The Mid-America Angels investment network (MAA), which focuses on early-stage companies in the Kansas and Missouri region, announced Thursday that Laura McCoolidge Classen, formerly of Nebraska Angels, has joined as the group’s new Managing Director.
Classen is taking over for Rick Vaughn, the group’s founding Managing Director who has held the role for over a decade.
“I enjoyed working with many colleagues in the Kansas City area during my time as Director of Nebraska Angels,” said Classen. “I look forward to strengthening those relationships in my new role and working closely with Rick to ensure our angel investors are well-served.”
Classen joins MAA after serving for five years as the Director of Nebraska Angels. During her time there, the network invested over $13 million in early-stage companies and doubled in membership.
“During my time with Nebraska Angels, I essentially learned how to effectively run an angel organization,” said Classen. “I am excited for the opportunity to continue in a role and industry that I love being part of, and this time in the Kansas City ecosystem.”
Classen is also credited with founding the Midwest Angel Syndicate, a monthly forum for Midwest angel groups to improve deal flow.
“Laura’s background provides both the experience and the knowledge required to lead the angel network into a new period of expansion, and her engaging personality is a perfect fit to facilitate membership growth,” said George Hansen, the Executive Director of MAA and the President and CEO of the Enterprise Center in Johnson County (ECJC).
Vaughn may be leaving his role, but he is anticipating positive things for the future.
“We are very fortunate to have Laura join MAA,” said Vaughn. “She brings a great base of experience and is very well-suited to lead our investment network’s continued growth. I look forward to helping her with that effort.”
Under Vaughn’s leadership, the MAA network grew from inception to over 165 members and has deployed over $26 million in private capital to aid in the growth of regional early-stage companies.
Vaughn has led the network through a number of successful exits including EyeVerify (now Zoloz), Zave Networks, Rush Tracking, Rhythm Engineering, and Aratana Therapeutics among others. Most recently, Vaughn oversaw the network’s expansion to include three regional chapters in St. Joseph, Mo.; Topeka, Kan.; and Manhattan, Kan.
Vaughn will continue his involvement in MAA on a part-time basis going forward.
“We’re equally fortunate to have Rick’s continued participation for the foreseeable future. His knowledge and capability are extraordinary and over the course of his career with MAA and ECJC, he has proven an extremely valuable asset to our regional entrepreneurial community,” said Hansen.
Classen may be transitioning into a new role, but she’s already familiar with MAA.
“MAA, Nebraska Angels and many other angel groups throughout the Midwest region collaborate regularly to share deal flow for syndication opportunities, trends and other news from our local ecosystems,” said Classen. “I had the pleasure of working with MAA over the past five years as a syndication partner.”
Classen said that plans to expand MAA are part of a natural expansion of that deal flow for many of the region’s angel networks.
“I hope we can continue to grow MAA’s membership in the Kansas City-area as well as in the Manhattan, Topeka and St. Joseph communities,” said Classen. “I look forward to continuing to work with the entrepreneurs in the local and regional startup ecosystem to be a valuable capital partner as they scale.”
Christine McGuigan is the Managing Editor of Silicon Prairie News.