Before Omaha-based SkyVu Pictures received national attention with its first iPhone app, Battle Bears, it had the attention of a small group of angel investors in its home state. The group, Nebraska Angels, is made of up about 35 individuals who collaborate on due diligence while making investment decisions on their own.
Formed in 2006 by John Brasch, whom Angel board member Jay Wilkinson calls a “champion of entrepreneurship throughout his entire career,” the organization’s mission is to provide opportunities for its members to obtain outstanding financial returns by investing in promising early-stage companies. Additionally, Wilkinson explained, “[It] was formed here to help encourage more young entrepreneurs in the state to more bring business ideas to the table.”
According to Wilkinson, the role of an angel investor is to fill the gap that exists between seeking funding from the “three f’s” — friends, family, and fools — and pitching to a venture capital firm. “We’re looking at early stage opportunities that have a high-growth potential,” Jay explained. “When we come to the table and work with a small business that is just getting rolling we bring more than money to the table. It’s very traditional that several of our members will become members of the company’s board or on their advisory team.”
Their website, nebraskaangels.org/site, states that they “provide seed and early-stage capital in the range of $150K-$750K, an investment range not generally served by venture capital funds.” Additionally, they make it clear that although they’re located in Nebraska, they’ll consider investing outsite the state: “Our primary focus is companies with a Nebraska presence or other ties to the state, although exceptions may be made as dictated by the opportunity.”
Jay touched on this aspect of the organization as well as their process of picking companies to feature in their monthly meetings. He made the point, recollecting the wisdom of Warren Buffett, that above all they’re looking to invest in the person running the company as much as the company itself. Each month they select two companies to present in front of their members.
Check out my interview with Wilkinson to hear more about what type of companies the Angels invest in, the strategy of an angle investor, and his thoughts on additions that could be made to our entrepreneurial community.