Bobbing for Kernels

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Angel Oregon

Posted by kernelbob on March 13, 2009

Yesterday I attended Angel Oregon 2009. AO is an angel investment conference. Six startups’ CEOs presented their companies, and another 14 CEOs gave elevator pitches.

But the conference was just the finale of a three-month process.  I got to participate, as an investor, for the first time this year.

We, the investors, started with about 50 companies’ applications.  We invited the most promising companies in to talk with us.  From that group, some went on to get a full due diligence process.  (aside: nobody ever talks about just “diligence” or “undue diligence”.  Why not?)  Of those companies, six were selected as finalists and went to the conference.  Then the angels went into the back room and selected the two winning companies.

This year, DesignMedix won a $150,000 investment, and WeoGeo won $80,000.  But all of the finalists, and some of the non-finalists, have truly outstanding companies.  I would have been happy investing in any of them.

The core of AO is about a dozen hardworking people who do this all the time.  AO runs from January to March, but the same people also do the Portland Angel Network, the Oregon Angel Fund, Seed Oregon, and, unless they have a willy, Women’s Investment Network.  Plus, they have day jobs as VCs, lawyers, marketing consultants, or financial analysts, which bring them into constant contact with local entrepreneurs.  And some of the CEOs are past or present members of those investment groups.

Which means that the core people have already talked to all of these companies more than once.  Heck, I’ve only been half-paying attention for a few months, and I’d seen many of the companies before, either at Corvallis’ WVIN or Eugene’s Smart-Ups.

So I’m definitely out of my league.  To their credit, the core investors are very supportive and helpful.

So AO invested $150 + 80 = $230K in two companies.  But that’s just the public show.  In 2008, the companies that presented at AO received about $3 million in the weeks following the conference.  Presumably the conference influenced that.  Presumably AO members made a lot of those investments.

Also, presumably, there will be less investment this year.  Recession, don’tcha know?  The 2008 AO prizes were bigger, though I don’t remember the exact amounts.

But here’s what surprised me.  A bunch of entrepreneurs and wanna-be-entrepreneurs were at the conference.  Because I was wearing a pink “investor” name tag, three different entrepreneurs buttonholed me to give me their pitches.  It’s sort of like wearing a “I am carrying cash” sign through the bad part of town. (-:

The Willamette Angel Conference is starting in a couple of weeks.  I need to decide whether I want to join the circus again.

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