I wish you could call me young and naive, but, in this case, I was just naive. Before I started this entrepreneurship program, I thought an angel investor was exactly like it sounds. A person who has extra money and would invest it in different companies. I had no idea there were laws for angel investors that would require a person to become an accredited investor. I’ve come a long way in a year and, this past August, I observed a quarterly pitch session held by the Charlotte Angel Fund. I interviewed Greg Brown, the administrator for the fund, during ENT 640 and he invited me to the session.
I was very excited to be able to see the process up close after having read about angel investors at length for the class. My imagination led me to believe it would be in a closed conference room with lots of suits and ties. I was wrong. It was held in a large multi-purpose room at Packard Place, a local entrepreneurial shared working space. Most people were dressed in business casual clothes except the presenters, who were more formally dressed. I learned quickly the actual pitch meeting was a combination of investors of the fund, potential investors and an array of other guests. It was a hot summer night and there was a light dinner with beverages and dessert. I saw my first opportunity there to provide them with better cookies. No one had even taken the plastic cover off the chocolate chip cookies by the time I arrived and an hour later it was still on.
The investors and guests were all very friendly and from a variety of industries. After the socializing, the presenters and investors got down to business. There was the normal review of some old business, announcements of upcoming events and a brief introduction of each company. Then the presenters started. One of the presenters gave an update through Skype about his company that the fund had invested in a year ago. Then the new companies started. What I noticed about both presenters is they were very confident about the product and service they were offering. In both presentations, they were very clear with who their target market was and how their product would solve a problem. As a consumer, I was intrigued by both companies. After each presentation, they took questions from the audience. Here’s more naïveté — I thought the investors would be firing questions one after another trying to have a “gotcha” moment. None of that took place
Both presenters handled the questions with ease. Unlike me who was having some trouble keeping up with the banter about valuations. After the presenters finished and all questions were answered all guests were asked to leave. Discussion time for only fund members.
I was permitted to stay and listen as the investors discussed all three companies. There was thoughtful discussion given about each presenter’s idea, management team, and potential as a good investment for the fund. The conversation continued until a decision was made about how they would proceed with each company. Greg led the whole meeting and once decisions are made about the investment he follows up with them. The meeting concluded and we were dismissed.
It was very enlightening to observe the discussion after the presentations. Everyone’s opinion, thoughts, and ideas were welcomed and appreciated. Now I’m not sure if that happens in all angel investor meetings or it’s the southern hospitality North Carolina is known for. As I sat and listened, I couldn’t help thinking I’m not an entrepreneur; I don’t have an idea that will change the world. What I do have is a desire to change lives and as more lives change, the world can change. So maybe I am an entrepreneur.
Angel investing may not be the way for me to fund my business, not enough return on the investment in a timely manner. So, I might have to go back to my original naiveté and find “a person who has extra money and would invest it in different companies.”