Angel Fund Encourages Community Entrepreneurship
Investment dollars available for high-growth local businesses
ANCHORAGE - Home to more than a few Chamber of Commerce forums, the La Perouse Hall at the Egan Center attracted a different crowd Thursday morning.
Max Bullock, 19, sat around one of the circular tables near the back of the room, munching on a chocolate muffin and scribbling notes on the back of a sheet of paper. The UAA business student, possibly the youngest person in the audience of several dozen, was dressed the part - sharp navy blue suit jacket, striped tie, gold colored watch. He wore his hair in a short, neat cut and sat up straight in his chair, but he was still several steps away from becoming a card-carrying chamber member.
At the inaugural 49th State Angel Fund forum, the budding entrepreneur was looking for seed money for his first small business: Quick Speeds Airplane Snow Removal. It would fill a major niche in the local aviation community, he said. After all, most pilots didn't want just anybody touching their delicate crafts.
"My dad's a pilot," he said, smiling. Next to him, Bill Bullock nodded and took a sip of black coffee from a ceramic mug.
So, despite a slight fear of heights, Max Bullock said he was excited to take off on his own business venture. He just needed the money.
At the Angel Fund forum, there was more than $13 million on the table. The funds were awarded to the Municipality of Anchorage through the venture capital arm of a federal job-creation program, designated for high-growth businesses that could generate a ten-to-one return on investment within five years.
"You might think, 'What is government doing taking an equity interest in small business?’" said Municipality of Anchorage CFO Lucinda Mahoney, addressing the forum from a podium at the front of the room. "That's a question I ask myself often."
Mahoney said a fraction of total award would be invested directly in local small businesses, from conception to the point of expansion. Applicants had until August 31 to digitally throw their hats in the ring, where they would then undergo an initial feasibility review conducted by Project Manager Joe Morrison and an Anchorage Economic Development Corporation staff member.
If a proposal met the basic compliance and quality standards, an advisory committee of local small business experts would select applicants for in-person presentations and make funding recommendations. After a 90-day due diligence period, final approval authority falls to Mahoney and Mayor Dan Sullivan. The first businesses would receive their capital by the end of the year.
Despite the multiple steps, the chief financial officer said the concept was simple.
"We're looking for people who say, 'I have a new idea, I have no money, I need someone to fund my business,'" Mahoney said,
From his seat in the back, Bullock smiled broadly, poking a finger at his own chest. But the funds came with a set of high entrepreneurial expectations besides high returns and a rock-solid business plan.