Yesterday we held our first “Angel Lounge” meeting in Atlanta as part of our ever-expanding efforts through StartupLounge.com. I’ve been incredibly swamped today, so I’m just getting around to jotting down some of my thoughts on it.
The idea is devilishly simple.
We want to stimulate the startup ecosystem by essentially creating more active angel investors.
We need to create more good deals. And we will.
So, we invited a number of current angel investors, several high-net worth individuals who desire to get more involved as angels, and put them in a room. The goal is/was twofold:
We ended up with around 20 or so for our first meeting. Not bad considering we really only put the word out at the last minute. I expect to double or triple this number for the next meeting. Among the notables in the room were (sorry I don’t have the full list in front of me right now, or I’d thank them all):
The meeting was facilitated by Charlie Paparelli of Paparelli Ventures(shown above). Charlie is a very experienced angel investor who is the latest addition to our StartupLounge.com steering committee. As I mentioned in a previous post, the whole concept of Angel Lounge was Charlie’s idea, and he has been a fantastic resource for us as we continue to evolve. Charlie’s side mission is to help Mike reign me in when my passion kicks into 3rd gear (which is often). :)
So what did we accomplish?
The first part of the meeting centered largely around a discussion about the various issues with early stage capital in Atlanta. Ironically enough, most of the comments echoed many of the sentiments shared by entrepreneurs here. For example:
Sound familar? It should – we’ve been blogging and harping about this for a couple of years. Good to hear it come from the investor side, though. So for you entrepreneurs out there who lament the capital situation in Atlanta – you are clearly not alone in your thinking.
There was a brief discussion about some past efforts to try and do the same thing we’re shooting for – and that those efforts were not terribly successful. I will simply say this. “We” are not “they”. Whatever happened before us is largely irrelevant to me. Granted, we want to examine the reasons as to why those efforts were not effective, and we have. But as I tell the folks that I work with professionally, I will almost always choose to look through the windshield, and not in the rear-view mirror.
Most of the world’s problems are ultimately solved by entrepreneurs and the people that bankroll them. The accountants, attorneys, consultants and brokers of the world are probably not going to contribute much to this effort. Why? They have an external agenda. They are an integral part of the overall ecosystem – and we all need their services, but they are not in a position to tackle this type of problem head on. Mind you, I am not blaming them, but rather simply stating a fact. We (the entrepreneurial community) are attacking this problem because we know we can solve it, and it needs to be solved – not because we think we can, or because we want to get a new client. There is marked difference.
We will bring Atlanta/Georgia back to where it needs to be. It will take time, but we will do it.
There is a very strong grass-roots undercurrent running through Atlanta right now. And as several folks in the room pointed out, there is a new generation of entrepreneurs and angel investors that are beginning to emerge. The existing players recognize their responsibility to give them the support that they need – which is good.
In the end, the group thought that the idea of Angel Lounge seemed to be a good one. We’ll be holding these meetings monthly, and the format will be simple. No speakers, no fees, and no distractions. Just people who want to make a difference in the community. And we’re going to learn from each other by having open discussions on salient topics (tax matters, deal structures, portfolio management, etc.) We will become ambassadors for the cause. We will create a “funnel” for those individuals who want to explore the world of early-stage, angel investing. We will bring them into the fold, and we will nurture them. We will provide a true support group for angels, and focus on education and connecting people within the larger ecosystem.
And finally, we will provide a conduit for these newer angels to feed into our efforts with our Capital Connections events – so they can get in the room with the innovators and expand their deal flow.
On a semi-related note, the new StartupLounge.com platform which we’ll be rolling out soon will be loaded with the tools to enable groups all over the community to “plug into” the larger ecosystem. We have a lot of work to do yet, but it is progressing nicely. More soon.
I want to pay a special thanks to Charlie Paparelli. He really did a great job of helping to get this thing off the ground. On my drive home I realized why I’ve grown to like him so much. I get a lot of emails from entrepreneurs and others who ask if they can help us with our efforts with StartupLounge. And I certainly appreciate the sentiment! The difference is that Charlie not only asked if he could help, but he just dove right in and started doing.
I think Charlie has a little bootstrapping entrepreneurial blood in him. I dig it.
Finally, a quick shout out to Bill Leonard of Wm Leonard & Company and David Adams of Adams Capital for their sponsorship of our efforts with Angel Lounge. We are extremely fortunate to have a group of sponsors that really, truly get what we are trying to accomplish. Without their help, this would be much more difficult, for sure.
If you are in Georgia, and are a current angel investor, we’d love to get you involved. Likewise, if you are contemplating becoming an angel investor, and want to learn more, and network with the pros, we’re happy to do our part to do everything we can to help you be successful. Feel free to reach out to me …