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. In a recent startup ecosystem and community assessment completed by Chris Heivly and the Techstars team, Chris was quick to point out the Okanagan’s need to support, bolster, and grow an Okanagan-centric investor base through the development of a new angel onboarding event that could train new angels.
“An important aspect of a startup community is access to capital at every stage of a company’s growth”, said Heivly. “Mature ecosystems address each stage without gaps. In addition to full-stack capital coverage, more mature regions provide multiple sources of capital which support founders & companies of all types.”
The OKGN Angel Summit is based on the successful Seattle Angel Conference model. The goal of the summit is to raise awareness about angel investing, its benefits and opportunities, and to educate accredited investors in a participatory manner.
“This Summit will bring together a diverse set of people, talent and startups to create collision zones that can lead to connections and collaborations,” says Thuy Tran, Programs Manager with Accelerate Okanagan. “It is also a great opportunity to learn from experienced investors about operating outside of traditional investment sandbox.”
The inaugural OKGN Angel Summit launched on January 28th, 2019. A collection of 27 investors, each willing to invest $5,000, created a venture capital fund worth upwards of $125000 and have spent the last 6 weeks assessing 40 of OKGNtech’s best and brightest startups. The investor group have now narrowed it down to the final 6 and we are looking forward to winner will being announced on April 11th at the live event.
We recently caught up with Summit leads Thuy Tran and Richard Takai to learn more about how things are going so far and what they are excited to see moving forward.
Q. This is the first time you’ve ever run an event like this. How is it going?
Thuy: There is lots of energy and lots of excitement from both the companies that are participating as well as the investors. Some of the participating companies have already been approached by investors interested in investing so that’s a really good sign.
Richard: Because our community is relatively small, a lot of these investors knew each other prior to the summit, so there is a far greater comfort level in our group than anything John Sechrest has seen in Seattle. There is just an incredible level of enthusiasm for this whole process.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about the 44 companies competing?
Thuy: We knew we needed a minimum of 20 companies, but since this is the first time we’ve done something like this is the Okanagan, we were not sure how many we would get and we got 44!. The applicants had varied backgrounds and varied stages of development. We knew this Summit would be an amazing opportunity to connect local investors with local startups. What is really exciting for us is to see that it all happening.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about the investor group?
Richard: The sessions are facilitated by John Sechrest but there is also two lead investors and a fund manager, Brodie Desimone. The Fund Manager typically has the most experience of the group and is responsible for negotiating deal terms with the 6 remaining finalists so the group can then decide on a winner. Although Brodie has one vote just like the rest of the investor group, he will take the lead and be meeting with the finalists one-on-one. When we started looking for a lead, we wanted someone who was going to champion the program but also act as an ambassador for the community and we were thrilled that Brodie put up his hand.
Q. What are you most excited about moving forward?
Thuy: I am really excited for the finale! I had the opportunity to attend a finale in Seattle and ever since I’ve been dedicated to creating the same kind of experience here. I think it’s going to have an even bigger impact here and I’m just so excited to see how it unfolds. At the end of this one OKGNtech company will be walking away with an investment $125k and that is going to have a huge impact on their business.
Richard: This process is designed to train accredited investors to become angel investors but really the value is far far beyond that. The number of connections happening between the companies and the investors right now is very exciting.
Q. What kind of impact do you think the OKGN Angel Summit is going to have on our tech community?
Thuy: The inspiration behind the Summit is to build out the capital ecosystem here and to increase angel investing activity in our region. What’s exciting is that we are already starting to see that happen. It will be so interesting to see what this looks like 6 months from now and a year from now.
Richard: Much like how the Innovation Centre here in Kelowna has kind of created this collision zone for people in tech, this Summit is kind of creating the same thing amongst an investor group. You have people who didn’t know each other who are now getting involved and getting connected with each other and talking about investing which is very exciting.
Thuy: The investors participating are also able to take advantage of the wisdom within the group of investors. No one person will know everything about every technology or business opportunity but because we have such a wide range of experience and talent in the room, there always seems to be someone that brings the right expertise. I think it’s been really valuable in helping filter out what’s a good opportunity and what is not.
Richard: With respect to the company side, there is a ton of value participating companies can mine from the feedback process.
The April 11th finale is all about the remaining 6 finalists. These startups will pitch to an audience of community members, with the winner receiving the $125K investment from the fund. There will also be an opportunity to vote for the people choice award (it’s like Dragon’s Den meets American Idol!).
We know a more robust angel network will only care for and feed our already booming innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem and that can only mean good things. Join us on April 11th and be a part of the excitement.