Angels help start-ups get off the ground

The group, founded 12 years ago, has seen its 125 members invest more than $38 million into start-up companies.

Alex Miller

Angie Brown, contributor

VA Angels, one of Canada’s leading angel investment groups, has reached the milestone of funding 100 early-stage companies, several of which hail from Kelowna.

The group, founded 12 years ago, has seen its 125 members invest more than $38 million into start-up companies during that time.

Seven of the group’s 100 companies come from the Okanagan.

Randy Thompson, the founder of VA Angels, said it’s a “fantastic testament” to both members and organizers in Kelowna.

“The (business) ecosystem here is fantastic and it’s a no-brainer for us to be part of it,” he said.

Duane Lockwood is the CEO of Hoopla, a free online gaming company that issues points to people who play its games. The points are then translated into funds which can be donated to a variety of charities.

Hoopla was invited to present to VA, and Lockwood said they were “fortunate enough to resonate” with some of the members who invested in his company.

“It was a great opportunity to really look at our model, and put it into a brief presentation so we could present it in 10 minutes,” he said.

“They (VA) helped us, but more importantly is those seasoned investors were resources for us and acted as a sounding board. So we’ve really, really utilized our members.”

He said it wasn’t just money that VA provided —it was also mentorship and advice to help the company continue forward. “I’ve become a member and I enjoy it. I’m looking forward to bringing Hoopla to the world, and VA was a big part of it.”

Randy Lennon is the president of both the Kelowna and Phoenix chapters of VA. He said no company should ever think it’s not at the stage where it could possibly present to VA.

“Even the famous ones that have started in Kelowna, all the way to the Googles and the Apples, they all started as a start-up company,” he said.

“Someone had some faith in these people, and decided to either step-up and help them with mentorship, or in a lot of instances they wrote a cheque.”

Lennon explained that potential investors often don’t know where to start.

“They can come and join the VA Angels as an accredited investor, and we even recommend that they don’t do any investing for the first six months,” he said.

“They go on their own little training program, and they come and sit and meet all the other investors. Over the years being an angel investor you learn so much.”

 

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