Financial investors look to the next level _lowres

Jon Atkinson, South Coast Angel Fund LLC

Local investors say what the burgeoning New Orleans angel community needs now is a stimulating jolt, such as the acquisition of one of their client companies by a larger firm that pays them seven to 10 times the size of their original investment.

“We are on the clock for a big exit as a community,” said Jon Atkinson, fund executive for South Coast Angel Fund LLC.

“This is about building $50 (million) to $100 million companies,” he said. “That’s the minimum size needed to get noticed on a national scale.”

Scoring a win like that would focus broader investor attention on the local entrepreneurial community and help build a critical mass of local money and talent, investors say.

Another indicator of angel investing success is the number of funded startups that land “follow-on” investments by later-stage financiers, including venture capitalists and private equity firms.

A local business that could soon advance to this level is Zlien, a mechanics lien-filing service that in 2012 received $450,000 in early stage funding from the New Orleans Startup Fund, a nonprofit group launched by businesswoman Leslie Jacobs.

In March, Zlien won the Coulter IDEAPitch competition sponsored by venture capitalist Jim Coulter and Idea Village and snagged an expense-paid trip to San Francisco to meet with venture investors there. Zlien CEO Scott Wolfe made the trip in September.

“We spent five days in back-to-back meetings with different venture companies, and we’re going back in two weeks for follow-up visits with two of them,” he said recently.

He also intends to pitch investors in New York.

While a few homegrown venture capital firms operate in Louisiana, Wolfe noted that the hundreds of investment firms available in California and the Northeast make it “easier to find your fit” in those areas.

He expects it will take several months to secure the capital Zlien needs.