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Angel investors fund many new Utah firms

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Ten years ago this month, five businessmen who had all started successful businesses met together for the first time in the conference room of the Commission for Economic Development in Orem. Out of that meeting came the Utah Angels, a group devoted to funding Utah entrepreneurial businesses and the first Angel group in Utah.

Since that time, 57 companies have been funded, to the tune of over $25 million. More than 300 companies have presented to the Angels for funding. Companies that are easily recognizable are Omniture, Ancestry.com, Alianza, Silent Whistle, Power Quest, Orange Soda and TruVision. Some have gone down the drain, some are still chugging along, some are limping along and some have turned into major public companies, such as Omniture.

The group has grown to 20 active investors. They meet once a month at Thanksgiving Point in northern Utah County to listen to proposals for funding. Usually four to six companies present each month. While startup companies are sometimes accepted, most of the members like to see some revenue or proof of concept.

In the past, the presenters have ranged from oil wells to software to a cookie factory to films to multilevel companies to a paint company franchisor to a motor company that had a carburetor that got 100 miles to the gallon (that one did not get funded). Companies wishing to present can contact the Angels at utahangels.org or angelsoft.net.

When a company is accepted for presentation, its management is mentored by one of the Angel members. If the presenter is successful in attracting some of the Angels, one of the interested members forms a due-diligence group to thoroughly investigate the company. If successful, a funding term sheet is negotiated. Funding has ranged from as low as $50,000 to over $2 million. Funding usually takes about a month to complete.

Members of the Utah Angels invest individually, not as a group. Those who are interested in a particular company and agree with the funding documents can be as few as one member, or it may include the entire group. The form of investment varies from common stock to preferred stock to convertible notes.

The group has members ranging in age from 30 to 68. All live in the Utah area, mostly in Utah County. Many teach part time at Brigham Young University or at Utah Valley State College. Many of them still run businesses and are active on boards, advisory groups and mentoring groups. All are active investors and are required to make investments each year.

Of course, the Utah Angels are not the only group of angel investors providing funding for Utah entrepreneurs. There are a number of groups out there who are ready, anxious and willing to invest in the business efforts and ideas of worthy entrepreneurs. But the Utah Angels have been a real success, not only for the members, but for the many Utah companies that have been funded and will fund be funded in the future.

If you have a company that has a bright future, then apply to the Utah Angels or another similar investment group. You'll find these groups can provide insight, inspiration and much-needed capital as you launch your entrepreneurial venture.

Joseph Ollivier is a founding member of the Utah Angels and is affiliated with the BYU Center for Entrepreneurship. He can be reached at JosephOllivier@gmail.com