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    If you're thinking about going the angel route, here are five critical things to know see more

    If you're thinking about going the angel route, here are five critical things to know about the process that can lead to a successful round.

     

    For startups, a great alternative to venture capital is angel funding. A silver lining that has rapidly emerged over the past year is the uptick of virtual angel investment groups. 

    At Keiretsu Forum we have pivoted online, a notable trend amid large angel investment groups, which means existing investors, no matter their location, can access and evaluate any of the deals that go through the network. Concurrently, new investors seeking to diversify their portfolios are gravitating to the virtual angel model. Member onboarding, due diligence, live presentations, and member meetings are now all conducted online.

    If you’re thinking about going the angel route, here are five critical things to know about the process that can help lead to a successful round:

     

    1. Prepare for virtual fundraising

    In a post-Covid-19 pandemic, world capital must be raised virtually. The biggest challenge for entrepreneurs is that investments are made without ever meeting potential investors face-to-face. There is minimal eye contact and little body language—which is the language of funding—in a Zoom meeting. The goal is selling the upside potential and creating interest.

    Try and get into the mind of the angel, who will be evaluating you and asking themselves:

    • Who are you?
    • Why would I want to be involved and work with you?
    • Do I support the journey, the mission, and the impact?
    • Is the technology compelling?
    • How vast is the market opportunity?

    All those questions must be addressed during the pitch presentation.

    Fundraising as an ongoing process, with presentation and speaking skills evolving over the course of the campaign. Constantly evaluate your own presentation: Is the audience-market quickly defined? What is the pitch about? Why is it being pitched? Who will benefit from it?

    Indeed, the most effective technique for improving your pitch skills is to watch entrepreneurs with similar stage companies deliver pitches. Presenting to 50, 60, or hundreds of investors is no small task. Before and during the process, put your ego aside, and attend a few online investor forums to see how the best do it.

    A good pitch coach is someone who can simplify the process and make it less daunting. In addition to the pitch itself, not to be underestimated is honing the presentation skills that enable the entrepreneur to deliver an engaging and compelling presentation.

     

    2. Angels like familiarity

    Angels gravitate toward opportunities in the industries they have direct experience in, and the insights they can share with founders on how to successfully grow companies within those markets is invaluable.

    Relationships between entrepreneurs and angels can get started quickly and can be very hands-on, with angels oftentimes embedded within the company’s extended management and advisory network. In scenarios like this, the expertise, plans, and funding take place within an exciting and collaborative environment.

    “People invest in people they know, like and trust. Once an entrepreneur goes through the process of securing angel funding, they are part of a tight community.”

    People invest in people they know, like, and trust. Once an entrepreneur goes through the process of securing angel funding, they are part of a tight community. By example, approximately half the entrepreneurs that present to Keiretsu Forum are members of the group. Many are angels and entrepreneurs that have built and sold several companies.

    The companies that make it through the full process are typically ones who raise capital, have a track record of success, understand the fundraising process and the value of seed funding. This environment helps to cultivate relationships between the investors and the entrepreneurs.

     

    3. Due diligence is the force multiplier

    Due diligence is the key to a successful funding round. The process can be lengthy, taking upwards of 80 to 100 hours over six to eight weeks, but once completed the company is now able to syndicate and receive further capital.

    Typically, in an angel group setting, companies initially pitch first to a deal screening committee who determines if the opportunity is worthy of a full investor presentation. If there is interest, the due diligence process begins. Keiretsu Forum deploys on average 50 to 60 members that evaluate the opportunities and vote on inviting opportunities forward to the next step. Tight screening should be a confidence builder for both angel and entrepreneur.

    For example, Keiretsu Forum members back more than 80% of the companies that go through the process. An affiliated fund, Keiretsu Capital, will often invest alongside the members backing the company. This process gets repeated when the deal is syndicated across the network that includes numerous additional angel groups. At the end of the cycle, there should be 50-70 interested angels to close capital from.

     

    4. Protect intellectual property

    Most angel investment groups will not sign NDAs to conduct due diligence. It is critical to have a proper patent strategy to protect key intellectual property (IP). That said, due diligence plays a large hand in formulating that strategy, ensuring there is a good framework in place for the company to document a sustainable differentiation, with the freedom to operate and prevent competition from infringing on their patents.

    Most angel groups have IP attorneys who are members and conduct those reviews. Be careful about what you put in writing—angels should be able to understand what is going on with your business without you disclosing important assets.

     

    5. Family offices deliver patient backing

    The alignment between family offices and angel groups is the future of entrepreneurial finance. Indeed, family offices are experiencing a huge transfer of wealth (approximately $20 trillion) to the next generation of family members who are eager to make impact and diversity investments. Consider that more than one-half of the companies funded through Keiretsu Capital are now also funded by family offices.

    Moreover, unlike VCs, family offices are geared toward investing over a longer horizon and do not have an incentive to overly dilute the companies they invest in. Most important, family office investment adds a substantial balance sheet for fueling growth, and a sense of financial confidence for anticipated tough stretches.

    The symbiotic relationship between the angel investors that have the entrepreneurial expertise and the family offices that have the wealth that should most excite female entrepreneurs seeking to raise capital.

     

    Brianna McDonald is president of Keiretsu Forum Northwest, the largest chapter of Keiretsu Forum, the world’s biggest angel investor network ranked by Pitchbook #1 “Most active investors early stage US region” and “Most active investors late-stage US region.” Brianna is adept at screening companies for angel investment, coaching companies on presentation and investor relations, sales strategy execution, relationship management, and leading due diligence teams. Brianna believes in companies that have “multiple bottom lines”, in that they are not solely focused on profits but also focused on impact, social good, diversity, and making the world a better place for the next generation. 

  • Article
    HaptX received a $1.5 million grant to create a full-body haptic system. see more

    Sep 29, 2020, 10:31am, Forbes

    Today, HaptX, Virginia Tech, and the University of Florida won a $1.5 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to develop the first program to bring force feedback to upper and lower limbs in virtual environments, ForceBot. Founded in 2012 by Jake Rubin and Dr. Robert Crockett, HaptX started with a vision they strikingly captured in an image of the full body haptic system Rubin envisioned for virtual reality (VR). The company has taken a serious detour through reality, productizing haptic gloves for VR and robotic telepresence. After turning practical, and doing another round of funding based on its growing enterprise business, they are going back to the future with this announcement.

     

    ForceBot is a four-year project to develop an exoskeleton for commercial and enterprise applications using HaptX’s microfluidic touch feedback technology to simulate virtual objects. The NSF grant will be distributed between each company to contribute individual components to ForceBot, and then the resulting IP will be used for commercial products. In the project, VR and robotics are hand in hand towards building a full-body haptic exoskeleton rig. The rig will increase force feedback on the human body for users in virtual environments. HaptX’s contribution to the project is finding the commercial uses for the rigs, in addition to the use of HaptX Gloves products in the rig. Jake Rubin, CEO and Founder of HaptX told us that in the short term they have always, “built towards the company’s original vision piece by piece, performing R&D on each segment of the full system while simultaneously narrowing down what has the most short term commercial potential.” The grant brings things into a full circle, with plans to use the exoskeleton to create prototypes of a product for the future.

     

     

     

     

    This exoskeleton will be designed to mimic real-world forces such as weight, texture of objects, shape, and terrain. Dr. Alexander Leonessa, Principal Investigator, Virginia Tech stated, “we’re excited to create a system that increases immersion for VR users in applications requiring intensive body motions like sports and industrial skills training, gaming, emergency response, and many others.” 

    How we interact with the virtual worlds we occupy is one of the central questions of VR. This thought regarding HaptX was included in my first book, Charlie Fink’s Metaverse. With the HaptX full exoskeleton, the rig will be able to use mechanical arms with gloves [as seen at CES 2020] and actuators attached to each leg will simulate the haptic feedback from walking, running, and climbing stairs. The company is trying to establish itself as more than a glove company. Regardless of the success of the ForceBot, the worst-case scenario is still a product that fulfills the company’s original vision in some capacity. Rubin left us with this statement, “immersion and fidelity are wanted in the market and HaptX is not going to stop until we get there.” 

    This story was written with Brandon Cloobeck.

     

     

    About Keiretsu Forum

    Keiretsu Forum, the world’s leading angel investor network with over 1,500 investors in 38 chapters on 3 continents. Keiretsu Forum has invested more than $500 million into more than 700 companies since inception. Keiretsu Capital administers funds on behalf of its Limited Partners - the Co-Investment & Opportunities Fund creates a diversified portfolio of technology start-ups backed by top tier angel groups and pursues the high upside value potential in these dynamic investment opportunities while promoting the sharing of risk inherent in any early-stage venture.  The firm is based in Seattle and San Francisco and its principals are veteran Silicon Valley and technology investors Randy Williams, Matthew C. Le Merle, and Nathan McDonald. 

    For more information please visit www.keiretsuforum.com or contact us.

  • Article
    An Interview with Brianna McDonald on how to successfully raise funding during the pandemic. see more

     

    425 business, August 10, 2020: Interview with  Brianna McDonald on how to successfully raise funding during COVID.

    Despite a worldwide pandemic, entrepreneurs and investors continue the quest to uncover emerging-market drivers and opportunities. At Keiretsu Forum, we have funded nearly all of the companies this year that have participated in our (now virtual) online investment forum, with a continuous flow of due-diligence packages completed or syndicated new deals successfully closed. 

    We strongly believe there will be a V-shaped recovery for 85 percent of the economy; already there are favorable market indicators such as a stabilized and appreciating stock market. Available capital and liquidity also remain abundant. Companies that have significant demand drivers associated with COVID-19 are raising capital fairly quickly and efficiently in large amounts. Technology also remains an area of continued interest with a high quality of deal flow.

    A silver lining is we expect to see leaner, more efficient, and more focused companies moving forward, ready to take advantage of a market recovery. If you’re considering funding or in the process now, here are seven steps early-stage companies can take to become more attractive to investors.


    1. Strengthen the balance sheet by closing outstanding commitments, and explore venture debt and lines of credit.

    Companies should exhaust every opportunity to generate additional working cash flow without taking on additional liabilities. One way is to convert lines of credit or venture debt into expanded cash flow. Likewise, companies with inventory will want to increase stock, even though there might be volatility in inventory drawdowns and/or potential supply chain challenges. To do such, close any existing sales or partnerships because they can provide additional flexibility and cash where applicable. For example, Palarum offers a product for hospitals that prevent falls and just completed key pilot studies. It recently concluded a three-year purchase letter of intent from a key customer, which is leveraged to acquire additional financing that covered the cost of the product rollout.

    2. Negotiate with vendors/landlords/others to reduce or defer costs.

    On average, our portfolio companies are negotiating reduced rates cut at nearly 50 percent. If no reduction is available, look to get two or three free months deferred to the end of the lease. You might be surprised at how easy it can be to negotiate favorable terms. Replacing a tenant is a high-cost landlord who wants to avoid for otherwise high-quality growing companies.

    3. Immediately variabilize costs/shift to equity-based compensation where it makes sense.

    A great way to reduce cash burn is to increase option pools and/or create more equity-based incentive compensation in the form of stock options available to executive team members. Less cash-out equals less cash burned! Equity-based compensation is tied to milestones and is considered a variable cost.

    4. Slow down payables, including maximizing payment schedules against terms and conditions.

    This is another case of “Ask and Ye Shall Receive.” Negotiate longer payment terms, and/or purchase upfront or in bulk. That can drive substantial price reductions and savings of as much as 50 percent.

    5. Take swift action to cut costs and reduce burn rates — earlier decisions are rarely regretted.

    Where are you focusing your marketing spend? Where are you focusing on your business development efforts? Is that spend really realistic going forward? Is engineering fully focused on where it should be? If not, cut back as much of that discretionary spending to further reduce the burn rate. Look at ways you can be a more efficient customer-focused organization versus a market-focused one.

    6. Focus on revenue generation, reorder priorities, replan the road map to emphasize the top line.

    Maximize the top line and get healthy around that line of business. Start by replanning the go-to-market road map, with a focus on the core values and core customers that maximize survival. Oftentimes companies try to do lots of different things, but in reality, there are only one or two things they do really well. Everything else is a distraction that drives excess costs. Focus on the customers who have money and will have significant demand for your product or service. Then make sure to take really good care of them!

    7. Get in line now for government support/non-dilutive funding (e.g. DoD, NIH grants), etc.

    Most companies have probably filed for PPP funding; if not, do so immediately, but there are other opportunities for government funding. Many of our life sciences and health care technology portfolio companies, such as XYZ, have applied for DoD and NIH grants administered via the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.


    Brianna McDonald is president of the Northwest region of the Keiretsu Forum angel investment community.

     

  • Article
    2015 accomplishments see more

    Keiretsu Forum Northwest is delighted to be recognized by several major news source publications for their 2015 accomplishments. As a collective, Keiretsu Forum Norwest region oversaw the funding of 57 companies with over $43.5 Million in angel investing. We are honored by the recognition of this accomplishment and grateful to the following news sources for their coverage of our success. Check out the articles featuring the Kieretsu Forum Northwest investment collective.  

    Seattle Times

    GeekWire

    Xconomy

    Business Journal