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Angel investment groups eye larger deals, national scope

June 25th, 2013

By Allan Maurer

Jamie Lewis

Jamie Lewis

Atlanta Technology Angels (ATA) decision to join other angel groups in financing Austin-based Wisegate, was significant in more ways than one, says ATA and Wisegate board member Jamie Lewis.

Lewis, formerly CEO of  The Burton Group, like Wisegate, an IT research and advisory firm that sold to Gartner for $56 million in 2009, tells the TechJournal the ATA/Wisegate deal “Is largely a reflection of how significantly the capital markets have changed in the last five years or so.”

National, not just regional deals sought

A member of ATA for about a year, Lewis notes there is a move afoot in the Angel investor space to create a national syndication network so deals can happen nationally rather than just regionally.

The ATA itself says the decision to invest in a company outside of Georgia represents its own desire to expand its footprint throughout the Southeast and possibly beyond.

Reasons for the change

“There is a lot of interest in deals occurring as widely as possible, even though it’s natural for most to occur regionally,” Lewis says.

A primary reason for this change in angel investing strategy, says Lewis, is that many venture capital firms have altered their own strategies.

“Back ten or 15 years ago,” says Lewis, “the typical VC was doing lots of early stage deals, including companies with a little seed funding, not a lot, and maybe some revenue, but not profits.”

VCs more like private equity firms

Not so much any more, he says. “Most VCs now act more like private equity firms,” he says. “They like later stage deals, investing in companies that have proven themselves in the markeplace and are well beyond the seed stage.”

That creates a much talked about early stage funding gap.

Why? “It’s by choice,” says Lewis. “They don’t want the risk.” He adds that it also has to do with the risk profile of their limited partners (those who invest in the venture funds). They’re taking money from institutional investors and pension funds. Those have a much different risk profile than the typical angel investors.:

Many angel investors are themselves former or current entrepreneurs who are more accustomed to risk, he notes.

The change opens the field for angel groups to step up. The syndicate that invested $3 million in Wisegate included Texas, New York, and Georgia angel groups. By investing together, the groups can structure larger deals the size of many Series A rounds.

Not your typical IT service firm

“That’s how Wisegate sees this,” says Lewis, “as a Series A raise. It’s interesting that a syndicate of angel networks can pull together that kind of money and fund a company at that level. ”

Wisegate, he says, “Is not your typical IT service company.” Right now it is focused on what Lewis calls “One of the biggest issues worldwide – the whole concept of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).” That is causing security problems for many companies.

Wisegate brings -by invitation only – IT experts together to discuss best practices, what works, what doesn’t, which tools are effective, which not, and so on, to provide clients with IT advice from people in the know.

For more about Jamie Lewis, see “Be What You Aspire to Be.” In it, an interview about commitment, determination, and passion in business and life, he quotes Randolph Bourne who said, “He who mounts a wild elephant, goes where the elephant goes.”

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