MTEC SmartZone leads creation of angel investor network to aid local MTEC SmartZone startups

HOUGHTON, Michigan (November 10, 2014) – MTEC SmartZone and Michigan Technological University’s Office of Innovation and Industry Engagement are developing an angel investor network in the Upper Peninsula, to connect a growing number of early-stage start-ups with capital. The goal is to spur small business growth and sustainability and create jobs. According to MTEC SmartZone CEO Marilyn Clark, because technologies are becoming increasingly sophisticated, there is a greater need for research and testing before going to market. Meanwhile, federal funds are becoming scarcer. An angel investor network will help fill the financial gap and also provide young companies with mentorship and advice.

In October, about 30 accredited investors attended a workshop in Marquette, co-sponsored by MTEC SmartZone, BLP New Ventures Fund 1 LLLP, Michigan Technological University and Northern Michigan University, to gauge the level of interest in creating a network in the region. The workshop presented a method of angel investing that functions as an organized network to provide operational support, shared diligence and diversification opportunities. Ken Kousky, president and founding member of BlueWater Angels and CEO of MidMichgian Innovation Center, led the session. Kousky discussed similar Michigan-based networks in Midland, Grand Rapids and Traverse City that would serve as a blueprint for an angel network for MTEC SmartZone and the Marquette Satellite SmartZone regions.

Regional economic growth requires an environment that supports start-ups. MTEC SmartZone and the planned Marquette Satellite comprise part of that environment, as do accredited investors. Networks offer accredited investors an opportunity to help grow the local economy while providing portfolio diversification opportunities to members. Early-stage investments also offer an opportunity to generate a return for the investors as they increase the region’s level of economic prosperity.

According to MTEC SmartZone Business Consultant Richard Anderson, angel investor networks bring more than just capital to the table. “Entrepreneurs are connected with very sophisticated investors and have the opportunity to present and pitch their businesses,” he said. “It’s not really economic development programs that cause these kinds of companies to grow; rather, it’s the entrepreneurs who are connected to a source of capital, expertise and a network of relationships.” A steering committee of investors is expected to be formed in November, with network operations launching as soon as 2015.