Angel Fund Encourages Community Entrepreneurship
Investment dollars available for high-growth local businesses
"Right out of the box, we need to see a one-to-one match," Mahoney told potential angel fund applicants. "We need to see that other folks have confidence in your program."
Besides a matching investment, successful applicants were required to come to the table with a relatively quick financial exit strategy. Mahoney said the initial municipal investment should only be used to boost fledgling enterprises off the ground and attract further equity, and the 49th State Angel Fund program was slated to close in five years.
Minus nearly $500,000 in overhead costs, the program would disburse the remaining capital in three rounds: More than $4 million during the first, current cycle, and the remaining $8.5 million over two rounds in 2013. Only one-third was designated for direct business investment, though. Mahoney said the larger portion was intended to create sustainable local Angel Funds with community leaders and investors, bringing together innovators and the money they needed to get started.
Joe Morrison, the program’s manager, took the podium after Mahoney and told the audience the local, long-term funds could be the most important aspect of the project. He said it came down to building something that would last.
By creating sustainable funding sources driven by Anchorage residents, Morrison said the spirit of entrepreneurship would become ingrained in the community, encouraging innovation well after the original fund expired.
Playing off the recent slew of top-ten awards lavished on Anchorage in a multitude of categories, Morrison said the money presented a gateway to another, more profitable distinction.
“This is a chance to make us number one in entrepreneurship, too,” he said, gripping the podium and leaning forward towards the men and women sitting in front of him. “We can see that start today.”
Morrison’s enthusiasm caught on quickly: Bullock grinned and scribbled a quick note on the back of a piece of paper.
“He’s definitely one of those guys where he lives to go to work,” he noted.
For many people in the room, small business was a labor of love. Federal labor statistics show more than thirty percent of startups are destined to fail, but those that succeed often provide the backbone of job growth nationwide. In fact, the numbers revealed venture-capital backed entrepreneurs generated 11 percent of the United States’ gross domestic product and more than 11 percent of jobs with only one percent of total investment dollars.
At the end of the day, the high rate of return mandated the 49th State Angel Fund’s stringent investment requirements. Morrison said successful small businesses needed to prove themselves in a competitive financial arena.
Listening avidly from the back of the room, Bullock said he though Quick Speeds Airplane Snow Removal could stand the test. His plans required little overhead and a minimum $30,000 investment, and he said he thought local demand could easily generate $300,000 in equity over a five-year span.
But like the concept behind the Angel Fund program, Bullock said his own motivation was simple.