We now live in the age of angels—business angels, that is, where every day more and more affluent individuals are providing needed capital for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and startups.
Some of these angel investors band together and organize into angel groups or angel networks, sharing valuable business insights and knowledge, and pooling their individual funds into a much larger investment-capital base.
With the surprising market shift happening all over the world and across industries, the unique perspective of business angels in assisting startups and fueling innovation comes just at the right time.
In the midst of sweeping changes in these unchartered territories, angels huddled together once again to spread their wings and test their flight plans in San Francisco April 17-19, at the 2013 Angel Capital Association (ACA) Summit. “Navigating Change for Angel Success” could not have been a more apt title.
This annual conference provides great opportunities for networking with many of the top angels and angel organizations in the country. It is the largest gathering of angel investors and angel groups in the world. And this year it brought together two of the most prolific early-stage investors in Silicon Valley as keynote speakers.
The first was super angel investor David McClure, founding partner of internet startup, seed fund, and incubator 500 Startups. He has invested in more than 250 companies, including Mint.com, Twilio, and TaskRabbit. He also is famous for his “500 Hats” blog, one of the most read in the venture-capital community.
McClure says this is the best time to have your business take advantage of its online presence, as the cost of servers is down, while consumers are spending more and more time online. It is only headcount that costs money. And so we see a lot of small M&A activity happening with the explosion of these startups.
The other keynote speaker at the ACA Summit was Aydin Senkut, an angel investor from San Francisco and former Google employee. He made his mark with very compelling deals that include investments in Mint, Wildfire, and Angry Birds maker Rovio. Senkut is one of the top 25 tech angels, according to BusinessWeek, and one of the top eight up-and- coming VCs, according to Forbes’ Midas List. Aydin wisely says, “You have one job as an angel: The curation of deals.”
Meanwhile, European Business Angel Network (EBAN) Secretariat Director Luis Galveias called the ACA Summit “not only the American angels’ meeting, but a global learning opportunity for representatives of angel communities from around the world, and to which everyone contributes.”
“We see ourselves at EBAN as the enablers of such knowledge-sharing between European countries, where the levels of early-stage market maturity can range from a fully integrated angel community to a completely absent entrepreneurial culture,” he said.
Europe is expected to still hold a sizable chunk of the global crowdfunding pie for 2013, at 26%, while the U.S. remains the leader at 72%.
Marianne Hudson of the ACA also said, “This is the largest ACA meeting we ever had, with more than 660 participants from 29 countries, including 27 angels from New Zealand. We are very excited to see angels come together to share expertise, ideas, and investment opportunities.”
Baybars Altuntas, President of Turkey’s Business Angels Association and Links Angel BAN Leader, notes that the largest European Business Angel Association gathering held in Istanbul last January and the recent ACA event show the important growth and leadership that business angel networks have shown on both continents. The financial crisis has accentuated the role of business angels, as we saw 2,700 venture capitalists in 2007 being decimated, and banks stop lending. The angels now have taken a larger role—and deservedly so, as the energy and sentiment among angels in San Francisco reflected.
By David Drake, founder and chairman of LDJ Capital, a New York City private-equity firm, and of The Soho Loft, a global financial media company with 3 divisions in Publishing, Conferences & Expos and Consulting. For more updates on the crowdfunding industry and information on alternative investment events, or if you have comments about this article, you can comment here or reach out to me at [email protected] directly.