You may have seen a post or two about the Seattle Angel Conference here on the blog and on my twitter or facebook feed and been wondering – why the heck am I talking so much about a Conference that happens in NOVEMBER!! Seriously – that is a long ways off to be promoting so darn much. You also may have been wondering why you should consider looking at the conference if you are raising money NOW – after all you are trying to talk to people with money now… not in NOVEMBER!!
I get it – these are all good questions and to be fair – the conference is in November so why should you care NOW?
The short answer is that while we physically write the check in November, the real action for entrepreneurs and investors happens starting September 1st.
Let me explain…
There are two parts to the “Conference”. The most visible and heavily publicized part is the showcase and educational event. This event is the big conference where 200-300 people get into a room for a half day, single track conference to learn about angel investing and to be presented with six very investable companies. The less visible and not very publicized part is the core focus of the organization. This is the 12-14 week due diligence process that leads the investors to make a decision about what company to ultimately fund. This due diligence process is the key function of the organization as it is used to train new angel investors how to be angel investors. The goal is learning by doing – in this case the 30-40 angel investors are doing real due diligence and will make a real 150-200k investment in a single company.
From the entrepreneurs perspective, this due diligence process is very similar to the due diligence that happens at any other angel group or VC firm. The entrepreneurs apply or in some fashion get on the list to go through a screening. Some of the companies that go through screening are selected to come in and have a screening pitch. Some of the companies that pitch the screening committee are invited to pitch the entire group. Some of the companies that pitch the entire group are considered for an investment. Those that are considered for an investment have deep due diligence performed. The best companies from the deep due diligence group get funded. For SAC, the only difference to this process is that EVERY angel is a part of the screening committee and EVERY angel is a part of the final group who decides. We guide the new angels through the process along with more experienced angels and the result is the same – we fund a company after we perform due diligence.
All the other aspects of the process are essentially the same. Some companies get investments from the angels in the group even if they don’t make it to the final round. All companies are provided with great feedback on what is good/bad about the pitch and product/market fit. Some companies get new team members, advisors, and mentors as a side effect of meeting so many angels who have different interests and goals.
The conference itself is also a great way to get in front of a lot of investors, many investors show up to the final event as they would any other demo day and meet companies that they may or may not invest in. There is also the opportunity for every company who applies to attend the conference (regardless of how far they make it in the process) and that allows networking with a large group of angels.
For us, we have a fairly strict timeline that forces due diligence and check writing. The timeline is forced due to the conference. For this reason we close the applications on September 1st and can’t accept startups after that time.
Always happy to grab coffee and chat more if you are interested in learning more about the process for investors or angels.