Angels of SWLA

By Mitchell Adrian, JP Morgan Chase Bank Endowed Professor of Business

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Evidence of Life

We already see evidence of business and industrial growth in Southwest Louisiana.  We see increased traffic, out-of-state auto license plates, new apartments going up, and more.  Most of these visible signs can be attributed to the industrial expansions we have all heard so much about. However, residents seldom hear about a considerable amount of business activity that is not so easily detectable.  For example, we have an Angel Investment group that is actively seeking and supporting new business ideas and ventures in SWLA (angelsofswla.org).

Angel investors are individuals who are willing to risk investing in a new startup business.  They differ from Venture Capitalists in that they tend to invest their own capital alone or individually, not through a professional brokerage, and they are usually willing to consider businesses too young and undeveloped to even be considered by Venture Capitalists.  Angels and angel groups can invest alone, together, and/or with many other types of investors. 


Impact Locally

The Angels of SWLA were established in 2011 with the ambition of finding seed money for budding entrepreneurs in Southwest Louisiana.  The brainchild of Ron McGinley, the Angels SWLA provide a forum for local entrepreneurs to present their ideas to potential investors.  The Angels SWLA is affiliated with the Angel Capital Association (angelcapitalassociation.org).  This organization is a knowledge center for over 12,000 angels nationwide.  The Angel Capital Association (ACA) reports nearly a billion dollars in national angel investments for the second quarter of 2013 (the last reported quarter).  The three leading industries for angel investing in that quarter were healthcare, internet, and mobile/telecom.  Nationwide, these three sectors drew 70% of the combined angel investor funds.  On average, angel investors choose to support new startups that are close to home and impact their local economy, with 86% of investors choosing to support new ventures that bring benefits to their regions.  


More Than Money

From: www.sky.com

Through ACA, the Angles SWLA monitor regional activity and benchmark it against national trends.  Through partnerships with other regional ACA members, such as the Gulf Coast Angels, Angels SWLA can guide entrepreneurs to sources of help and funding that may be more appropriate to those entrepreneurs’ ideas and ambitions.  By participating in the Angel Capital Summit, Angel SWLA members stay abreast of national and regional trends and continue to modify and improve the operating polices of the local organization.

Angels SWLA requires that the proposed venture show some benefit to Southwest Louisiana and typically seeks requests for investment in the range of $100,000 to $250,000.  The Angels SWLA is governed by a management board, with Ron McGinley as Director.  They screen new business proposals and select ten of the ideas per year to present to the larger group.  Once a month (except for December and July), new ideas are presented for questions and review.  Meeting at the SEED Center in Lake Charles, Angel SWLA investors, board members, and interested professionals gather to review and critique presentations.  When board members deem the venture has merit, they take it to the stage of due diligence and investigate the business proposal further.  If judged to have a good potential for success, the proposal is passed to member investors who can choose to invest (or choose not to invest).  The presentation and mentoring process provides considerable “real-life” information for early startups.  


From The Investors That Brought Us Such Hits As:

Two examples of supported entrepreneurs are Lighting Couture and GoGoGrocer.  Lighting Couture, retailer of more upscale home electrical lighting, successfully opened at a location on East McNeese St. and business has steadily improved.  GoGoGrocer introduced the idea of creating software and a corresponding process for ordering groceries online or via smartphone and having those groceries ready for pick-up when you arrive at the store.  While both organizations are still just getting started, both are examples of how local expertise can foster new business growth.  Each of these new entrepreneurs learned that mentoring, counseling, and coaching from successful business leaders was just as important at startup funding


Looking to the Future

Angels SWLA have also been active in other areas of entrepreneurial growth in our region.  They were instrumental in helping start the CyberPatriot program at St. Louis Catholic High School.  CyberPatriot is a youth cyber education program that has grown into a multidivisional virtual reality competition drawing more than 2100 teams form all 50 states, Canada, and Europe.  Long-term, the program has shown a measurable impact on student educational and occupational choices, with almost 90% of participants choosing fields in STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and math).


In Conclusion...

The Angels SWLA sponsor the Business Pitch Competition held annually at the SEED Center.  Entrepreneurial ideas from several categories are presented to a team of judges who select a winner from each category.  The winners are eligible not only for prize money, but also for advice and coaching from Angel members. 

In total, the Angels SWLA have been very active over the past few years and you will continue to see increased entrepreneurial activity in our region, partially as a result of their efforts.  If you would like to know more about the SWLA Angels, contact Ron McGinley at ron@angelsofswla.org.


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