Startup investors find local talent

Startup investors find local talent

DAVE GALLAGHER
THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Investing in a startup company is a high-risk proposition, but it turns out plenty of local business people are willing to take a chance on someone with a great idea.

Bruce MacCormack, a representative for the Bellingham Angel Group, gave a presentation Friday at the monthly Technology Alliance Group meeting, talking about what the Angel Group does and what they are looking for in startup companies.

The group is different from a venture capital organization in that it tends to fund companies at an earlier stage of development, starting at a lower level (about $800,000) than the multimillions from venture capital groups.

 

What was impressive to me was seeing how far along the group has come. It started in 2005, and I’ve heard MacCormack talk at various business events. His group now has 35 accredited investors, mostly from Bellingham, who regularly listen to 10-minute presentations by new companies looking for funding.

The group has funded seven companies to date, and momentum is picking up, MacCormack said. The companies funded so far are Sweet Power, Audience- Central, Micro GREEN Polymers, Mail Channels, Novinium, Yapta and Local Cents.

“The group started out a little tentative, but now investors are being more aggressive,” Mac- Cormack said. “Part of it has to do with relationships that are developing within the group, but I believe the economy has something to do with it. In 2001, people were scared off from this kind of investing, but that’s turned around.”

The investors in this group are generally business people who have already made it and want to take a gamble that might lead to a high rate of return, but they want to do it locally.

“Yes, there is a desire to make money, but for many of these investors there is a desire to give back locally by helping a business get going, eventually employing more people and improving the local economy,” MacCormack said.

Bellingham Angel Group has heard presentations primarily from technology services and software startups.

“The technology industry is still especially attractive, because they tend to be a lowoverhead company that has solid exit strategy opportunities,” MacCormack said.

When the group started, there was some concern about whether it would work in Bellingham. This area really hadn’t seen something like this, and it wasn’t known how many entrepreneurs were around who had ideas that could succeed with funding. The group has had to take more of a regional look, listening to presenters from around Puget Sound, but Mac- Cormack said about 40 percent of the presenters are from Bellingham.

“We’re very happy about the response we’ve been receiving,” MacCormack said. “There are a lot of talented people out there, and if we can create a situation where a high-tech company that pays good wages becomes a major employer around here, it will be a nice accomplishment.”

For more information about the Bellingham Angel Group, go to www.bellinghamangels.com.

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