Golden Angels Network sees spike in entrepreneurial activity

Despite the Great Recession and the still sluggish economy, the Golden Angels Network, a Marquette University group of angel investors, has increased its activity over the last few years.

“The angel investment scene seems to be more active than ever,” said Tim Keane, director of the network. “The activity is at least as high as it’s always been, maybe even more. Traditionally, a lot of businesses get started in a recession, so that may be an indication of our recent activity.”

The Marquette University Golden Angels Network was founded in 2003, and has funded more than 14 startups over the years. The group’s most notable investment was for Milwaukee-based EMSystems, which was recently acquired by Florida-based Intermedix Corp.

The group is made up of 60 members, mostly Marquette University alumni, who actively engage in the investment process, Keane said.

“We provide seed money for startups but also stand to serve as a resource for the startups,” he said. “We’re closing on three deals at the moment and are seriously looking at two or three others. We deal with a broad scope of entrepreneurs, largely technology based, a lot of medical-related businesses and some software and even a deal in the water industry.”

The startups, with one exception, are all from Wisconsin or Illinois, Keane said.

“We like local entrepreneurs,” he said. “They are driving the region, and it’s easier to work with them throughout the process if they are local.”

Entrepreneurs can submit their business plans on the Golden Angel Network website. The network’s deal committee looks at the submitted business plans every two weeks, Keane said.

“Once the plans are reviewed, interesting plans are brought in to make presentations,” Keane said. “At that point, we all decide what we are going to do and move forward accordingly.”

Seed investments usually range from $250,000 to $1 million, but sometimes more, Keane said.

“We’ve done more in the last year than we have in the previous two,” he said. “It’s hard to tell what 2011 will bring, but we’re excited that the environment in Wisconsin surrounding entrepreneurship is better than it has ever been. The establishment of more business plan competitions, additional tax credits and more angel investors has helped create a good environment for a lot of people with great ideas.”

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