Whether you’re an accredited investor looking to diversify your portfolio or a startup team seeking guidance, angel groups have become an increasingly popular way to achieve each of these goals. And thanks to Joshua Siegel and Andrew Romans, Co-Founders of Georgetown Angels, an independent and privately held angel investment and venture capital group, individuals throughout the United States and abroad have the opportunity to come together for the connectivity and resources that members of startup and angel communities crave.
Investing in five startups per quarter, with $250,000-$750,000 in each startup, Georgetown Angels—not affiliated with or endorsed by Georgetown University—combines the best practices of the angel community with the best practices of a traditional venture capital company to source and invest in select companies.
“We conduct the due diligence, select the deals, have the deal flow, have the connections and provide the advice, mentorship and ongoing strategic value to companies beyond just the initial investment,” said Joshua Siegel, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of Georgetown Angels.
Essentially industry agnostic, the angel group examines startups from all sectors, with a preference for companies that use technology to disrupt their respective industries, such as wireLawyer, the first B2B platform built by lawyers for lawyers, and Bespoke Post, a lifestyle subscription club for men that provides curated products based around different themes. Other companies in the current portfolio include Byndl and Dealflicks.
“If you’re really going to disrupt an established market, then that can be really great because you can get a lot of traction very quickly, and also a lot of press, which helps.”
Sectors the group has looked at since launching in October of 2012 include legal, political, mobile payment, human resources, mobile peer-to-peer communications, consumer subscription services, entertainment and SaaS.
“We want to choose companies that have a great product, and a great team to execute that product. We’re not interested in just the team and we’re not interested in just the product: we want both.”
Senior directors and co-chairman, as well as an official screening committee consisting of current members, carefully vet the 400-500 companies that apply each quarter, focusing on startups that will potentially have exits within 3-5 years.
“This is a great way for angels to diversify their portfolios and get involved in the best deals, without having to do all the due diligence themselves.”
And while Joshua Siegel and Andrew Romans are both Hoyas (a nickname for Georgetown graduates), investors and startup teams are not required to be alumni of Georgetown University.
Membership is open to any investors who are accredited according to SEC regulations, and of the nine startups in the group’s portfolio to-date, only three have Georgetown graduates on their teams.
Investments are made as a group; though each member chooses which startups they would like to invest in on a deal-by-deal basis, and with a typical minimum investment of $25,000 per year.
“That’s as opposed to them just investing in a venture capital fund and having to ride the fund along for ten years, with no say in what the fund invests in,” Siegel clarified.
“We try to get people who are really experts in their fields to lend their guidance, expertise and relationships where they can.”
While the group has a base of operations in NYC and one in San Francisco, Georgetown Angels sources and syndicates deals from around the country, with over 50 accredited investors located around the world, including the U.S., Europe, Asia and Israel.
Quarterly pitching and network events hosted by Georgetown Angels in New York, San Francisco and Washington, DC also provide the chance for members to meet teams from five carefully vetted startups that are invited to pitch at the event. The most successful pitches are ones that are succinct and focused.
“People are not interested in the backstory when you’re doing the pitch. You really need to get in the first 30 seconds what your product is, so you can get the attention of the people in the room.”
The group recently hosted two events in June, with non-Georgetown angels, VCs, corporate development execs and other entrepreneurs also in attendance.
While Hoya-led companies do not get preference over non-Georgetown companies when selecting investments, the group will provide further counseling to those startups and is willing to meet or talk with any Georgetown graduates seeking advice.
“We want to give something back to the community and the entrepreneurial spirit of Georgetown itself. If we reject a company for whatever reason that’s in our pipeline, if it’s a non-Georgetown company, we send the standard rejection letter. If it’s a Georgetown company, we’ll go the extra mile and tell them why we don’t like it, what we don’t like about it, what they can potentially do to fix it, or what we think they should do.”
Siegel, a board member of The Founders Club, and Romans, Founder and General Partner of The Founders Club, met 15 years ago while working on their MBAs at Georgetown and came up with the idea for Georgetown Angels last summer; inspired by the development of other angel groups.
“We really felt that now is the time for us to initiate because angel groups are getting more widely known, they are better funded, people are taking them much more seriously and we felt that this was a great thing for us to do; leverage our network to develop this kind of group that’s professionally managed and run as opposed to a ‘club-based’ type network.”
Romans heads the base of operations in San Francisco and Siegel heads the base of operations in NYC, where he believes the tech scene is starting to be recognized as a real force in the startup community.
“New York is a great source of capital, it’s a great source of talent, and when you mix the two together, a lot can happen. All the angels that are based here as well as the early stage venture capital companies and certainly the more mature venture capital companies are doing a lot to foster its growth and assist the community.”
Between the two coasts, there are currently more NY-based angels than San Francisco-based angels who are part of the group. And as the group continues to grow, Siegel hopes Georgetown Angels will become the leading angel group in and outside of the United States.
“We want to have over a thousand angels and we want our angels to be able to communicate and feel comfortable with each other so that the network is intertwined, and that the angels really find value not just in the companies, but in the other members as well.”