As the Okanagan tech community and companies within it continue to grow, so does Accelerate Okanagan’s support model. Coined “Continuous Acceleration”, we deliver unique programming for different stages of growth. The reality is, each stage of the entrepreneurial process demands a different set of tools and we are constantly iterating in an effort to meet these needs.
One of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs is money. Accessing growth capital, securing investments, and generating revenue are issues that plague young and growing businesses alike. In a recent startup ecosystem and community assessment completed by Chris Heivly and the Techstars team, Chris was quick to point out the Okanagan’s need to support, bolster, and grow an Okanagan-centric investor base through the development of a new angel onboarding event that could train new angels.
“An important aspect of a startup community is access to capital at every stage of a company’s growth”, said Heivly. “Mature ecosystems address each stage without gaps. In addition to full-stack capital coverage, more mature regions provide multiple sources of capital which supports founders & companies of all types.”
The launch of the first annual OKGN Angel Summit is a direct result of this Techstars feedback that was made possible through the support of John Sechrest and the Seattle Angel Summit team and Richard Takai, Co-founder and Director of Ronin HR Inc. “We have a lot of wealth here in the Okanagan,” says Takai. “But currently, not a lot of that capital is being deployed in the startup ecosystem”.
Thuy Tran, Programs Manager at Accelerate Okanagan, sees the result of issues related to access to capital popping up regularly within our startup ecosystem and believes the Summit will help to address this. "The OKGN Angel Summit was designed to bridge the gap between companies looking for growth capital and investors looking for investable companies”, says Tran. “ We are so fortunate to have the support of people like John Sechrest and Richard Takai, who are committed to helping us make this happen.”
We recently caught up with Summit leads Thuy Tran and Richard Takai to learn more about how the Angel Summit works and who can get involved and why it’s more fun to learn when you’ve got some skin in the game.
Q. What inspired the creation of the OKGN Angel Summit?
Richard: I’m fortunate to have a really close connection with the tech sector in the Okanagan and I could see early on that access to talent and access to capital were real issues inhibiting growth. There is tremendous potential in the community to grow the sector and to potentially integrate technology into other industries, but access to capital is one of the keys to making this happen.
There is tremendous potential in the community to grow the sector and to potentially integrate technology into other industries, but access to capital is one of the keys to making this happen.
Thuy: Accelerate Okanagan has been supporting startup companies and entrepreneurs for upwards of 8 years and we see the challenges these companies have when it comes to growth capital. If we want the growth of our startup community to continue to thrive, we also need to focus on building the capital ecosystem to support it. One can’t live without the other.
Richard: What John and his team have done over the last seven years in Seattle is amazing. Their program has not just trained new angel investors and guided founders, but has helped create an ecosystem and collision zones that have resulted in three venture capital funds being raised from investors participating in the Conferences, two early stage funds and one Series A fund. On top of that they have created all kinds of awareness and trained new ambassadors within the angel network who can continue to coach and inspire more investment.
Q. What is the OKGN Angel Summit all about?
Thuy: The OKGN Angel Summit is for companies and new and experienced investors to engage in angel Investing. The 11-week program trains new angel investors through a guided process that gives participants a chance to actively learn how to vet companies, provide feedback, and perform due diligence while helping early-stage companies along the way. As a group, they learn angel investing by doing angel investing, from start to finish.
At the end of the 11 weeks, the 6 finalists pitch to an audience of community members at the April 11, 2019 finale, with the winner receiving an investment from the fund. The goal is to invest a minimum of $100,000 in the winning startup.
Richard: The program launches on January 28th, 2019 and will consist of twenty to forty investors each willing to invest 11 weeks and $5,000, to create a venture capital fund. Twenty to forty startups will go through the program, engage with the investors and receive feedback from the group. Additionally, companies who make it through to the semi-finals will receive mentorship from Accelerate Okanagan’s Executives in Residence. At the end of the 11 weeks, the 6 finalists pitch to an audience of community members at the April 11, 2019 finale, with the winner receiving an investment from the fund. The goal is to invest a minimum of $100,000 in the winning startup.
Thuy: During the finale, the Angels highlight the process, and as a group will make their final decision on which company is the winner to receive the funds. This is a great chance to learn from experienced investors about operating outside of traditional investment sandbox.
This is a great chance to learn from experienced investors about operating outside of traditional investment sandbox.
Q. Who can participate?
Thuy: The OKGN Angel Summit is for new and experienced investors who are accredited, and have the curiosity and passion to want to learn about angel investing. The goal is not to focus on finding the next unicorn, but to learn the process on HOW to do structured angel investing, increase the numbers of angel investors in our region and grow the sophistication of angels as deal leads.
Richard: OKGN Angel Summit invests in early-stage companies looking for growth capital where an investment of $100 - $200k will make an impact in moving their business forward. Entrepreneurs that may apply are based within a day’s drive of Kelowna, operate in any industry, seek investment of $100k - $2M, and have the potential for a 10x return on investment in 5 years. This is a great program to improve your company, get valuable feedback, build relationships with investors and ultimately increase your chance of building a successful business.
Q. What are you most excited about?
Richard: I am excited to help grow the capital ecosystem here and get more people engaged in the venture capital world. I am also excited by the potential spin-off benefits, such as new VC funds, that can result from successful people connecting and collaborating. We know a more robust angel network will only care for and feed our already booming innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem and that can only mean good things.
We know a more robust angel network will only care for and feed our already booming innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem and that can only mean good things.
Thuy: I am excited to see the whole community get behind this new initiative to increase the number of angel investors in our local region. More so, I am excited that companies will have more opportunity to access capital and a network of sophisticated investors and supporters who believes in them and want to see them succeed.