Highlights from the 2015 Angel Capital Association Summit

Don Scifres, Managing Partner

Don Scifres, Managing Partner

Two weeks ago, Oscar Moralez, Tony Petrucciani, and I were in San Diego for the 2015 Angel Capital Association Summit. It was my first time to attend an ACA annual meeting and the opportunity to network with 700 angel investors from around the world and hear from others in our industry like serial-entrepreneur and Lean Startup founder Steve Blank made the trip a must. Another draw? In 2014, Forbes named San Diego “The Best Place for Startups in the United States.”

I was not disappointed. The ACA is celebrating its tenth anniversary as the leading professional and trade association for angel investors. Summit planners had lined up 30 different tracks and topics over the two-day meeting, ranging from getting the best deal flow from accelerators, dealing with crowd-funding and general solicitation, and the latest trends in sectors like life sciences, wearable technology and clean tech. San Diego was, of course, beautiful!

Several topics were of particular interest to me. Because VisionTech Partners collaborates with both the Purdue Foundry and the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing, the session on working with universities was helpful. Here’s an interesting takeaway: 87 percent of faculty innovators have no intention of leaving their university to commercialize ideas. Therefore, angel groups are typically best served by focusing on licensing university IP and creating our own commercialization teams, instead of looking to a faculty member to lead a startup. As an alternative to awarding equity for the IP license, we should consider instead to offer royalties. Another recommendation—and something VisionTech already practices through our university entrepreneur mentorship program INVisionU—is to go straight to universities for IP as technology listed on websites tends to be out of date.

VisionTech is often asked to weigh in on potential CEOs. This is a strategic and sensitive area for startups as leadership is critical to success. I took in a session titled, “How to Choose a Successful Jockey for Your Startup.” The advice was practical; here are five things to consider when evaluating CEO candidates:

  • Was the candidate an entrepreneur in their youth? Did they babysit, cut grass or hold other jobs? Teens who demonstrate initiative are likely to do the same as adults.
  • Have they led other companies to success? Past successes correlate to four times greater likelihood of replicating success in a new venture. This simply cannot be ignored.
  • How able are they to recruit a team? They can’t do it all and need to be surrounded by a strong, complementary team.
  • What do the CEO candidates think about your product? Believers with passion are preferred.
  • Would you want to work with the CEO for the next five years? You probably will so you better be happy with them.

The final session I’d like to mention was titled, “Attracting Women Angels to Your Network.” VisionTech Angels has one female chapter president, Christy Page, in Bloomington. We also have five women angels across our five chapters – not nearly enough. We would like to attract more. One suggestion was to target women-led companies for investment. Another was to invest in companies that tend to be of interest to women like educational technology, green tech and medical. The best advice for recruiting women members was this: ask them to join. I think we can do that!

The trip to San Diego for the ACA Summit reminded me just how much fun angel investing is. There are a lot of great, intelligent people involved who happily and openly share what they’ve learned and their perspectives. For me, meeting entrepreneurs and startups makes everyday a field trip. If you’d like to learn more about VisionTech Angels and angel investing, I would encourage you to visit our website. Or better yet, come to one of our chapter meetings in Bloomington, Indianapolis, Lafayette, or Warsaw. Click for our calendar of upcoming meetings.