Mark Kaplan - AlphaLoft IncubatorI saw a line on twitter the other day that in essence said, ‘The difference between a startup groupie and a startup angel depends on whether they write checks.’ It seemed written with an attitude that angels are welcome and groupies not so much. I think that edge is unnecessary. An ecosystem can use both angels writing checks and groupies waving the startup flag, providing encouragement and support. The key is that groupies not try to pass as angels. Doing otherwise can lead a startup founder to spin wheels, thinking someone has an investment interest when they don’t.

The reason for my focus on this tweet is that our NH startup ecosystem needs more angels. Entrepreneurial activity, the creation of new companies, and ultimately the growth of successful companies in New Hampshire require not only ecosystem champions, but people willing to take some risk and write some checks. So for those who have the necessary financial capacity, I urge you to look at some opportunities and make some investments.

Live Free and Start has a committee whose mission is to increase access to capital for entrepreneurs in New Hampshire. The committee’s work to accomplish this is directed in three areas; assisting communication and collaboration among angel groups, stimulating interest by individuals in joining angel groups and becoming check writers, and providing some education to those not familiar with angel investing. The group is undertaking a number of initiatives to meet the objectives.

Angel Conference

Last fall Live Free and Start organized an angel conference that had registration approaching 170 people, including active angel investors as well as those with an interest in angel investing. As a result some angel groups saw membership increases, with the prospect of more to come. In addition, connections were made among angels and prospective angels, strengthening the ties that lead to investment.

This fall Live Free and Start will be following up last year’s conference with another angel event in mid-November. The event, in Manchester, will again bring together angels with potential angels. A keynote speaker is expected to provide some educational depth talking about the elements that make a good investment and the due diligence of investing. Of course, there will also be time for networking.

Impact Investing in NH Forums

Working in collaboration with the NH Community Loan Fund and the NH Charitable Foundation, Live Free and Start is putting on forums throughout the state focused on ways that people can have an impact on NH through a number of mechanisms. Many folks may not be familiar with the opportunities to invest in, or alongside, the NH Community Loan Fund. They also might not be aware that their philanthropic dollars given to the NH Charitable Foundation can be directed for investment right here in the state. Check out the LFS website for information on the dates and times of the forums.

Women Angels

It is the case nationally and here in NH that women are underrepresented among angel investors. This is unfortunate, as it is known to impact the prospects for women entrepreneurs being funded. Additionally, studies show that having women involved investing in and helping build companies is additive to value versus when only men are involved. So, LFS has been working to engage specifically with prospective women angel investors in the state. One way this is happening is through a gathering taking place September 27th to which women interested in learning more will hear from speakers and network amongst themselves. Director of Entrepreneurship Liz Gray can be contacted about this at connect@livefreeandstart.com.

A Long Term Path

Some of the events discussed are in the past, others are happening soon, and there will be more in the future. Improving access to capital in NH, like creating a more vibrant startup ecosystem is a long term initiative. That said, there is no time like the present to start getting involved. There is an old adage that the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, and the second best time is today. So, please consider the role you might play in our NH startup economy today.

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