Editor’s note: Bill Warner writes “The Angel Connection” which 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 , an angel investor network with over 100 members throughout the Southeast.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – In its most recent , the Angel Capital Association (ACA) reported that 2008 average angel group investments were down 9 percent from 2007. They did point out that many groups actually increased, seeking opportunities while valuations are depressed.

Why did investments decrease?

We are all familiar with the impact of the economic downturn. As institutions backed away from venture capital investments, angel investors also become much more cautious and selective. They too took a big hit in the markets. The reaction of angel groups has been to be much more selective about making investments in new companies. This has led to the decline in average angel investments. In addition, they circle the wagons and protect their portfolio companies. Knowing that their companies will need help as it became unlikely to be able to raise VC money, the angel groups have to carry more of the water.

What does it take to get their attention?

It’s not all gloom and doom. Entrepreneurs that have a great business idea should not shy away from approaching angel groups. They should really get familiar with what valuation and terms to expect in this market before they approach them.

Angels will be looking for well thought out business models that will get substantial sales traction quickly. The less money needed the better. Many web based businesses have that characteristic. It is important to portray a realistic and near-term exit strategy; the shorter the better. The management team matters even more. Gather an outstanding group of people who have both the technical and business wisdom to grow the business.

What does the future look like?

Well, I am afraid it is going to be more of the same, and perhaps a little worse, in 2009. But, again, don’t let that stand in your way as entrepreneurs. Put a whole lot of discipline in your business planning and execute smartly. Nothing beats a company that knows how to get to market. Be one of them.

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.