A group of investors from the Triad region is close to making its first deals after banding together to form Piedmont Angel Network LLC to boost support for area technology start-ups.

The Piedmont Entrepreneurs Network (PEN), a support and educational organization for young companies, has wanted to establish an area angel group for a while, and several experienced private investors in the area began discussing joining forces a year ago. But the effort really took off after the N.C. Small Business and Technology Development Center held a meeting in Greensboro to help it design an education program for wealthy residents interested in becoming angel investors.

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“There is plenty of organized investment in Raleigh and Charlotte, but companies in the Triad haven’t had that level of early-stage support,” says Horace Stimson, a Stokes County farmer who has invested in companies for almost 30 years and is one of the organizers of Piedmont Angel Network. “The SBTDC effort was a catalyst for us to form this (angel network) and move forward with our own fund.”

Halfway to goal

An advisory board was assembled to organize the fund, and they began recruiting members last fall, mostly through personal contacts of board members. The network has signed up 46 investors who have contributed $2.6 million to the angel investment fund. The group will continue the private offering with the goal of doubling both its membership and the size of its fund by the end of this year, Stimson says.

By comparison, Charlotte Angel Partners has more than $7 million under management, and The Atlantis Group in Durham has $6 million in its fund. Tri-State Investment Group of Raleigh, the state’s largest angel network, has raised about $30 million in four funds since 1989.

“Our goal is to get a far-reaching mix of talent because that’s what adds value to both the fund and the companies we work with,” Stimson says, noting they also want to recruit more members from Burlington, High Point and other areas for a good regional balance.
“We don’t want to just go after money,” he adds. “Part of being in an angel network like this is working with other people, calling on their experience to help us make decisions as a group and increase the value of our investments.”

Talking deals

The group had its first members meeting in February and is discussing deals with a few companies. Most of the start-ups that members have expressed interest in talking to are life sciences companies, he says.

Stimson says he hopes to build relationships with other angel groups, who can help teach the finer points of technology investing to members of his organization and may be able to invest alongside the Piedmont Angels in area deals. The group also will take advantage of the SBTDC training program, he says.

PEN is currently managing the angel fund, although he says the group is close to hiring its own fund manager.

For more information about Piedmont Angel Network, contact PEN at (336) 533-0025.