels don’t charge a fee for raising money for entrepreneurs. We help get deal terms that are fair to both entrepreneurs and investors, and allow for the necessary future financings (even when the plan says there won’t be any other financings).

It is hard to clean up the mess from a poorly constructed and overpriced financing. Most investors won’t do the clean up and instead will just pass on the deal.

Carve Outs for Management in an Acquisition

Carve outs for management is a tool that is often overlooked by boards in angel-backed companies. It is a tool that can be a critical in making an acquisition occur, but is difficult to get right. First of all, both management and the board are often too close and emotionally involved to make a clear decision.

For those that aren’t familiar with the concept of a carve out, it is a payment to management, from the proceeds of a transaction, that is paid out before investors are paid the amount they would otherwise be due from the sale of the company.

Having served on more than my share of boards, and often on the comp committee, I am often asked about the following situation, which is typical of one where a carve out occurs:

  • A company has taken quite a bit of investment, usually from institutions and angels.
  • The deal that was struck has a liquidation preference (if you don’t know what this means, you should educate yourself). Good terms for companies meeting their goals are 1x participating preferred (sometimes capped); bad terms are 2x to 3x and usually granted when a company is in trouble and needs to raise money.
  • Acquisition seems like the best alternative, but the offers are for less than the liquidation preference (or not much more than the preference).

In this case, the common stock and options are essentially worthless. The founders, employees, and others who bet on the upside find themselves in the position of having worked for little-to-no upside (or in the case of board members or consultants who took options – nothing!).

What is the board to do?

Here is my perspective from serving on dozens of boards and many comp committees:

  • It was management’s sweat that got the company to exit. This needs to be rewarded.
  • On the other hand, the board needs to recognize that management did not deliver the value that was promised when the money was taken. (Nor did the board.) It is not fair to give management a great return, while investors lose money.
  • The board should try, as a first priority, to ensure that management gets a good deal from the acquiring company. This is good for the acquirer and allows more of the proceeds to go to investors.
  • One often hears that management is unwilling to allow a deal to proceed if they don’t make enough money. And therefore they would rather the company stay in operation, even if it means a greatly reduced valuation. If the original deal terms don’t either carry enough voting shares, or the rights to force the sale, then the investors might be screwed. This is why alignment with the entrepreneur and deal terms can matter.
  • Finding a fair solution is often difficult. Hiring an experienced person/consultant might be a good idea, if the board and management are willing to follow their dispassionate advice.
  • If a carve out is necessary, I believe that it should be graduated (like a graduated income tax). In that way, as the investors do better, management increasingly does better. This aligns incentives. For example, if the liquidation preference is $10M and the acquisition will be in the range of $5-15M, the carve out might look like this:
    • 5% of proceeds for the first $5M (which is $250k at $5M)
    • Between 5-10M, $250k plus 7.5% of the amount over $5M, which is $375k at 10M
    • $875k plus 10% (plus the value of their stock, which is now in the money) for any amount over $10M
  • This seems to give both aligned incentives and balance the reward for management with the need to get investors their money back.

Of course, all of this looks much better when the company sells for a lot more than was invested!

Severance – Oh No!

Many entrepreneurs, when they take outside money into their company, want to protect themselves. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

The investors putting the first money into the deal also want some protection, especially when the founders own a vast majority of the overall stock and probably have a majority of the board seats.

One of the items that entrepreneurs sometime request is a severance package. In Washington State – DO NOT DO THIS. I don’t know about other states, but in Washington, the law apparently makes individual board members liable for any salary owed employees and not paid. For historical reasons, severance was considered salary in Washington. That would mean that board members might become liable for the severance of a fellow board member and company executive.

Clearly, this is a bad idea and the law needs to be changed.

But in the meantime, do not agree to a deal where there is a severance agreement.

I have modified my model term sheet to reflect this (http://drosenassoc.com/Model%20Term%20Sheet%20for%20Alliance%20of%20Angels%20revised%20May%202011.pdf).

AoA Results – why are they so good?

In my previous post, I noted that the AoA had a great year in 2010. (http://blog.drosenassoc.com/?p=61 or the full release http://drosenassoc.com/AoA%20results%202-23-11.pdf)

Typically, most angel groups or VCs see about 25-40% of their deals die in the first 4 years. (This is called the J curve, since the portfolio value goes negative for the first 3-5 years and gets positive when you begin to get exits in year 5 – this valuation curve looks like a J.) The AoA has what appears to be unprecedented results – almost all of our investments in the last 5 years are still alive! Many people have asked my why we did so well in a crappy market. I’ve certainly spent a great deal of time thinking about this. I believe that there are four principal reasons that caused the great year.

  1. World-class, innovative deal screening process. The AoA sees great deal flow, largely because we have a reputation of being savvy investors, who bring lots of value, and do “write checks.” One of the true core competencies we have developed over the last 15 years is our ability to take all the deals that are submitted and invest in the very best. This takes a lot of work, starting with our selection of our staff (both full-time managing director and 2 part time program managers) who have the right skills and knowledge to help startups be ready to enter our process, continues with preliminary screening by the staff, through the selection by our screening committee (the 10-15 most experienced angels in our group), and finally the presentation to our members who invest in good deals. This process is both efficient and respectful for both angels and entrepreneurs. And, it is complemented by a rather extensive knowledge base of market terms, deals and conditions. All of this leads to great companies, presenting well to our members, and being prepared for due diligence and investment.
  2. Get the deal terms right. We work with entrepreneurs to set terms and valuation that are deal and market appropriate, which allows companies to endure. In the past, too often investors didn’t understand the impact of setting a price too high, raising too much or too little money, and/or having either investor or entrepreneur-unfriendly terms. While they can often be seductive at the outset, bad terms lead to long-term problems at companies. The AoA has taken a lead role in the Pacific Northwest in bringing forward deals that make sense for both investors and entrepreneurs. By setting terms correctly, companies can survive and thrive even after market or strategic problems push the company off track.
  3. Active, engaged investors. The AoA members not only write checks, but often get actively involved in the companies in which they invest and often take board seats. As a group, we bring a ton of knowledge and experience – the kind of experience that many startups couldn’t afford or acquire any other way. This knowledge often helps our portfolio companies avoid mistakes, see them earlier, or find more innovative solutions to fix them. We are also a source for follow on rounds, especially at this time when VC financing is either not forthcoming or inappropriate. This pool of active, engaged investors helps companies survive and thrive.
  4. The right strategy, done early enough to make a difference. About 4 years ago, we realized that our investment results then were mostly dependent on a few of our most active members investing in a lot of companies, but this wasn’t sustainable. We realized that we needed to increase the “capital capacity” of the group, if we were going to remain relevant. We were fortunate to ride the trend of the “professionalization of angel capital,” where individual angels realized that working together led to better results. Over the last four years, we have succeeded in (a) reformulating our strategy, vision, and mission, with a rebranding of the AoA; (b) recruiting a continuing stream of new members; (b) putting in place education programs that help our new and existing members know how to do good deal; (c) putting in place an angel term sheet (http://drosenassoc.com/Draft%20Term%20Sheet%20for%20Alliance%20of%20Angels.pdf) that helps angels get deals done quickly and at low cost; (d) train our angels to be good deal leads, board members, and investors; and (e) be an advocate for better communication from startups to their investors.

While the ultimate measure of success is a positive return through lucrative exits, we also know that for these early-stage startups have a long period to exit – typically 7-10 years. Since our data prior to 5 years ago isn’t very good, our surrogate measure is the “J Curve.” The fact that the AoA has succeeded in dramatically changing the J Curve implies that the strategy is working.

Comments welcome.

Angel Investing is Vibrant and Getting More So

Not much surprises me these days, particularly during this mud-slinging political campaign season.

However, Marcelo Calbucci’s Tech Flash post (http://www.techflash.com/seattle/2010/10/have_we_killed_the_angel_investor.html) did. How my posts could be so misunderstood by someone I respect baffles me, especially when that misunderstanding is posted to a widely read blog.

My previous post on Angels forming LLCs for their investments IS entrepreneur friendly, and based on national best practices. Any entrepreneur who has a successful venture with 50 angel investors knows the pain (including excessive legal fees) for getting signatures on every shareholder issue. If a large number of these angel investors are in an LLC, you only need one signature – much more efficient and much less costly. This is the practice in many places, including some of the largest angel groups in the Bay Area and East Coast. It is not widely done in Seattle. And it is not a way to get better terms in seed and A round investments; there really is no relationship between the two.

It is a way for Angels to preserve their rights in the face of a VC round that follows. VC’s typically don’t like to have to get 50 signatures, so they reserve certain rights to “major investors” in their term sheets. This typically either washes away or severely limits the investor rights of Angels, once VCs have entered the deal. It is definitely in the interest of the entrepreneurs, Angels, and the company to make sure that a broader base of investors has a say in the future of the company; the trust from shareholders (the owners of the company) that they will be treated in an open and democratic way is the basis of our entire equity system.

Angels who work together to learn best practices make for a much stronger ecosystem. That is why I spend so much of my personal time trying to learn from other angel groups, both locally and nationally, about what works and doesn’t work. My colleague Angels do likewise. We run a bunch of educational events locally to share our knowledge and insights and encourage other Angels to strike deals that are balanced between return and being entrepreneur friendly. It is why I spent so much time crafting a “Series A Angel Term Sheet,” (http://drosenassoc.com/Draft%20Term%20Sheet%20for%20Alliance%20of%20Angels.pdf) that is now being widely used, not just in Seattle, but around the world. It simplifies the process of bringing in early money for startups, while lowering the costs. All of these activities lower the barrier for entrepreneurs raising money, not as you assert, making it more difficult.

Angel groups are a fabulous way for an entrepreneur to raise money. It is much more efficient to present once to 60 active angels than to set up 60 individual meetings. I don’t know one entrepreneur who would argue with that proposition. And, through the Angel Capital Association (a Kauffman Foundation spinout), we are now sharing best practices, participating in educational events, making sure that public policy encourages early-stage investment (e.g. http://blog.drosenassoc.com/?p=41), making sure that as many Angels as possible enter the ecosystem, and encouraging each other in bleak economic times.

As part of this socialization, it is evident that Seattle IS progressive. We have funded as many or more early stage deals at a slightly higher price than our peers in the Bay Area and Boston. Your assertion that entrepreneurs in the Bay Area are getting their deals funded without a financial projection or a solid plan is an urban myth that is not supported by fact; it encourages behavior that neither helps entrepreneurs or investors. We do help the “the next great idea from two guys who are just finishing their computer science degree at The University of Washington” in part by helping them understand what it means to create a great business. In my 25 years of experience, I have not seen a success where throwing money at people without a great business concept created a great business. It is the marriage of great technology, great people, and a great plan that makes the breakout companies. Yes, this takes some discipline and hard work. Saying that the best model is angels willing to throw money at entrepreneurs who are not committed to a disciplined approach is not only wrong, it does a great disservice to the entrepreneurs willing to quit a high-paying job to risk everything to build a great company.

And during the last year, I’ve spoken at events throughout North America without reimbursement. Like you, Marcello, for me this is a passion, not a business. But most Angels need a return on their investment, if they are going to continue to invest. We need more maturity in the process, not less.

We all want to see more intelligent, high-net-worth individuals in Seattle become Angel investors. They way to do this is NOT by telling them that they should “invest and pray”. It is by showing them how to be successful angel investors, how to lead deals without as much pain as in the current process, and by making it easy to pull the trigger on their first few investments. One way that other communities (e.g. Bellingham) have used is the deal-specific LLC that started this conversation.

Success will come by finding more ways for entrepreneurs and Angels to communicate and understand common goals and then achieve extraordinary results. And success will build more success.

Taking Money from Entrepreneurs’ Pockets

In a previous posting/rant, I talked about Angel Groups that gouge entrepreneurs (http://blog.drosenassoc.com/?p=13). Some charge over $10,000 for the right to present and that steams me. However, I have not directed my wrath at another group that gouges entrepreneurs even more – brokers and small investment bankers. Note to entrepreneurs: Do Not Use a Broker (or small investment bank)!

Such firms typically charge an entrepreneur between 5-10% of the amount raised, in addition to expenses, legal fees, and a retainer. No angel I know wants to see the money they invest in a startup flow out the back door in this way. You do not need to pay to find angels and get them to invest in your company. If you have a good idea and a good business, approach us directly. The staff at the Alliance of Angels gives you far better feedback, based on angels who actually invest, than you will get from a broker. And it’s free!

The Northwest Entrepreneur Network (NWEN) and Washington Technology Industry Alliance (WTIA) offer seminars, networking events, and classes on how to raise money. They are low cost and valuable.

But.. no angel I know likes deals where there are brokers involved. We like to meet with and get to know the entrepreneur, help them get their company going, and build to a success. None of want or need someone in the middle.