Young: Communicating with the angel investors and entrepreneurs

Angels investors are a 'new frontier' for entrepreneurs.

I want to draw your attention today to a very important aspect of our Okanagan life—the socio-economic condition of our region.

Not wishing to appear preachy this week, I would like to offer my thoughts once again about the need to encourage entrepreneurial activity in rural regions as the Okanagan.

As policy makers and rural development practitioners strive to develop strategies to sustain and enhance our rural economy, increasing entrepreneurship in all of its forms has risen to the top of the list.

Accordingly, to many researchers, such as myself, in this entrepreneurship world, while rural communities need entrepreneurs to revitalize their economies, entrepreneurs are dependent on our regional landscapes for access to capital and other relevant professional services.

Today, I would like to tackle some basic information about entrepreneurship and angel investment and the interdependence of both, recognizing that the challenges lie in their ability to embrace each other’s unique needs.

Entrepreneurs who start and grow new ventures create a majority of the new jobs in our nation.

To obtain start-up capital for their ventures, most entrepreneurs look first to family and friends.

But, this channel of capital infusion is generally less than is attractively required. To grow their ventures and comfortably assure a ride over the launch “hump,” entrepreneurs need more financing input. Angel investors fill a critical need left void by venture capitalists, who invest less than two per cent in seed and start-up ventures, and tend to focus on much smaller later-stage ventures.

But, here lies the rub—although angels have been investing considerable amounts of capital in our nation per year for many years now, they are a little known and little understood source of financing for entrepreneurial ventures.

This is about to change dramatically in our Okanagan region.

So, who and where are the angels of which I write?  Angel investors tend to be exited entrepreneurs and retired businesspeople who invest significant time in their portfolio companies as advisors, coaches and mentors as well as on the boards of directors.

As most entrepreneurs have seemingly never run rapidly growing companies, angels bring invaluable skills and experience to the enterprise genre.

But ironically, entrepreneurs, including those I have met and worked with in this region, have had trouble finding angel investors.

Because most solo angel investors rely on other angels and experienced service providers for “deal” flows, they often remain “under the radar” for many entrepreneurs in this valley seeking funding. Once again, this is about to change.

Interestingly, many solo angels are joining up with other organizations as slowly being evidenced the past year or so in the Okanagan, there is room to grow and expand the playing field for angel investment and entrepreneurship.

With confidence and much pleasure, this is changing…now.

Angel organizations have a broader base of skills, experiences and contacts which ought to make the plethora of entrepreneurial hopefuls salivating of their newfound existence.

The emergence of angel investors to teach us an help us become knowledgeable in their methods, defines a critically necessary crossroad for this class of investment and offers to make great strides in advancing the field for our Okanagan aspiring entrepreneurs to-day and for the future years to come.

As your entrepreneurial columnist for the Okanagan area, I am very pleased and excited to report that Canada’s top angel investment group is about to open a chapter in Kelowna in November 2012 with a half-day day information forum on Nov. 15

The group, VA Angels, formally Venture Alberta Forum, is taking the concept to Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Kelowna, and is one of the most active angel groups in Canada.

It was chosen recently by Harvard Business School as one of only two angel groups in Canada to participate in a study on global angel investment activity. A pretty nice testimonial I’d suggest.

So, along with our Entrepreneurs Society’s Entrepreneurship Conference on Nov. 22 and 23; an impending regional entrepreneurship strategy coming soon; a second entrepreneurship television vignette series – and now, the emergence of angel investment channels as never before witnessed in the Okanagan, I’d say entrepreneurship is fast becoming more alive then ever.

Angel organizations are a new frontier in entrepreneurship, one that can make a huge difference in improving an entrepreneur’s ability to access needed capital, start and grow their ventures and keep our Okanagan economy alive and happy.

Joel Young is an entrepreneurial leadership coach, consultant and educator and founder, Okanagan Valley Entrepreneurs Society.



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