Short version: My angel group (RVI) tried an experiment last night, an evening event with cocktails, dinner, wine, and deals "wrapped up with a bow." Our goal was to increase the level of funding we can bring to deals, build social ties between our members, and help recruit new members. The morning after, all the indicators are that we had smash success. The question is: in 30 days will we see $$’s invested, deeper relationships with other angels, and more members in RVI?
- For entrepreneurs – I have yet to meet an entrepreneur who though that the fundraising process was smooth and fast :). Most angels invest as a hobby, so they don’t have a lot of time for it. Doing due diligence is hard. Coordinating schedules is hard. The whole industry is so young and full of people with low levels of experience that we trudge along… hurting entrepreneurs in the process.
- For angels – Most angels I know want to make more investments and more quickly than they currently do. And the research shows that they should! Of course, they also want to make sure those additional deals are good.
- For angel groups – Angel groups like mine are always seeking to close deals, recruit new members, and help less-active members get into the game.
After chatting with leaders of other angel groups at the Angel Capital Association Summit and the lead angels in my group, we decided to try an experiment…
Normally our group meets in the mornings, once a month. We decided to try adding occasional evening meetings with a different, and complimentary, design:
- Relaxed – A Thursday evening with cocktails, dinner, and wine. No big conference table. No Mr. Silva running us through a long agenda. The cocktails and dinner allowed for a lot of social interaction. I spoke <5 minutes and then got right on to our presenters. Companies gave ten minute presentations starting about half way through dinner. No Q&A.
- Different Deals – Normally a pitch to an angel group is just the first step in a 3-9 month due diligence dance. For this evening event we only brought deals "Packaged and wrapped up with a bow" – deals where you could take the docs home and make a decision in a few days. We had:
- SylvanCycles – A company that just completed the 6-month dance with us. We are putting in $$ alongside another local investment organization.
- Dexrex – One of our portfolio companies doing a follow-on round.
- VIZit – A syndication deal that just finished securing due diligence, terms, and initial checks from a well known angel group.
Open – This was not an RVI-only meeting. We were the hosts of an event and wanted lots of wonderful people to come. Our criteria for an invitee were simple: pleasant, smart, and able to invest. RVI members forwarded invitations to their networks. Anyone who signed up was encouraged to forward on invitations. Presenters were encouraged to bring any potential investors they were trying to get off the fence.
Budget Neutral, Simple Logistics – Each attendee paid their own way. We used an EventBrite site and a classy local venue so we would have minimal logistics headaches.
Entrepreneur face-time – After dinner I asked each company to grab a corner of the room. I then told the other guests to grab their chairs and walk over to the company they were most interested in. The entrepreneurs then had those people’s attention for as long as they wanted to stay at the venue. Results: It is too early to know for the tangible results. But the initial feedback from the entrepreneurs and other attendees is that this was a smash success. In my next blog post I’ll do a full postmortem.