One of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs is money. Accessing growth capital, securing investments, and generating revenue are issues that plague young and growing businesses alike. Enter: the OKGN Angel Summit. This 10-week program is a guided, hands-on process where a small venture capital fund is raised, deals are screened, and an actual investment in a startup is made. Participating companies will have the opportunity to learn the capital raising process and build relationships with investors.
We recently caught up with the OKGN Angel Summit’s 2020 lead investors Carol Lynn Schafer, Drew Shaw, and Richard Takai to find out what they learned from Round 1 and what they’re looking forward to in this year’s summit.
Q. How would you describe the OKGN Angel Summit?
Drew: It’s about creating an ecosystem inside the Okanagan where you can train entrepreneurs to raise capital and attach them to an investor who can also gain training and knowledge on how to invest.
Carol Lynn: It’s also a gathering or a community of investors where you can bounce ideas and feedback off each other.
Q. What inspired you to participate as an investor?
Richard: I’ve sort of dabbled in the space for a number of years but was mostly unsuccessful. It’s an opportunity to learn a more disciplined process of how to invest and build an amazing set of relations with the other investors.
Drew: I’ve always been on the side of raising capital, and it’s very interesting seeing it from the other perspective. I joined the OKGN Angel Summit in order to gain investment knowledge and to learn from other investor’s experiences.
Q. What excites you most about this year’s OKGN Angel Summit?
Drew: Seeing the companies, I love it! Seeing how they evolve as they go through the program and get feedback. I’m also looking forward to gaining the investor’s perspectives on the different businesses, it’s really interesting to see how other people view them.
Carol Lynn: I’m excited to learn more about the companies and meet the founders. I like learning about what brought them to be entrepreneurs and why they’re passionate about it—investors, too. What makes them want to support companies or to be an angel investor?
Q. In your opinion, how does the summit benefit the tech community?
Richard: It helps raise the profile of the Okanagan in a better and bigger way. At the very least, we’ll have $150,000 invested into a company. That’s a narrow goal. Much broader, during last year’s summit, $4 million was invested in various other companies that investors had been exposed to.
Drew: We get to connect good ideas and entrepreneurs with the capital they need to be successful. I think it’s a huge economic benefit to the whole community.
Q. How do you see this year’s Angel Summit differing from the previous year?
Richard: More interest from a geographic range. We had mostly Okanagan companies last year, but to be able to expand the geographic reach for this year’s would be really beneficial.
Carol Lynn: Everyone was new last year, this year there will be a bit of mentorship passing on to the new investors. We can highlight what is important compared to what we thought was important but turned out not to be.
Q. What is one thing you have learned from your experiences as an investor?
Richard: The wisdom of crowds. We had 26 investors and 40 companies, last year. There was always someone in the room that had expertise in a company’s industry. That was really helpful in gaining an understanding of the deals that were being presented for the industries I wasn’t well versed in.
Drew: Looking at statistics. The person who wins doesn’t statistically have a better chance of being successful than other finalists. So, that’s where you get into finding strategies where you can invest in the top 4 or 5 companies.
Carol Lynn: We thought the entrepreneurs were important—and they are—but the product and many other factors are just as important. You get to access all points of data about the company, where normally you may not get that when you’re investing individually.
Q. What is one piece of advice you would give to a novice or prospective investors?
Richard: If you’re interested, participate. You’re going to gain a ton of knowledge and the cost of entry is $5,000. I say it’s more of a tuition than an entry fee. The connections you’ll make with fellow investors, companies and the community are unparalleled.
Carol Lynn: Meet others who are doing it. Read resources, listen to podcasts. There is lots of information out there so make sure that you’re aware of what it is. It’s risky, but also very rewarding.
Q. What is one piece of advice you would give to a company looking to gain investment?
Richard: Have an open mind, listen to the feedback. You have a lot of smart people in the room and if you take the time to listen to the feedback it’ll help you move forward.
Drew: If you look at the ones that were successful, they went out and started building individual relationships with each investor, one-on-one. Trellis went and met with every single investor and built a relationship with them, gaining perspective and making adjustments as he went along.
Carol Lynn: Make sure you bring your passion forward. Founders that were really familiar with their product and comfortable talking about it made a good impact. It’s difficult for investors to connect when you’re too technical and can’t sell why you were creating this business. People like the story.
Keep an eye on our blog for updates on the investor’s progress as they narrow down the list of companies to the final 6 that will participate in the Finale and get a chance a $150K investment.
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