Editor’s note: “The Angel Connection” is a regular feature in WRAL Local Tech Wire. LTW asked consultant Bill Warner to share advice for entrepreneurs seeking angel investors and/or venture capital investment. He is chairman of the Triangle Accredited Capital Forum, an angel investor network with over 100 members throughout the Southeast.

PINEHURST, N.C. – The Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s is getting off to an optimistic but also sobering start after Tuesday night’s investor-only dinner in Pinehurst.

Joan Rose, president of CED, highlighted the evening with good news about the expected attendance at over 500 people, citing that this is extraordinary given the impact the economy has had on the companies and firms that are sending people to the conference.

Actually, more individual companies will be attending this year than last year even though the overall attendance is down somewhat. In addition,

CED membership is up considerably over last year, indicating that entrepreneurship is alive and well and that more and more companies want to learn about building successful businesses.

The venture capital world speaks up

The featured speaker was Mark Heesen, President of the National Venture Capital Association. He gave a very balanced update of the state of venture capital in the U.S. He didn’t try to sugarcoat the situation, but gave a very fair accounting of what is strong, what is weak and what we can expect in the near term.

Investing is down but still huge

With respect to the limited partners, over $4.3 billion was raised in the last quarter. The highlight though is that a substantial amount of the money came from Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Venture investing is down the last quarter, falling to $3.0B from $4.3B the previous quarter.

Heesen explained that most venture firms will not be raising further money this year and that we will continue to see fallout of venture firms throughout the year. He basically confirmed what we already know about the reduced chances companies have in raising venture capital money for the foreseeable future.

IPOs may see a new dawn

On the IPO front, there has been one IPO since last August and only 26 companies are registered with the SEC. It will be unlikely that the IPO market will see much progress this year. However, Heesen cited some potential progress through new partnerships between the venture capital world and the boutique investment banking world that might open up a new avenue for IPO’s. Stay tuned.

Clean tech may save them all

Heesen was bullish on “clean tech.” In his view, clean tech will be emerging as the darling of the venture capital world. He is not talking about the ill-conceived wind farms, biofuel plants and vast solar grids. He cited technological innovations in all walks of life, including building architecture, lighting, efficient air handling, fuel usage efficiency and many more. He was very excited about the innovation he is seeing and that there is increasing momentum in both the private and public sector to move this kind of innovation forward. He wasn’t talking about the near religious zealotry of sustainability, but solid technology companies that bring demonstrable and profitable value to the market that improves our environment. The good news is that the venture capital world is seeing a business in clean technology innovation.

Entrepreneurship is strong

Rose brought the evening to a close by reminding us all that more companies made applications to present at the conference this year than ever before. This again shows that although the economy is stifling, it hasn’t stifled entrepreneurship in the southeast.

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.