Inaugural Open Angel Forum Was a Success

Posted on Jan 15, 2010 | 57 comments


OAF-Logo-Med-300x155Last night I attended the inaugural Open Angel Forum event started by Jason Calacanis, a fellow LA resident.  Jason started the Open Angel Forum in response to his frustration that entrepreneurs were being charged by some angel organizations to present at their events.  He wrote an excellent blog post on this topic.

As a former entrepreneur, I’m a big supporter of Jason’s goals.  Asking young companies with limited capital to pay to present to a group of potential investors is insane.  Yet many would-be entrepreneurs feel that they don’t have enough access to investors and that the opportunity to present to a group will help them short circuit the fund raising process.

This can be true if it’s the right event, but most of these events suck.  And frankly one of the skills of an entrepreneur is figuring out how to get access to people that they don’t know and one of the ways that potential investors (like it or not) can judge one part of your skills is in seeing how you use ingenuity to gain access.  If you want some tips on getting access I wrote a post on how to access VCs but the same logic applies to angels.

The event last night in Los Angeles was great.  Local angel investors totaled 18 people including Matt Coffin, Brett Brewer, Kamran Pourzanjani, Jarl Mohn and many others that young entrepreneurs would be blessed to work with.  Also present were NorCal angels including Ron Conway, Chris Sacca and Shervin Pishevar.  It was also great to spend time with the founder of TechStars, David Cohen, who will head up Open Angel, Boulder.

5 companies presented for 7-8 minutes each followed by Q&A.  2 of the companies were immediately interesting to me and I have already followed up with next steps, which I guess is testament to Jason’s goals of making sure that high quality, early-stage companies get funded.  In my next post I will write about one of the five companies.

Jason plans to set up Open Angel chapters in many US cities and eventually internationally.  My only suggestion to Jason would be to emphasize more of the presenting companies being local.  I think most great angel investing is done at a local level.  At the earliest stages of a company you want to raise money from people local to you because distance = their time, attention and focus.  And that’s really what you want.  It was great to meet some promising companies from outside the area but 4 out of 5 wasn’t the right balance for me, personally.

There was some Twitter chat before the event about whether this “replaces” local angel funding communities like the Tech Coast Angels.  It does not and that’s a good thing.  While TCA has had it’s challenges (and updating your website certainly wouldn’t hurt your image, guys. Seriously, it kinda stinks) it is a legitimate funding source for Southern California entrepreneurs and has produced successes including GreenDot and MyShape.  We don’t need competition – we need more overall organizations like Jason’s to helping young entrepreneurs more easily reach angel investors with no payola.

Hat’s off to Jason – you’ve started something important and of great substance.  I look forward to tracking the progress.

Oh, and hats off to Tyler Crowley and Alex Miller, the magic guys who really do much of the work behind the scenes to pull off these great events that Jason dreams up.  They deserve more credit.

  • http://www.recessmobile.com Vitaliy Levit

    Mark, thanks for the event digest. Seeing these events and your local community of support reminds me everyday how badly we need to move out west. Columbus is no place for entrepreneurs with a west coast mentality!

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    I guess my point is more damning. I think many foreign VC investors have been burned in Continental Europe, which makes it harder for them to attract outside capital. Labor laws make life too difficult.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    I've met a few good entrepreneurs from Columbus including Wil Schroeter from Affordit.com … oh, but he just moved out West ;-)

  • http://www.recessmobile.com Vitaliy Levit

    Wil's a friend of ours. There was a whole group of us Columbus entrepreneurs who were supposed to come out around Thanksgiving to show the LA community how it's done, but the timing was off and Wil couldn't arrange for enough investors to be around then. My partner and I ended up coming out ourselves and participating in Startup Weekend LA to meet some of the locals. Ended up being a decent trip, can't wait to come back out!

  • Aviah Laor

    It looks like a fantastic project. Mark, do you think that there is some group effect that affects the investor criteria in such events? I mean, if we had a hypothetical “control experiment” where investors would meet these companies individually and in a group event, the tendency to invest in each would be the same? and do you think that such meetup is going to be the preferred first shot in raising money for start-ups?

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  • http://www.piqqle.com/ Daniel Kim

    Great to read the first OAF event was a success and it gives me a boost while working on my first startup here in Socal. I am looking forward to more insights on the event from your point of view, but had a quick question. Were the 5 firms that did end up presenting to the angel panel, startups that already had traction, or were they a mix of that and ones still in the idea stage (building technology). Curious to hear what the make up was.

  • http://www.piqqle.com/ Daniel Kim

    Great to read the first OAF event was a success and it gives me a boost while working on my first startup here in Socal. I am looking forward to more insights on the event from your point of view, but had a quick question. Were the 5 firms that did end up presenting to the angel panel, startups that already had traction, or were they a mix of that and ones still in the idea stage (building technology). Curious to hear what the make up was.

  • drbillnye

    Good write up Mark, I've been following Jason on TWiST for a while now and have been interested in the reaction from some of the angels who attended the event.

    You're spot on when you say this isn't a zero sum game for angels, and as a side benefit, the greater opportunity for entrepreneurs will cause the level of preparation and talent to increase almost exponentially. 5/150 and those numbers will continue to rise, entrepreneurs will pick up their game more and more, which benefits both sides of the equation here.

    Again, thanks for taking a minute to share your thoughts,

    Al Doan

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  • drbillnye

    Good write up Mark, I've been following Jason on TWiST for a while now and have been interested in the reaction from some of the angels who attended the event.

    You're spot on when you say this isn't a zero sum game for angels, and as a side benefit, the greater opportunity for entrepreneurs will cause the level of preparation and talent to increase almost exponentially. 5/150 and those numbers will continue to rise, entrepreneurs will pick up their game more and more, which benefits both sides of the equation here.

    Again, thanks for taking a minute to share your thoughts,

    Al Doan

  • http://twitter.com/tigertag TigerTag

    OAF LA was a great success and we enjoyed meeting with you and a bunch of other super angels. Wrote a short post of our experience as startup attending the OAF on our blog. http://blog.tigertag.com/post/341210618/tigerta……

  • http://twitter.com/tigertag TigerTag

    OAF LA was a great success and we enjoyed meeting with you and a bunch of other super angels. Wrote a short post of our experience as startup attending the OAF on our blog. http://blog.tigertag.com/post/341210618/tigerta……

  • http://www.glenwoodfin.com Glen Woodfin

    Love Jason Calcanis's attitude towards startups. He empowers people.

    Thanks for the post.

  • http://www.glenwoodfin.com Glen Woodfin

    Love Jason Calcanis's attitude towards startups. He empowers people.

    Thanks for the post.

  • http://www.glenwoodfin.com Glen Woodfin

    Love Jason Calcanis's attitude towards startups. He empowers people.

    Thanks for the post.

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