Editor’s note: “The Angel Connection” makes its debut today as a new feature in WRAL Local Tech Wire. LTW asked consultant Bill Warner to share with readers advice for entrepreneurs seeking investment. He is chairman of the Triangle Accredited Capital Forum, an angel investor network with over one hundred members throughout the southeast. The Angel Connection will be published on Mondays.

Entrepreneurs often talk about needing angel investor money to launch their companies. When asked about their financing plan, they are heard to say, “I am going to raise $500K from angels.”

When asked what their strategy for approaching angels is and whom they are going to approach, they often go silent and have a blank look on their faces. To many entrepreneurs, angel investors are a general term for a form of start-up investment, but they don’t clearly know who angel investors are.

Technically speaking, angel investors are wealthy individuals that are accredited by SEC guidelines, who dedicate a small portion of their overall net worth to investing in high risk start-up company investment. Angels are successful business people who have a spot in their hearts for entrepreneurs.

A Chance to Give Back

Most angels are quite mature in their careers and have accumulated a considerable wealth of business experience as well. They love the challenge of start-up companies and in many ways want to contribute their experience and know-how to other entrepreneurs. It’s a chance for them to “give back” to the business community some of what has made them successful. They like helping entrepreneurs and want to help them become successful.

Most angel investors are likely to have had considerable exposure to early stage companies both as a participating entrepreneur as well as an investor. You may know some already. They could be friends, family members, college buddies, country club associates and business associates. There are hundreds that you do not know, like doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other successful business people.

When identifying who angels are, start with your own contact list and determine who may be qualified to invest in your company, and who may know other people who could invest and then give you a referral to them.

You may know that angel investors fly in formations. There are dozens of angel investor organizations throughout the area that look for good investments for their members. Mature groups like Academy Funds, Atlantis, Charlotte Angel Partners, Inception Micro Angel Fund, NCIdea, Piedmont Angel Network, Southern Capital and Tri-State Investment Group represent hundreds of angel investors that have invested in dozens of local companies. Angel networks like the Blue Ridge Angel Investor Network, ECU Entrepreneurial Initiative, Triangle Accredited Capital Forum, Wed3 and Wilmington Investor Network introduce good start-up companies to their members.

Even local venture capital firms sometimes act like angels by investing in selected start-up companies, like Aurora Funds, InterSouth Partners, Pappas Ventures and River Cities Capital. Not all of these organizations are now actively investing in companies, but many of the people they represent are.

Hanging Out at Networking Events

Angel investors hang out at many of the local networking events like venture capital events, technology events, biotech events and gatherings put on by local businesses and associations. These events are great opportunities to meet angels informally to get them interested in your business proposition. Get tapped into the local media links to find out when and where these events are.

You probably know more qualified angel investors than you think you do, but you most likely have to expand your list of angel investors in order to find the ones that will be interested in your company. Step one is finding out who they are.

About the author: Bill Warner is the Managing Partner of Paladin and Associates,  a business consulting firm in the Research Triangle Park area of central North Carolina, and is the Chairman of the Triangle Accredited Capital Forum, an angel investor network with over one hundred members throughout the southeast.