When MobileQubes wanted to raise $1 million to spread its mobile device battery charging packs to more areas, the New Orleans company turned to NO/LA Angel Network, a 120-member fund that backs Louisiana startups.
When NO/LA members couldn’t raise all of that, the network tapped other in-state angel investors in Shreveport, Lake Charles and Baton Rouge. Finally, NO/LA Chairman Mike Eckert tapped his Houston contacts to fill out the funding round.
By building a big capital base in New Orleans, NO/LA not only can put capital into New Orleans companies but also help investors in other markets fill out their financing,” Eckert said. NO/LA is now looking at investing in a Shreveport company, whose name he could not release, because the Shreveport fund asked for help.
“And isn’t that great then that New Orleans money helped Shreveport. Shreveport helped us with MobileQubes. We’re getting entrepreneurs started, companies started. We’re helping economic development,” Eckert said. “And we’re causing these entrepreneurs to stay in Louisiana.”
Angel syndicates are becoming more common as “the ask” for entrepreneurs grows, he said. A few years ago, startups were looking for $250,000 to $500,000. Now they’re looking for $750,000 to $1 million.
Eckert said he believes in the next year or two Louisiana will be able to build an ecosystem that links entrepreneurs to “enablers” — business incubators and accelerators, university programs, pitch competitions and capital.
Ideally, the state and metro areas will help foster a number of successful startups. As those companies reach the growth stage and need the next layer of funding and venture capital, in-state venture funds will form to help. Right now, the state has very few venture capital funds. Out-of-state venture funds frequently make the startup’s relocation a requirement for financing.
The result is that the startup the angels, incubators and accelerators and universities helped nurture goes to another state to flourish, Eckert said.
The connections in the state’s nascent ecosystem helped Baton Rouge-based fundraising platform Anedot ink a deal recently with Silicon Valley Growth Syndicate, a Dallas-based angel fund.
Co-founder L.W. McNutt said the fund opened in 2013 and originally invested only in Silicon Valley startups. But the price for California tech firms grew “frothy,” and the fund began looking hard at other areas. McNutt made a number of trips to Louisiana and joined NO/LA, and that led to Anedot. Anedot is the fund’s 60th portfolio company but the first in Louisiana, McNutt said. But SVGS is sold on Louisiana and its great startup community.
Anedot traded some of its equity in order to tap the insight of SVGS member Will Bunker, according to Anedot CEO Paul Dietzel II.
SVGS invests anywhere from $50,000 to $355,000 in its portfolio companies in exchange for 2 percent to 5 percent of the equity.
“This is an investing world with a great number of dead soldiers. It’s not for the faint-hearted,” McNutt said. “We anticipate 25 percent to 30 percent of the companies in which we’ve invested will become dead soldiers, but the winners pay off handsomely.”
Most exit at a value of $20 million to $30 million 18-24 months after they complete their Series A funding, he said. The founders of the startups make about 100 times their original investment, while SVGS members exit with 20 to 30 times theirs.
Series A is the first round of financing after seed capital, the initial money used to start a business. Series A is generally the first time equity is made available to outside investors.
Business community members believe more deals like Anedot’s and MobileQubes lie in the not-too-distant future as Louisiana and its metro areas build a reputation for investment opportunities.
Baton Rouge Area Chamber CEO Adam Knapp said the work of Eckert and NO/LA, which now includes a Baton Rouge angel group, in building more interconnected angel networks makes that more likely to happen.
Eckert said Louisiana is undergoing an entrepreneurial explosion, and the state needs angel investors to fund those efforts.
In addition to New Orleans and Baton Rouge, there is an angel group in Lake Charles and a fund in Shreveport, and efforts are underway to organize networks in Lafayette and Monroe, he said. The largest of those is NO/LA, which may also be one of the largest in the country.
Knapp described N0/LA as a volunteer-led effort that vets and “polishes” startups, bringing in mentors who help the entrepreneurs work through business issues and improve the quality of their offerings.
“When that happens … the deals get better, and they have a much better chance of success,” Knapp said. “That polishing by local risk-takers, local investors, helps make a lot of these deals more nationally scalable and nationally attractive to investors.”
Follow Ted Griggs on Twitter, @tedgriggsbr.