Seattle Angel Conference to win funding for your startup or learn how to angel invest logo

APRIL 12, 2022--The 21st edition of Seattle Angel Conference is excited to announce we have selected our SAC21 Finalists. Beginning in late February with a record ninety-five company applications from across the country, our investor cohort has narrowed the field to six promising startups.

During the Seattle Angel Conference program we have reviewed applications, watched pitches, met with founders, and made the hard choices required to reduce this impressive group of innovators down to twenty-four Quarterfinalists, then twelve Semifinalists, and now just six remaining Finalists. Through this experience our investors are learning how to evaluate companies, what questions to ask, and are developing personalized frameworks that will guide future investing.

Congratulations SAC21 Finalists!

Michael Agustin  |  Curie / https://www.curie.co  (Seattle, WA)

Brynn Keenan  |  Grist Analytics / https://www.gristanalytics.com  (Boulder, CO)

Javier Luraschi  |   Hal9 / https://hal9.com (Seattle, WA)

Ashwin Datta  |  Instinct / https://instinctenvironmental.com (Hillsboro, OR)

Ryan Vogel  |  Pure Blue Tech / https://purebluetech.com (Seattle, WA)

Brennan Gantner  |  Skip Technologies / http://skiptek.com (Portland, OR)

These founders and their companies bring exciting innovations across a range of industries in high growth and fast growing markets.

Seattle Angel Conference teaches new investors the basics of early stage investing, through Learning by Doing. We aren’t done yet. All SAC21 investors have put funds into a special purpose vehicle LLC that will invest in the competition winner. We are now working through a systematic due diligence process with these companies. And together we will invest in (at least) one of these companies.

On May 18 each one of these companies will pitch in our live online Demo Day Event. And at that event the SAC21 investor group will select the competition winner! This event is open to the public. Get tickets here.

If you are interested in participating as an investor in the next round of Seattle Angel Conference, contact SAC22 fund organizer Alex Alviar at alex.d.alviar@gmail.com

Seattle Angel Conference 21 (SAC21) is now taking registrations for startup companies. If you are an early-stage startup planning a funding round in 2022, SAC21 is a perfect springboard to meet investors, perfect your pitch, and compete for a $200,000 investment!

The SAC21 conference starts March 1, 2022 and concludes with our final Demo Day event on May 18.

Seattle Angel Conference teaches investors how to invest in startups by evaluating early-stage companies and making an investment. Each SAC cohort starts with 50-60 startups and narrows the field to six finalists. The winning company will be awarded up to $200,000 in investment.

Since 2012 Seattle Angel Conference has evaluated over 1,200 startups and invested over $4.8M.

Any entrepreneur or company with a great idea for a new startup business can apply to the upcoming Seattle Angel Conference. Companies typically are early seed-stage. Most companies are raising their first round beyond friends and family financing. SAC accepts companies from the US, Canada, and Mexico.

Join Us for Workshops Beginning in January

Beginning January 4, 2022, SAC will host a series of virtual workshops at the Seattle Angel Meetup group. This series provides background on topics related to investing and entrepreneurship. These are scheduled Tuesday evenings and Thursday lunch hour beginning January 4. The workshops are open to the public and recommended for conference participants preparing to compete in SAC21.

Program Details

All participating SAC companies will:

-        Meet and pitch to our cohort of investors

-        Receive feedback about your company and pitches

-        Sharpen messaging for raising funds from angel investors and venture capitalists

The program features a series of pitches, Q&A sessions, and investor-founder meetings. Eliminations occur after 1-minute, 3-minute and 10-minute pitch rounds. As the competition progresses over an 11-wk program, the field of competitors is reduced to six finalists. Companies that reach the finals will:

-        Participate in an in-depth due-diligence process

-        Pitch in our public Final Demo Day Event, which is well attended by Pacific NW angels and VCs. SAC21 Finals will be held on May 18, 2022.

Investment terms are negotiated between the SAC LLC manager and our finalists. If you don’t have a term sheet or lead investor, we typically start discussions with a standard convertible note term sheet. Here is an example from SAC20.

Registration Information

SAC21 Registration is now closed. The next Seattle Angel Conference will begin with pre-conference workshops via Seattle Angel Meetup in July. Early registration deadline will be August 1.

BrainSpace, a medical device company, won the  20th semi-annual Seattle Angel Conference investment competition, held virtually from the Greater Seattle Area. BrainSpace is a Seattle based company Caitlin Morse and team are simplifying critical care after stroke, trauma or surgery by providing nurses & doctors with better tools to protect the brain and help it heal. https://www.brainspacemed.com/ BrainSpace receives a $200,000 angel award investment from the Seattle Angel Conference 20 LLC, based on the Seattle Angel organization’s published convertible note.

This event’s finalist companies were selected from over 62 companies. Given the goal for social distancing companies  based throughout primarily Washington, but also from Anchorage to California, with a few other diverse locales applied to compete at the 20th Seattle Angel Conference. A rigorous selection process (known as due diligence) was undertaken by the 38 active angel investors to select the winning company. Thirty to Fifty hours of investigation was performed on each finalist, amounting to over 240 hours of due diligence.   In the process 30 new Angel Investors were introduced to the investing process. Each investor staked $6,000 to create the $200,000 investment award for this year’s event.  This round’s investment brings the total investment from the Seattle Angel Conference to more than $4,600,000 invested in the local economy and over 460 investors educated about angel investing in the decade of the running of the Seattle Angel Conference.

“The Seattle Angel Conference is an important part of the Washington start up ecosystem” said John Sechrest, founder of the SeattleAngel Conference.   “Start up companies like BrainSpace tell us that their scarcest resource is early investment, and investors tell us that learning how to make smart investments is critical. Seattle Angel Conferences are there to bridge that gap”.

The five other start-up finalists who pitched were:

Curie - Michael A. Agustin and team are focused on improving the online shopping experience. First impressions are everything to your brand. The #1 reason customers visit brick and mortar is to see products in real life. With Curie Vision, easily turn your product photos into quality models and add them into your Shopify store. curie.com

EarthUP - Stephen Bay and team are working to bring forward ESG and sustainability. Companies can sign up fora free trial at earthup.eco

PetHub, INc. - Lorien Clemens are helping parents protect, share and nurture their family pet by offering a suite of lost pet recovery tools for pet parents. 96% of PetHub recovered pets are home within 24 hours of going missing. pethub.com

Violett - Branden Doyle and team are creating safe spaces to breathe using proprietary technology that kills germs in the air 50x more effectively than current comparable products. violett.com

The next Seattle Angel Conference will be held inMarch 2021.  All Washington startups and those interested investors may inquire and register at any time to participate in the next round of educational events, trainings, and competition.  Application Deadline is February 24, 2022.Companies registerviahttps://gust.com/organizations/seattle-angel-conference/public_profile

About the Seattle Angel Conference

Each Seattle Angel Conference culminates a 6 month program to educate and train accredited investors as exemplary angel investors through workshops, hands-on practice and mentoring.  The Seattle Angel Conference is an investor-driven conference, connecting new angel investors with early stage and seed businesses  in the Greater SeattleArea.  The Seattle Angel Conference introduces qualified investors to the potential, process and rewards of angel investing, and equally importantly, works to encourage, accelerate and coach startup companies. If you have been considering learning more about #angel investing then this program will teach you how--and guide you in your first investment.And don't let the name fool you -- while our roots are in #seattle #startups we are a virtual program with participants from across the country. We still haves lots available for our next cohort. Contact John Dex johndex.sac@gmail.com to learn more!

BrainSpace - Caitlin Morse and team are simplifying critical care after stroke, trauma or surgery by providing nurses & doctors with better tools to protect the brain and help it heal. https://www.brainspacemed.com/

Curie- Michael A. Agustin and team are focused on improving the online shopping experience. First impressions are everything to your brand. The #1 reason customers visit brick and mortar is to see products in real life. With Curie Vision, easily turn your product photos into quality models and add them into your Shopify store. curie.com

EarthUP - Stephen Bay and team are working to bring forward ESG and sustainability.Companies can sign up for a free trial at earthup.eco

PetHub, INc. - Lorien Clemens are helping parents protect, share and nurture their family pet by offering a suite of lost pet recovery tools for pet parents. 96% of PetHub recovered pets are home within 24 hours of going missing. pethub.com

Violett - Branden Doyle and team are creating safe spaces to breathe using proprietary technology that kills germs in the air 50x more effectively than current comparable products. violett.com

We are excited to see that there are two health-type startup companies Brainspace Medical and Violett in the finals of SAC 20.  These are just the most recent of the health companies that have participated in the Seattle Angel Conference. Other companies have been Abterra Biosciences (SAC19 winner), TENZR (SAC 15 winner), Conquer Experience (SAC IV),  Alertive now Carbon Health (SAC XIII winner), Curi-bio (SAC XIII winner).

With the increasing interest in the health life sciences sectors more companies are developing solutions and more individuals are wanting to participate in funding these solutions.  Our goal is to make a stronger health lifesciences ecosystem focused on more informed investors and more investable startups. We have created Apis Health Angels, a health/life sciences sector-specific angel conference to accomplish this. The program has two components; skill building and investment.

INVESTORS often ask what are the due diligence components that are unique and important to consider when looking at an investment in health. These components may be regulatory, reimbursement, business models, and intellectual property to name a few. To better address this education need,  check out our upcoming  workshops and past workshop recordings . Interested in taking the next step in investment education and participation by joining a group of accredited interesting investors, please contact crossnichol@apishealthangels.com

STARTUP FOUNDERS benefit from applications to our program. We help put the structure in achieving the necessary components to be ready for investor due diligence.  Investors expect companies to make week over week progress on preparing their companies for investment through dialogue, analysis of the financials/business models etc.

December 1 Apis Health Angels Registration Deadline

Apis Company Registration. For more information please contact crossnichol@apishealthangels.com and see https://www.apishealthangels.com/

Angels play an important role in funding health and biotech startups. Apis Health Angels and Seattle Angel Conference are excited to contribute.

Tons of books and online resources provide intricate details about investing in early-stage startups. But there is a big gap between conducting an academic exercise and writing your first check.

In the entrepreneurial ecosystem there are ongoing jokes about ‘wantrapreneurs’--people who imagine themselves as founders but never start a company. The same could be said of wannabe ‘angel investors.’ Early stage investing always involves a level of the unknown and calculated risk—and for this reason can be intimidating.

Angel investing has historically been the realm of very high net worth individuals who can write six figure checks. But over the past decade, the structure of angel investing and the regulations around it have changed, making it much more accessible to younger and more modestly well-to-do individuals who are not members of the billionaire boys club. Having the wealth to invest in startups doesn’t solve the problem of feeling confident in knowing how to do it. There is only so much you can learn from reading.

Learn by Doing

At Seattle Angel Conference (SAC) you collaborate with a group of fellow investors from diverse backgrounds—each of you contributing unique perspective and experience to the process as you are guided from initial screening of companies to a final investment decision.

Seattle Angel Conference teaches aspiring angel investors how to invest in early-stage startups by actively evaluating prospective companies and making an investment. Each semi-annual SAC cohort comprises up to 40 investors who pool approximately $200,000 to make an investment in an early-stage startup. Starting with 50 or more companies, investors work together to screen, review pitches, and conduct due diligence. And together select a winning company for investment.

Eligibility - Accredited Investors Only

Investors who participate in the Seattle Angel Conference must meet the Security and Exchange Commission definition of Accredited Investor. Individuals attain Accredited Investor status simply by having a net worth of $1M or more (over and above home ownership), and/or an annual income of $200,000 or higher.

The SAC program

Seattle Angel Conference is held semi-annually, with a spring session that runs March to mid-May and a fall session September to mid-November. During the 11-week program expect 5-10 hours of activity per week including a 2-3 hour Tuesday evening session. Each SAC cohort is preceded by a series of optional virtual workshop hosted on the Seattle Angel Meetup group, which provide background on specific topics related to investing and entrepreneurship.

The cost of the program includes two components: A program registration fee of $1000, and an investment of $5000. The program registration fee supports SAC program costs, while the investment funds are pooled from all investors and awarded to the winning company via an LLC created for this singular purpose.

SAC21 investors slots have been filled. The next cohort begins with pre-conference workshops in July and kicks off formally at the end of the summer. Contact us if you would like more information about becoming a Seattle Angel Conference 22 investor.

Alex Mauritz, CEO of Barcast, talks about his experience as the Winner of Seattle Angel Conference 16.

Learnings from 58 Startups as they Compete for $200,000 Investment During Seattle Angel Conference

Over the past 3 months, 58 startups from the Seattle and Pacific Northwest have been dueling it out NCAA basketball style for the grand prize of $200,000. Seattle Angel Investors have been reviewing pitch decks, doing due diligence to find the ultimate company they wish to invest in. The difference here is that the Seattle Angel Conference has a 50/50 mix of new and seasoned investors. The investors are learning along with the startups about how to review and analyze a company and are providing feedback to the startups along the way. Below is the story from a handful of startups which participated in the Seattle Angel Conference to tell a little bit about their journey and what they learned along the way.

Aghaz Investments

1.       Tell us about your company

Aghaz Investments is an online investment advisor for Muslims and Values-based customers to conveniently invest and save for their goals in a manner consistent with their beliefs. Whether your values include avoiding interest or supporting equal rights, you can invest without compromise with Aghaz Investments. We will launch for US Muslim investors in 2020 and then expand to custom values-based investors in early 2021.

2.       What was the most valuable thing you learned through the SAC process

Exposure to investors and in particular the opportunity to learn how VC and Angel investor sentiments have changed due to COVID-19 was invaluable. I learned how investors are seeking more recession-proof startups to invest in and how some of the popular business models and assumptions of 2019 might not be relevant in 2020.

3.       What have you learned in the last 3 months?

COVID-19 has caused us to re-evaluate some of our core assumptions. In my startup’s case, the recent impact to US stock markets presents opportunities to onboard customers at a time when stock valuations have dropped to attractive levels. Additionally, this volatility in the market has reinvigorated interest in ESG and socially responsible opportunities which represents our core investment philosophy.

4.       What did you learn from another team at SAC?

It was interesting to see the journey from one of the finalists who had been to SAC twice earlier. Some of the lessons learned from those previous SAC funds were incorporated into this fund. Also, one other company reached out to me regarding potential partnership opportunities that provides scale, monetization and new customer scenarios for both our companies.

5.       Your name, title, website, and head shot photo of yourself

Khurram Agha, Founder and CEO

https://twitter.com/aghazinvest

Steamchain Corp

1.       Tell us about your company

Steamchain is a Fintech company that simplifies global B2B payments in the multi-trillion dollar Shipping and logistics industries. We’ve reduced the high cost of currency conversion in a low margin industry by giving our clients the ability to create smart contracts with a programable payment method in the fiat currency of choice.

2.       What was the most valuable thing you learned through the SAC process

Messaging

3.       What have you learned in the last 3 months?

Customers and Generating revenue.

4.       What did you learn from another team at SAC?

It’s important to have a champion for our company.

5.       Your name, title, website, and head shot photo of yourself

Dan Biggs, CEO; Steamchain Corp

https://steamchaincorp.com/

Your Vesa

1.       Tell us about your company

Your Vesa is an interactive virtual advocate that empowers patients with real-time information to make informed decisions about their healthcare. Vesa reads medical records, listening to a user’s doctor appointment, and then offering personalized suggestions of actions to take, appointments to schedule, or questions to ask.

2.       What was the most valuable thing you learned through the SAC process

How to differentiate our company from the competition in 3- minutes, but not just the competition, also where we sit within the Life Sciences/Med-tech space versus just being another wellness app.

3.       What have you learned in the last 3 months?

While going through the COVID-19 pandemic, we're learning how to do more with less, not be reliant on potential investment to get things off the ground, and as a med-tech company, we are learning how to pivot fast and build something even more worthy of the current time.

4.       What did you learn from another team at SAC?

Sarah from Tribute has shown the truth in the saying the need to listen to your customers and having empathy for them and building a product that meets head to head that need.

5.       Your name, title, website, and head shot photo of yourself

Clare Gould, Founder & CEO

https://yourvesa.com

Weshowup.io

1.       Tell us about your company

weshowup.io is a digital pay what you want solution for online, VR and live events. Audiences can make a reservation, enjoy the event and pay when the value is highest - afterwards.

2.       What was the most valuable thing you learned through the SAC process

The importance of getting to the point and how much investors are also buying 'you', not just the tech

3.       What have you learned in the last 3 months?

Hardship and challenges that seem insurmountable can also be opportunities - it's all about perspective.

4.       What did you learn from another team at SAC?

There are some really great companies out there.

5.       Your name, title, website, and head shot photo of yourself

Kahlil Ashanti, Founder & CEO

weshowup.io

Fangle

1.       Tell us about your company

Fangle is an on-demand food truck services company based in Bellevue. We provide interactive food truck finder, pre-order and pre-paid services through an APP and website to connect trucks and consumers.

2.       What was the most valuable thing you learned through the SAC process

The more we can help small businesses and the communities the more support we will get for our business.

3.       What have you learned in the last 3 months?

I learned two things from SAC workshop:

4.       What did you learn from another team at SAC?

I enjoy sharing networking and learning from their start-up stories. Every company is unique and valuable to me. Their stories inspire me to stay stoked.

5.       Your name, title, website, and head shot photo of yourself

Jian Sun, Co-founder&CEO

https://fangle.im

PDM Automotive

1.       Tell us about your company

PDM Automotive provides a cloud-based, data management platform for the automotive aftermarket parts industry.  Connecting suppliers, resellers, and service providers with integrated analytics and tools to assure real-time availability and accessibility of product, inventory, and pricing data for all sales and e-commerce channels.

2.       What was the most valuable thing you learned through the SAC process

While starting with SAC we had also started to work on our Sales and Marketing plan including sales funnel etc. It has been great to get challenged by our due diligence team, especially since they are not from our industry to really take a high level view to then again dig into the details.

3.       What have you learned in the last 3 months?

A lot about how to flip our company from Germany into the USA. We started in Germany and moving to the USA was naturally the next step for scaling the business. However, there are many legal and tax implications involved, which we are now mastering!

4.       What did you learn from another team at SAC?

That there can be delicious fish jerky.

5.       Your name, title, website, and head shot photo of yourself

Johannes Crepon, Founder

www.pdm-automotive.com

Odysseus Technologies, Inc.

1.       Tell us about your company

Odysseus Technologies, Inc., a Delaware corporation, has the primary goal of building upon the discovery of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) by Dr. Sumio Iijima in 1991.

The Company has invented a new way to synthesize CNTs. This new method will manifest and ultimately commercialize the tremendous strength and conductivity

properties of CNTs--as yet unrealized by all other carbon nanotube producers.

2.       What was the most valuable thing you learned through the SAC process

To shorten and sharpen our core message to just three minutes.

3.       What have you learned in the last 3 months?

To access a broader range of potential investors beyond angel groups.

4.       What did you learn from another team at SAC?

We have similar challenges.

5.       Your name, title, website, and head shot photo of yourself

Bryan Laubscher, CEO & Founder

odysseustech.com

Richard Samuelson, Board Member

Curabit health pods

1.       Tell us about your company

Curabit Healthpods: Multisensor interactive patient care pods to deliver enhanced telemedicine, making healthcare better and safer for patients and healthcare providers everywhere.

2.       What was the most valuable thing you learned through the SAC process

Be open minded, but maintain your focus and passion, trust your gut instinct.

3.       What have you learned in the last 3 months?

Work hard, keep moving forward, learn to collaborate.

4.       What did you learn from another team at SAC?

Did not get a chance to directly interact with other companies.

5.       Your name, title, website, and head shot photo of yourself

Eddie Naude, M.D. Founder and CEO.

Www.curabit.com

Neptune Fish Jerky

1.       Tell us about your company

Neptune’s Mission is to restore Mankind’s Healthy Relationship with the Sea. Our tasty, award-winning jerkies are made from premium-quality, US Wild-Caught rockfish that is 100% traceable back to the fish, fishery, and small-scale US West Coast fisherman that caught it.

We’ve crafted shockingly delicious flavors, with a nutrition profile that speaks for itself: 20g of protein and 560mg Omega-3 fatty acids per pack 60-70 Calories per serving, Paleo, Non-GMO, Gluten-free, Keto, Nitrate/Preservative free, and High in nutrients including Selenium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E.

2.       What was the most valuable thing you learned through the SAC process

As a startup Founder, the most valuable thing you learn is what you don't know. SAC was an incredible opportunity to better understand the investor's mindset through an invitation into the process, which was scrutinous but also supportive. Participating in SAC has strengthened our business and our Founding team.

3.       What have you learned in the last 3 months?

Over the past three months, I have learned how to more clearly tell our story so that the passion behind what we do shines through.

4.       What did you learn from another team at SAC?

I learned that there are a million-and-one ways that a startup company can form, launch, and scale. It has been a valuable experience to learn from other startups participating in the SAC process, so observe how they assess their respective markets and the strategies they are using to capture them.

5.       Your name, title, website, and head shot photo of yourself

Nick Mendoza, Co-Founder & CEO

neptunejerky.com

iGuard Home Solutions Inc

1.       Tell us about your company

iGuard Home Solutions Inc is a smart home device company. Our focus is on developing innovative and market leading smart home fire safety solutions for residential, retirement communities, student housing, and lodging (hotels, motels, and rental condos) markets.  Initial target product fit and market focus is eliminating the risk of cooking fires from unattended and forgotten cooking for the Aging in Place population

2.       What was the most valuable thing you learned through the SAC process

How crucial in this type of competition to have one or more advocates within the investor group to address negative mis-conceptions that are raised about the company during investor discussions.

3.       What have you learned in the last 3 months?

The SAC process has been invaluable in ways too numerous to enumerate in helping go through process of developing our Exec Summary, Pitch Deck, and Financial Projections. One important item was that our company name,  iGuardFire Ltd,  was too limiting in setting expectations of what issues we solved. We’re in midst of transitioning our corporate identity to: iGuard Home Solutions Inc.

4.       What did you learn from another team at SAC?

CEO from another team provided useful insights about some investors I will be presenting to in June.

5.       Your name, title, website, and head shot photo of yourself

Ken Deering, CEO

www.iguardfire.com

3D SD

1.       Tell us about your company

3D Sustainable Developments is a social purpose corporation with a mission to mass-produce affordable, sustainable, natural disaster resistant housing while safely remediating large-scale industrial waste. By licensing our patented 3D printing system and high-performance concretes, we will be a hub for sustainable building materials and technologies.

2.       What was the most valuable thing you learned through the SAC process

The most valuable thing we got out of SAC XVII was a live Gust profile for accessing global investors.

3.       What have you learned in the last 3 months?

In the last three months we learned the power of having diversified customers in a down market.

5.       Your name, title, website, and head shot photo of yourself

Commitment L. Israel, Chief Executive Officer

www.3DSD.org

Qase

1.       Tell us about your company

Qase is a SaaS-enabled, managed marketplace that helps people find and work with lawyers entirely online.

2.       What was the most valuable thing you learned through the SAC process

Navigating our way through our first due diligence process. It was a huge amount of work, and challenging to find ways to present information quickly and effectively.  Regardless of whether we win or not, SAC has prepared us for future success with fundraising.

3.       What have you learned in the last 3 months?

Every pitch, every question, and every conversation we’ve had with SAC investors has helped sharpen our message and improve our understanding of the challenges ahead.

4.       What did you learn from another team at SAC?

There are so many cool ideas and so many smart people out there trying to address real problems. I remember being blown away at the quarter finals by the creativity and passion of the other teams.

5.       Your name, title, website, and head shot photo of yourself

Dan Zollmann, Qase Co-Founder & CEO

https://www.qase.ca/

FriendWithA

1.       Tell us about your company

FriendWithA is a fully insured peer to peer rental marketplace. Connecting creative and adventure enthusiasts to rent out and share their equipment with their local community. Find everything from Onewheels, electric bikes, paddle boards, tools, generators, cameras, speakers, photo booths, bounce houses and more all available for rent. Backed by FriendWithA's insurance of up to $125,000 per piece of equipment and has some lenders already earning up to $1,000 a month.

2.       What was the most valuable thing you learned through the SAC process

SAC is a reality check on your company and ego. It’s easy to get lost in a delusion of grandeur and nothing like 50 investors giving you open and honest feedback to bring you back down to earth. As a startup founder, it’s really hard to get honest actionable feedback and that’s exactly what SAC does. One item for me was the quality of items for rent on our site. We have participated twice in SAC now and received that feedback both times. The first year we took that feedback and made maintenance checks and inspection mandatory before all rentals and made our process visible on every item. Well after those updates, we still got the same feedback the 2nd time around. So, it was a gut check because we were already doing what they asked and wanted. Well that’s when I realized that maybe it wasn’t necessarily the items themselves, but maybe it was about the presentation. Some items had 1 photo, limited description and honestly the photos were dark and not great quality. So, we’ve made a huge effort to control which items are coming on the site, and also improve our design as well so we do our best job of highlighting those items.

3.       What have you learned in the last 3 months?

Just trying to nail down 1 marketing channel. A big point of feedback given by John and other investors was just get something going and figure out our “sales channel”. An investment is adding fuel to the fire. If you are not able to figure it out before you receive funding, why would it be different once received it?

4.       What did you learn from another team at SAC?

It’s just amazing to see all the great teams out there and you realize why you might not be getting funding. Studying what some of them are doing in their influencer marketing and seeing how we can apply that to FriendWithA is very eye opening.

5.       Your name, title, website, and head shot photo of yourself

Stefan Cordova, Founder and CEO

https://friendwitha.com

Mindcurrent

1.       Tell us about your company

Mindcurrent's artificial intelligence predicts and prevents stress across teams. Built by data scientists, psychologists, and seasoned tech entrepreneurs, our AI provides complete privacy and personalized recommendations from behavioral experts, therapists, and counselors. Early customers include finance companies, law enforcement, universities, and nonprofits serving veterans.

2.       What was the most valuable thing you learned through the SAC process

The early stage investor's perspective. When you're hyper-focused on your product, especially AI, it is very helpful to get the perspectives of seasoned early stage investors on growth opportunities outside your initial target market and their ability to simplify your value proposition for a shorter, more impactful pitch.

3.       What have you learned in the last 3 months?

The network of angel investors and AI talent in the Pacific Northwest runs deep. We've found new investors and mentors in Seattle and Portland that helped us move forward faster than interested parties in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, or New York.

4.       What did you learn from another team at SAC?

Two of our fellow SAC participants are in accelerators with Mindcurrent. Learning from their experiences with investors and how their funding plans have changed given current market conditions has helped us shape our near-term funding goals and timeline.

5.       Your name, title, website, and head shot photo of yourself

Sourabh Kothari, CEO & Co-Founder of Mindcurrent

https://wefunder.com/mindcurrent

Closing:

Well there you have just a handful of the 58 teams who participated in SAC XVII. The winning team will be chosen Wednesday 5/13/2020 3pm (PST). https://www.seattleangelconference.com/join As you can see, the learning is great for startups, and for the investors as well. If you’re a startup and based in the Pacific Northwest, apply to join our next round! If you are you interested in Angel Investing, from the Seattle and Pacific Northwest area, and have a salary over $200,000 or over $1,000,000 net worth; apply to become an Angel Investor in our next round. It only requires a minimum investment of $5,500 and you could be investing in the next Microsoft or Amazon.

SAC 2019 Semi Finalists

We’re down to the 12 Semi Finalists. Really tough competition -- great work everybody!

The final phase of SAC 19 will be on April 6 when we vote on the 6 finalists.

Cozera

Cozera provides user-controlled verified digital identity for remote & in-person identity verification to improve user experience, protect privacy, deter fraud, save time and money.

Learn more about Cozera HERE:

https://www.cozera.io/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/cozera/

Founder is Abrar Ahmed:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/abrar-ahmed-a26b8/

Neupeak Robotics

AI enabled autonomous robots addressing fruit harvesting challenges

Learn more about Neupeak HERE:

https://www.neupeak.com/

Founder is Anshul Porwal:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/cybrfish/

FlexCharging

We manage electric vehicle charging, so drivers charge with clean power more cheaply, and electric utilities avoid building new power plants.

Learn more about FlexCharging HERE:

https://www.flexcharging.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/flexcharging/

https://twitter.com/FlexCharging

https://www.facebook.com/FlexCharging

Founder is Brian Grunkemeyer:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/brian-grunkemeyer-43a92b2/

SaaSMAX Corp.

PartnerOptimizer is the game-changing partner discovery engine for B2B technology companies who go-to-market through reseller channel partners.

Learn more about SaaSMAX HERE:

https://saasmax.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/saasmax-beta/

https://twitter.com/SaaSMax

https://www.facebook.com/saasmax

Founder is Dina Moskowitz:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/dinamoskowitz/

Easeenet.com

Your digital estate, made easy.

Learn more about Easeenet HERE:

https://easeenet.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/easeenet/

https://twitter.com/easeenet

https://www.facebook.com/login/?next=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Feaseenet

Founder is Erin McCune:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/mccuneerin/

Rubitection

Our skin health and care management tool provides reliable early assessment, and care management of dermatological and vascular conditions like bedsores.

Learn more about Rubitection HERE:

https://rubitection.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/rubitection-inc/

https://twitter.com/Rubitection

https://www.facebook.com/login/?next=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fpages%2FRubitection-Inc%2F435800646478761%3Ffref%3Dts

Founder is Sanna Gaspard, PhD:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/sanna-gaspard-phd-2901173/

ACTERRA TECH LTD.

A bio agtech solution empowering crop producers to make microbially-enhanced biofertilizers from biodiesel, while farming, eliminating synthetic fertilizers.

Learn more about Acterra HERE:

https://www.acterratech.com/

Founder is Marnie Lett:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/marnie-lett-2139ab11/

Digital Proteomics LLC

Digital Proteomics mines the immune response of patients to discover better antibody therapeutics for infectious diseases and cancer.

Learn more about Digital Proteomics HERE:

https://www.digitalproteomics.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/digital-proteomics/

https://twitter.com/DigProteomics

https://www.facebook.com/DigitalProteomics/

Founder is Natalie Castellana:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/natalie-castellana/

ControlMap Inc.

ControlMap helps companies WIN MORE DEALS & GARNER MORE TRUST by automating and accelerating their path to cybersecurity compliance & audit readiness.

Learn more about ControlMap HERE:

https://www.controlmap.io/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/controlmapio/

Founder is Pallav Tandon:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/pallavtandon/

Flyte

Flyte is an AI based note-taking platform that generates well-organized meeting minutes and action items right after a call.

Learn more about Flyte HERE:

https://www.flyteai.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/flyteai/

https://twitter.com/flytenotes/

https://www.facebook.com/flytenotes/

Founder is Shilpa Sharma:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/shilpa-s/

Votegrity Inc

Votegrity brings the ballot box to the voter with end-to-end verification.

Learn more about Votegrity HERE:

https://www.votegrity.net/

Founder is Tom Thomas:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/votegrity/

Pictory.AI

Pictory is the AI that helps marketers say more with less.

Learn more about Pictory HERE:

https://pictory.ai/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/pictory/

https://twitter.com/pictoryai

https://www.facebook.com/pictoryai

Founder is Vikram Chalana:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/vikramchalana/

The blog-series “Startup People of Seattle” introduces some of the key personas in the ecosystem to learn more about what they are doing, to share their thoughts and ideas, and to promote networking.

In our 18th nterview, meet Brett Greene:

“Two mistakes I regularly see founders make (being too focused on the own idea and being too focused on exit strategies) have one thing in common – The primary focus is not on solving a problem that matters to people. ‘Matters to people’ means they care about it, are unhappy with existing solutions, and are willing to pay for a better solution. Identifying such a problem is what entrepreneurship is all about, and the most promising way of going about this is by talking to customers!”

Brett Greene is founder and CEO of New Tech Northwest – the fastest growing monthly event group in Meetup.com history (out of 300,000 international organizations) with over 45,000 members.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/brettgreene/

Q: Could you please introduce yourself and talk about how you got into startups?

A: I am founder and CEO of New Tech Northwest. What I do is connect people. I am building a tech community that offers a support-system for everyone involved. New Tech Northwest is about building relationships rather than just a business network.

I got into startups around 2006. I lived in Boulder, Colorado at the time. I started going to the New Tech events there and mentored some Techstars startups. This was when Techstars just got off the ground. At the time I owned a digital marketing company, so that expertise was what I could offer to founders.

In 2012 I moved to Seattle and together with Red Russak I formed the idea of starting New Tech Northwest.

Q: Could you tell me more about New Tech Northwest?

A: Like I said, New Tech Northwest is a tech community based on the values of building relationships and giving first. We want that members treat each other like neighbors or friends, not just like business partners. So, members are expected to be interested in each other and offer support to each other.

At the foundation of New Tech Northwest are monthly networking events in Seattle, Bellevue, and Portland. In Tacoma these events take place quarterly as well. What makes the New Tech Northwest events special, I think, is the wide variety of people who attend – students who are in coding school and are looking for jobs, recruiters, investors, founders, engineers, sales people, service providers – A mix of all these people can be found at New Tech events.

Aside from the in-person events, members have formed social media groups to discuss topics, ask questions, share advice, etc. We encourage all members to share whatever it is they need next on their journey with our community. What we see happening is that members help each other find jobs, mentors, customers, etc.

We have about 45.000 members now and grow by 500 every month.

Q: Having been part of Seattle’s startup ecosystem for about seven years now, in your opinion, what are some of its strength and weaknesses?

A: The No.1 strength is the collaborative spirit. In Seattle’s startup ecosystem people want to help each other succeed.

Another strength that stems from the fact that big companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Boeing have been part of this ecosystem for a very long time is that Seattle’s startup ecosystem is full of ex-employees of those companies who have money, experience, and relationships already when they are starting their businesses. Contrary, in Boulder for example, most founders are younger than 30 and have none of the above-mentioned things. They start from zero. I find this to be a real strength of the ecosystem here.

On the negative side, the complaint I hear most from founders is that business angels tend to say “maybe” too much. Founders would prefer to hear clear “yeses” and “no’s” over getting advice, spending time implementing the advice, and then in 9/10 cases still never attracting investment from this angel.

Q: You pointed out that you think of it as a strength that many founders in Seattle have had a corporate career which provided them with a certain wealth among other things.

I have observed two viewpoints regarding this: Some, like you, prefer founders who come from a place of simply believing in an idea and wanting to see it become reality, without the financial incentives being at the core of their considerations. People who have this opinion tend to argue that those founders are more likely to get through difficult times because they can support themselves.

Others argue they prefer founders who cannot rely on their past savings because they are typically hungrier. A lot more is at stake for them, so they tend to work harder and not give up as easily.

What do you think about both those argument?

A: I think that there are a lot of myth about startup success. From my research, statistically a higher percentage of startups succeed in which the founder is over 40. I believe that resources and experience explain this difference. However, I cannot say for certain that I am right about this. Many people have different opinions on what tend to be qualities of successful founders, and I am open to being proven wrong.

Q: What are some of the key organizations in Seattle’s startup ecosystem that you can think off?

A: Seattle Angel Conference has been around for a long time. Fledge is doing great things. WTIA offers a lot for startups. Another key organization is The Female Founders Alliance. Founders Live is helping very early stage companies. Cofounders Connect has a Facebook group and they do events as well. Examples for coworking spaces are Create 33, Impact Hub, and WeWork.

Q: Who are some of the key people in the ecosystem?

A: There are many, but some of the names are:

Q: What recommendations would you give someone who is new to the ecosystem and wants to get involved?

A: I would recommend signing up on the email lists of the Seattle Angel Conference and Startup Digest. There is also an event calendar by Geekwire that I would suggest looking at regularly, and our website can be helpful as well I believe. Under >Connect >Community Connections we list many of the organizations and resources available to founders in the Northwest.

All this is helpful to get an overview of what is happening here in this ecosystem and to filter what is most helpful to the individual. Eventually, though, people must go to events, meetups, etc. to network and build relationships. There really is no shortage of things going on in Seattle, we have about 400 tech meetup groups alone for example, but in the end showing up is key.

One meetup I want to recommend is “6 Month Startup,” which Dave Parker organizes.

Q: What do you think are success-factors for startups and what are typical mistakes founders make?

I think first and foremost a founder must be passionate about his work. Building a company just for the money, and with the exit strategy ‘being bought by another company’ in mind, almost always fails. The founder’s main goal must be to solve a problem and help people. Aside from this, founders also need to have a strong support system that helps them get through the difficult times every founder faces.

Another mistake I often see founders make is: Having an idea for a product/solution, thinking it’s amazing, putting time, energy and money into building that product, and assuming people will buy the product once offered and marketed to its target customers. Founders who go about their startup this way must most often realize the hard way that their assumption ‘people will buy this product’ is wrong. They wasted a lot of resources for nothing. Instead, founders should talk to minimum 20 potential customers before doing anything else to find out: (1) Are they actually interested? (2) Would they buy? (3) What would they pay for it?

Many product companies fail because the founder is overconfident in his ability to understand what people want. Reality is that there is a big difference between wanting and needing. A founder might even identify something that would help people (they need a product to fix a problem), but unfortunately that does not yet mean that those people also want the product and will buy the product. Potentially they don’t care about the problem enough, or they are happy with the solution they currently use.

The two mistakes I regularly see founders make that I have talked about so far (being too focused on the own idea and being too focused on exit strategies) have one thing in common – The primary focus is not on solving a problem that matters to people. ‘Matters to people’ means they care about it, are unhappy with existing solutions, and are willing to pay for a better solution. Identifying such a problem is what entrepreneurship is all about, and the most promising way of going about this is by talking to customers! Thinking off startups this way, being curious about the customer becomes a key trait of successful entrepreneurs.

One thing I implied in all this is that startups must stand out. So, startups must have something that differentiates them from competition. Otherwise, all I have said so far regarding entrepreneurship being about ‘solving a problem for people who are unhappy with existing solutions’ does not make sense. In fact, not “simply” repeating an existing business model is at the very core of the startup definition.

Startup Def. according to Steve Blank: “A startup is an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.” (https://steveblank.com/2010/01/25/whats-a-startup-first-principles/, Last retrieved on 11/07/2019)

What founders want to achieve is that, while there may be competition on the surface – if there isn’t, most likely there is no market – the startup provides some sort of value to customers that is unique to the business and that customers cannot find anywhere else. The book “Blue Ocean Strategy” is an interesting read on this topic.

Here are some things I learned from this interview:

In the interview Brett mentioned some resources and organizations, find out more about them here:

About Seattle Angel:

A strong ecosystem creates an environment that allows startups to thrive. Seattle Angel’s goal is to strengthen Seattle’s startup ecosystem by increasing the access to funding for entrepreneurs to push their ideas further.

About the author: Sven Goepfrich

https://www.linkedin.com/in/svengoepfrich/

Sven Goepfrich is currently finishing his MBA in Syracuse. His studies focus on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. At his school, he is working for the department of finance. Sven was actively interning with the Seattle Angel Conference in summer 2019. He is currently looking for full-time career opportunities in this field.

The blog-series “Startup People of Seattle” introduces some of the key personas in the ecosystem to learn more about what they are doing, to share their thoughts and ideas, and to promote networking.

In our thirteenth interview, meet Edward Un:

“The one thing that is key to understand early on is the portfolio approach. You cannot expect a return if you only invest in few companies, because they could all fail. So, you must invest in enough companies to minimize the risk of all of them failing.”

Edward Un is working as Senior Program Manager, Cloud + AI Speech & Language, at Microsoft. In his free time, he is involved in Angel Investing.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/edwardun/

Q: Could you shortly introduce yourself and talk about your background when it comes to startups?

A: I studied computer engineering and I have been in software all my professional career. Following a job in a larger company in Silicon Valley I joined my first startup, a less-than-ten-person-company. After spending three years in this startup, I met someone in the Valley, and we decided to co-found a company with one more person. We started growing organically, bootstrapping our company by doing consulting work while figuring out what kind of product we want to build. By the time we had figured out a problem and had created a solution, we were already 30 people. We then raised a few series of Venture Capital to continue growing with our new business model. We managed to grow this company to 150 people at its peak. Eventually, I left the company to work at another startup in Hong Kong, which was about to go public at the time. Today, I work at Microsoft as a Program Manager. On the side I am involved in Angel Investing.

Q: You have experienced working for one of the largest companies in the world, but you also worked for startups. What would you say are some of the differences?

A: Because there are so few people involved in a startup, a difference is that in startups you wear a variety of hats. At Microsoft, I focus on one area. Another difference is that in startups you reach out to people outside the company a lot more than in big companies. Working for a big company, you interact mostly with people within the company or with customers. One more aspect is that money and resources are omnipresent worries in startups. In large companies, resources are less of a concern in the daily operations. Because startups are in a constant race with running out of resources, startups also need to move at a faster pace and be more agile.

Q: You mentioned having been involved in the execution of startups, but how did you get involved in angel investing?

A: Like you say, for a long time I was much more interested in the execution of startups. I thought of investing in startups as boring, and I did not want to constantly hear pitches and be in meetings, etc. But about two years ago, I picked up a book by Jason Calacanis called “Angel” and also started listening to his podcast called “This Week In Startup”. After reading his book I became much more interested in angel investing. Therefore, I read more books, like “Angel Investing” by Davide S. Rose for example. I also started going to meetups, etc. About one year ago, I started going to the Seattle Angel Conference workshops and I then participated in SAC 14. The Seattle Angel Conference introduced me to Keiretsu Forum, a network of angel investors, which I am actively involved in today.

I have met many people being part of Keiretsu and SAC and I learn a lot from that. One thing I learned is that, especially in the beginning, you must resist the urge to invest in companies. A lot of founders are very talented in presenting their companies, but you should develop your investment thesis and learn more about angel investing before spending a lot of money without understanding yet what due diligence is etc. You need to remind yourself that investment opportunities will keep coming and that there is no rush to invest in everything right away that looks interesting. In my first year being involved in Keiretsu I have invested in two companies.

Keiretsu has a screening process that startups must go through. If they are chosen, they get the opportunity to present to the membership. The members ask questions and in the end each investor decides individually whether he/she wants to invest or not.

Q: You mentioned patience being important for a beginner in angel investing. What are some other key things you have learned as an investor?

A: Listening to a variety of pitches from companies in different industries naturally has taught me a lot. But in terms of investments, the one thing that is key to understand early on is the portfolio approach. You cannot expect a return if you only invest in few companies, because they could all fail. So, you must invest in enough companies to minimize the risk of all of them failing.

The importance of due diligence and that you should try to become aware of your biases are other things I learned as investor. A bias could lead you to convince yourself why to invest in a certain company overlooking arguments not to invest. To overcome biases, I always look at a company asking myself: “Why shouldn’t I invest in this company?”

I also built a habit of writing down my thoughts on every company no matter whether I decide to invest or not – an investment memo. In a few years’ time, I hope I will be able to see which companies became successful and which ones not. I then will be comparing this with my notes to draw conclusions and learn from that. I think just seeing a lot of companies and then following whether they become successful or not is a great way of learning about patterns, and I hope this will eventually help me become a more successful investor.

Q: You brought up the term investment thesis. What is your investment thesis?

A: I would say that I am still developing my investment thesis. At this point, I like to invest in companies that take advantage of an emerging trend. The company must also do something in an area that I understand. Therefore, most of my investments are in technology companies, because that is my area of expertise. Another thing I pay attention to a lot is the team. I must feel like this is the right team to invest in to solve a certain problem.

Q: You said you like to invest in areas you understand. What do you think about the trade-off between investing in your areas of expertise and diversifying your portfolio as much as possible?

A: I think that portfolio diversification is more important, but I do try to find a middle ground. I enjoy educating myself about different areas, so I have relatively broad knowledge. As a result of that there are enough areas that I feel comfortable investing in from a knowledge-perspective, that I am still able to create a diverse portfolio while limiting myself to those areas.

Q: How closely do you work with startups that you invest in?

A: This depends. Companies I invested in through SAC, I don’t really interact with at all. It’s the fund manager who does that. Companies I invest in individually through Keiretsu, I can be more involved with. I am in touch with both the founders I invested in directly. One of the companies I support through my expertise a lot, while the other company is more interested in my network. Either way, I try to be a resource for them and support them, however, I think at this point I can contribute most if a company needs my expertise simply because I am new to angel investing and my network is still relatively small.

Q: How difficult is it as an angel investor to see many startups fail early while waiting for the 10x-return investment? How do you convince yourself to keep putting more money into more companies in the face of failures?

A: You must have the right mindset. This is why many people who legally are accredited investors practically are not suited to be angel investors. They cannot deal with the risk involved in angel investing.

Personally, I view angel investing as a way to diversify my overall investment portfolio. Angel investing is the portion I put into high risk, high reward opportunities. This portion should not be too big. I should be okay with losing all that money. In fact, my mindset when writing a check is that the money is gone. At the same time, by building my portfolio I decrease the chance of loosing all my money put into angel investing opportunities. Chances are that if I invest in enough companies, eventually I will be cashing out on at least one investment that makes up for the many failed investments. This is why successful angel investors have been investors for a long time. It simply takes time to build a portfolio, so you need to be committed to that. In the end, I trust the portfolio theory, and the companies that are still running give me hope.

What also helps me is thinking of angel investing as an investment in my education. I have learned so much through being part of this community. Doing angel investing is almost like getting an MBA. You do a lot of case studies, look at different companies, listen to their pitches, talk to CEO’s and learn how they run their company, think about different business models and different markets and you analyze financials.

What I also like about angel investing is that you can do this no matter the age. By learning how to do angel investing today, I can be a full-time investor after I retire from Microsoft. So, angel investing to me is an alternative after-retirement occupation to teaching or writing a book, which are things many other people consider doing after they retire.

Q: What are some of the challenges you faced as an investor?

A: I think the biggest challenge for me is time, especially with balancing angel investing with my day job at Microsoft. Another challenge is deal-flow. I am trying to figure out whether I should limit myself to local companies or not.

Q: When you face challenges, what are some resources that you seek advice from?

A: I use books and podcasts to build my knowledge. Podcasts allow me to listen and learn from the top-experts. Other than “This week in startup,” I listen to “a16z” by Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, and I listen to “Masters of Scale” by Reid Hoffman.

To get advice on a specific issue, I reach out to communities like SAC or Keiretsu. John Sechrest is someone who has answers to everything related to angel investing, so I often reach out to him. I also ask questions at workshops on things I need advice on.

Q: What advice would you give someone new to angel investment?

A: Only do this if you are willing to commit long-term. If that is the case, I would refer him/her to the Seattle Angel Conference as a starting point, and to David Rose’s book “Angel Investing.”  I find this book to be an easy read and easy to understand.

Here are some things I learned from this interview:

In the interview Edward mentioned some resources and organizations, find out more about them here:

“Angel” by Jason Calacanis:

https://www.amazon.com/Angel-Invest-Technology-Startups-Timeless-Investor/dp/0062560700

“This Week In Startup” by Jason Calacanis: https://thisweekinstartups.com/

“Angel Investing” by David S. Rose:

https://www.amazon.com/Angel-Investing-Making-Having -Startups/dp/1118858255/ref=sr_1_3keywords=angel+investing&qid=1569464372&sr=8-3

Seattle Angel Conference: https://www.seattleangelconference.com/

Keiretsu: http://www.keiretsuforum.com/

“a16c” by Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz: https://a16z.com/podcasts/

“Masters of Scale” by Reid Hoffman: https://mastersofscale.com/

John Sechrest: https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnsechrest/

About Seattle Angel:

A strong ecosystem creates an environment that allows startups to thrive. Seattle Angel’s goal is to strengthen Seattle’s startup ecosystem by increasing the access to funding for entrepreneurs to push their ideas further.

About the author: Sven Goepfrich

https://www.linkedin.com/in/svengoepfrich/

Sven Goepfrich is currently finishing his MBA in Syracuse. His studies focus on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. At his school, he is working for the department of finance. Sven was actively interning with the Seattle Angel Conference in summer 2019. He is currently looking for full-time career opportunities in this field.

Mikeala interviewed Dylan Stephenson about his effort to create a Covid support website.

A couple weeks into the Covid-19 pandemic, Garfield highschool junior Dylan Stepherson wanted to find a way to help support his community. He wasted no time enlisting his sister Eva, who's in ninth grade. Together they formed CARE-19, a nonprofit with the mission to reduce stress for families in need, while helping people smile a bit more. They quickly identified partners including Skinny Dipped Almonds, Kaiser Permanente, and Evergreen Recovery Centers to donate necessary goods. With help from volunteers and donors, they've distributed 100 care packages to low income families, with another 100 on the way. Dylan never thought he'd become an entrepreneur this early on but says "If you have a goal or a dream you really care about, go for it."

Mikaela is a Founder/CEO and executive coach. In 2015, she founded Reverb, to help companies create healthy, inclusive cultures that scale. Last year, Reverb was named as the second fastest growing company in the state by PSBJ. Before Reverb, Mikaela held HR leadership roles at several Northwest companies. She enjoys being part of the Seattle startup community, where she gets to work with mission driven leaders. Her book Female Firebrands: Stories and Techniques to Ignite Change, Take Control, and Succeed in the Workplace was released in January 2020.

The website they created was https://www.care-19.org/

Laura never thought she would become an entrepreneur, but could not resist the draw when she saw the possibility to have a huge impact by helping brick and mortar businesses. Her company Intentionalist helps Main Street businesses thrive by reminding us that "where we spend matters, because people matter." Intentionalist helps consumers find and support businesses that are owned and operated by people from diverse communities. When you talk to Laura, her passion for building community and growing the local economy is evident.

Mikaela is a Founder/CEO and executive coach. In 2015, she founded Reverb, to help companies create healthy, inclusive cultures that scale. Last year, Reverb was named as the second fastest growing company in the state by PSBJ. Before Reverb, Mikaela held HR leadership roles at several Northwest companies. She enjoys being part of the Seattle startup community, where she gets to work with mission driven leaders. Her book Female Firebrands: Stories and Techniques to Ignite Change, Take Control, and Succeed in the Workplace was released in January 2020.

Sometimes winning Seattle Angel Conference’s “Audience Choice” award is as good as walking away with the oversized check. When Marshall Bex and his fellow co-founders at VOOKS won the prize that came without the funding last May, they had mixed emotions. While the main prize had been the goal at the beginning of their SAC journey, the Portland-based team’s focus shifted during the 12-week process. They had started discussions with another fundraising source around the same time and they didn’t know where that would lead them. So when VOOKS won the conference’s “Audience Choice,” they were thrilled. Knowing that some 300 conference attendees heard their pitch and chose to vote for them, was a sign that their consumer-facing reading app had street appeal. Within no time, they’d closed a seed round and in January of this year, they filled their Series A. But Bex, who ran a creative agency for two decades before founding VOOKS, says that the in-depth due diligence process during the three month SAC session helped prepare his team for the 12-month journey that followed. Julie Schlosser sat down and talked with Bex about his startup journey.

Mikaela interviews Shannon Anderson from Madrona Venture Group.

Shannon Anderson, a self-described "startup junkie" is the Head of Talent for Madrona Venture Group. She loves just about everything that comes with working in venture capital. Shannon advocates for taking the long view. She herself is a builder, who thrives on helping companies scale and coaching leaders along the way. What's most rewarding, Shannon says, is not just the investments you make but the impact you can have on the community as a whole.

Mikaela is a Founder/CEO and executive coach. In 2015, she founded Reverb, to help companies create healthy, inclusive cultures that scale. Last year, Reverb was named as the second fastest growing company in the state by PSBJ. Before Reverb, Mikaela held HR leadership roles at several Northwest companies. She enjoys being part of the Seattle startup community, where she gets to work with mission driven leaders. Her book Female Firebrands: Stories and Techniques to Ignite Change, Take Control, and Succeed in the Workplace was released in January 2020.

Elaine Werffeli has been participating in Seattle Angel Conference since SAC 7. So this is her 10th Seattle Angel Conference. As someone who is very fond of data, she has started collecting information about the Seattle Angel Investiing ecosystem. In this talk she explore how the different Angel groups in Seattle are investing and how that is seen with a gender evaluation in mind. She also connects our local Angel Investing habits to the context of national trends in Angel Investing.

SAC 19 Finalists

It was a hard decision, but we have gone from 81 amazing companies down to the 6 finalists for SAC 19.

We now begin 4 weeks of in-depth due diligence on each of these companies to choose 1 company to invest in for SAC 19. Join us to see the final process on May 12th HERE: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sac-19-on-may-122021-online-conference-tickets-132329401803

 

Cozera

Cozera provides user-controlled verified digital identity for remote & in-person identity verification to improve user experience, protect privacy, deter fraud, save time and money.

Cozera provides a service for companies that produces a unique digital identity credential–id-go.

Cozera works closely with partners to be their innovation leaders providing necessary technology processes, service and support.

Learn more about Cozera HERE: 

https://www.cozera.io/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/cozera/ 

Founder is Abrar Ahmed: 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/abrar-ahmed-a26b8/ 

Neupeak Robotics

AI enabled autonomous robots addressing fruit harvesting challenges

Neupeak has developed Autonomous robots that operate 3X human pickers’ efficiency when compared side by side (including costs, speed, operating hours and conditions). Our current model involves selling a fruit picking service to the farmers. We will be competitive with human pickers by charging $0.35 for every pound of strawberries we pick, which directly translates to a total market of $3B/Yr in North America alone.

Neupeak is designed to save farmers money by charging a fixed rate per pound of strawberries collected, at a rate competitive with traditional labour. Our robots are designed to work safely among humans, so they can be incorporated into any farm's operations as seamlessly as possible. 

Learn more about Neupeak HERE: 

https://www.neupeak.com/

Founder is Anshul Porwal:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/cybrfish/ 

Rubitection

Rubitection’s skin health and care management tool provides reliable early assessment, and care management of dermatological and vascular conditions like bedsores.

Rubitection empowers caregivers to prevent deadly wounds with a low cost skin health assessment and care management tool. Our initial target is deadly bedsores. We address this $11 billion healthcare problem by providing a low cost reliable early detection system. A low risk FDA pathway allows a quick path to a $4.2 billion US market.

Learn more about Rubitection HERE:

https://rubitection.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/rubitection-inc/

https://twitter.com/Rubitection

https://www.facebook.com/login/?next=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fpages%2FRubitection-Inc%2F435800646478761%3Ffref%3Dts

Founder is Sanna Gaspard, PhD:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/sanna-gaspard-phd-2901173/

Digital Proteomics LLC

Digital Proteomics mines the immune response of patients to discover better antibody therapeutics for infectious diseases and cancer.

Digital Proteomics is harnessing the power of the immune system to develop the next generation of antibody therapeutics. Our antibody discovery technology, Alicanto, creates a comprehensive map of the antibody response to infectious diseases and cancer and identifies therapeutic candidates optimized by the human immune system. We partner with pharmaceutical companies to provide antibody discovery services by mining the antibodies produced by real patients.

Learn more about Digital Proteomics HERE:

https://www.digitalproteomics.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/digital-proteomics/

https://twitter.com/DigProteomics

https://www.facebook.com/DigitalProteomics/

Founder is Natalie Castellana:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/natalie-castellana/ 

Votegrity Inc

Votegrity brings the ballot box to the voter with end-to-end verification.

Votegrity helps its customers run better elections. We deliver state of the art online election services enabling organizations to conduct their elections more efficiently and cost effectively, while increasing voter participation, confidence, and satisfaction. Our Election Success Experts can help your organization enjoy the benefits of moving your voting process online while removing wasted paper and postage.

Learn more about Votegrity HERE:

https://www.votegrity.net/

Founder is Tom Thomas:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/votegrity/

Pictory.AI

Pictory is the AI that helps marketers say more with less.

The #1 challenge for social media marketers today is constantly creating fresh and engaging short-form content. Meanwhile, their companies are sitting on mountains of long-form content, blogs, webinars, or podcasts. Pictory uses AI to produce a month of multimedia social content out of a single blog post, webinar, or podcast in minutes. With over 1000 users and several dozen paying customers, we are seeing early signals of a product-market fit.

Pictory uses the latest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) to allow anyone to create or edit videos on-demand.

Learn more about Pictory HERE:

https://pictory.ai/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/pictory/

https://twitter.com/pictoryai

https://www.facebook.com/pictoryai

Founder is Vikram Chalana:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/vikramchalana/

On March 9, the SAC 19 round did the hard work of narrowing the 81 excellent companies that had applied down to 24 Quarter Finalists. The finalists are covered below (in no particular order).

Thanks so much to all of the companies that applied for the SAC 19 round and the investors who did the hard work of analyzing the companies to narrow it down. There were many excellent companies we were not able to move forward to the next round.

Join us to see who will win HERE: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sac-19-on-may-122021-online-conference-tickets-132329401803

Cozera

User controlled verified digital identity for remote & in-person identity verification to improve user experience, protect privacy, deter fraud, save time and money.

Learn more about Cozera HERE:

https://www.cozera.io/

Founder is Abrar Ahmed:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/abrar-ahmed-a26b8/

TwoFold

We build workspace furniture that works for you. Our flexible home & office solutions respond to changing needs, preserving the ROI and avoiding obsolescence.

Learn more about Twofold HERE:

https://twofoldspaces.com/

Founder is Anja Bump:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/anjaschnurerbump/

Neupeak Robotics

AI enabled autonomous robots addressing fruit harvesting challenges

Learn more about Neupeak HERE:

https://www.neupeak.com/

Founder is Anshul Porwal:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/cybrfish/

AWL-Electricity

We transfer wireless electricity to power various mobile devices.

Learn more about AWL-E HERE:

https://awl-e.com/

Founder is Clara Duvernay:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/claraduvernay/

FlexCharging

We manage electric vehicle charging, so drivers charge with clean power more cheaply, and electric utilities avoid building new power plants.

Learn more about FlexCharging HERE:

https://www.flexcharging.com/

Founder is Brian Grunkemeyer:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/brian-grunkemeyer-43a92b2/

Crowd Capital

Enabling US families to keep their homes and regain financial stability.

Learn more about Crowd Capital HERE:

https://crowdcapital.io/

Founder is Christian Rotter:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/christianrotter/

SaaSMAX Corp.

PartnerOptimizer is the game-changing partner discovery engine for B2B technology companies who go-to-market through reseller channel partners.

Learn more about SaaSMAX HERE:

https://saasmax.com/

Founder is Dina Moskowitz:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/dinamoskowitz/

Diatech Diabetes, Inc.

Personalizing Insulin Delivery for Patients with Diabetes.

Learn more about Diatech HERE:

https://diatechdiabetes.com/

Founder is John Wilcox:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-wilcox/

Easeenet.com

Your digital estate, made easy.

Learn more about Easeenet HERE:

https://easeenet.com/

Founder is Erin McCune:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/mccuneerin/

BuzzIt Inc

The Powersuit for Your Livestream Event.

Learn more about BuzzIt HERE:

https://www.buzzit.ca/

Founder is Jon Harris:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonathenharris/

Rubitection

Our skin health and care management tool provides reliable early assessment, and care management of dermatological and vascular conditions like bedsores.

Learn more about Rubitection HERE:

https://rubitection.com/

Founder is Sanna Gaspard, PhD:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/sanna-gaspard-phd-2901173/

City Pods

The most cost-effective solution to scale affordable accommodations.

Learn more about City Pods HERE:

https://www.city-pods.com/about

Founder is Keenan O'Leary:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/keenan-o-leary-8703b3a0/

Golden SHERPA, Inc.

Senior Living communities and people looking for availability in senior living find it frustrating and difficult to connect; GoldenSHERPA makes it simple.

Learn more about Golden Sherpa HERE:

https://support.goldensherpa.com/portal/en/kb/golden-sherpa

Founder is Margie Bensching:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/margie-bensching-4674b877/

Cathaid, Inc.

Cathaid™ provides Healthcare a superior solution to the life-threatening problems associated w/ inadequate securement and maintenance of central line catheters.

Learn more about Cathaid HERE:

https://www.cathaid.com/

Founder is Ward Broom:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/wardbroom/

ACTERRA TECH LTD.

A bio agtech solution empowering crop producers to make microbially-enhanced biofertilizers from biodiesel, while farming, eliminating synthetic fertilizers.

Learn more about Acterra HERE:

https://www.acterratech.com/

Founder is Marnie Lett:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/marnie-lett-2139ab11/

FriendWithA

A fully insured peer to peer rental marketplace to borrow almost anything.

Learn more about FriendWithA HERE:

https://friendwitha.com/

Founder is Stefan Cordova:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/stefan-cordova-a9911239/

Digital Proteomics LLC

Digital Proteomics mines the immune response of patients to discover better antibody therapeutics for infectious diseases and cancer.

Learn more about Digital Proteomics HERE:

https://www.digitalproteomics.com/

Founder is Natalie Castellana:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/natalie-castellana/

ControlMap Inc.

ControlMap helps companies WIN MORE DEALS & GARNER MORE TRUST by automating and accelerating their path to cybersecurity compliance & audit readiness.

Learn more about ControlMap HERE:

https://www.controlmap.io/

Founder is Pallav Tandon:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/pallavtandon/

Kinisi

Kinisi is a digital health startup that combines real-time wearable sensor data with cloud medical-grade diagnostics for orthopedic and rehab applications.

Learn more about Kinisi HERE:

https://master.dbnt8dxyc6qdu.amplifyapp.com/web/index.html

Founder is Rosie Sendher:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosie-sendher-md-mhsc-frcsc-91b22076/

innov8.ag

Empowering growers with data, bringing together disparate on & off-farm data to enable farmers to make informed management decisions based on Machine Learning.

Learn more about innov8 HERE;

https://www.innov8.ag/

Founder is Steve Mantle:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/stevemantle/

Flyte

Flyte is an AI based note-taking platform that generates well-organized meeting minutes and action items right after a call.

Learn more about Flyte HERE:

https://www.flyteai.com/

Founder is Shilpa Sharma:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/shilpa-s/

Mindcurrent

Be kind to your brain.

Learn more about Mindcurrent HERE:

https://www.mindcurrent.io/

Founder is Sourabh Kothari:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/sourabhkothari/

Votegrity Inc

Votegrity brings the ballot box to the voter with end-to-end verification.

Learn more about Votegrity HERE:

https://www.votegrity.net/

Founder is Tom Thomas:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/votegrity/

Pictory.AI

Pictory is the AI that helps marketers say more with less.

Learn more about Pictory HERE:

https://pictory.ai/

Founder is Vikram Chalana:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/vikramchalana/

We look forward to hearing the 3-minute pitches of the Quarter Finalists on March 16 & 17.

The blog-series “Startup People of Seattle” introduces some of the key personas in the ecosystem to learn more about what they are doing, to share their thoughts and ideas, and to promote networking.

In our 15th interview, meet Eric Berman:

“E8 was formed with the thesis in mind that sustainability and profitability often go hand in hand.”

Eric Berman started his career at Microsoft. Today, he is co-chair at Element 8 Angels.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/erberman/

Q: Could you shortly introduce yourself and talk about your background when it comes to startups?

A: I have been co-chair of Element 8 Angels for four years now. We are a Seattle-based angel investing group that primarily focuses on cleantech startups. So, startups we invest in are operating in the areas renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, but also clean water, waste mitigation & recycling and sustainable agriculture are interesting to us.

My educational background is in electrical engineering and physics. I have a master’s degree in electrical engineering, however, I have never worked as electrical engineer. I started off my career as program manager at Microsoft. After that I was Vice President at Expedia. Then I spent a year in a startup that I’d rather forget about before getting involved in E8.

When getting involved in E8 my motive was to have some social or environmental impact. After starting to explore angel investing, I realized that I enjoy the investor-side much more than operating a startup. However, I am a very risk-averse person, especially when it comes to my money, and investing in early stage companies is about the riskiest thing you can do with your money. So, I calculated how much money I had to invest in order to be appropriately diversified. Then I pretended the money was gone already which made writing checks so much easier. I couldn’t lose anything anymore because mentally I had already lost all that money.

Another mental trick of mine that has helped me overcome risk-aversiveness has been to call the money I lose “tuition”. When I started getting involved in angel investing, I considered going to business school to get more educated in startup financing, but then I decided to learn investing by making investments. I already had my professional network and there was no job I wanted that required some sort of degree, so there was no point in going to school. Instead of spending $80k on classes, I could spend $80k on investments. If I would get somewhat of a return, I would already be better off than had I invested all that money into a degree, and either way I would learn.

So, this is the story how I got into angel investing. By now, I have been doing this for over ten years and I have written a good number of checks. I am still waiting on a big pay-out, but many of the companies I invested in are still on their way.

Q: You said you would rather forget about the time you were part of a startup, what have you learned from that experience?

A: There is no one thing that can guarantee success, but there are many things that in and off themselves can cause failure. Also, culture matters. It is very important that the values of the founding team members are compatible. Aside from that, hunger is key.

Q: E8 focuses on cleantech startups. Other investors have said to me before that they choose not to limit themselves to investing in one specific kind of startup only because that would limit their investment opportunities too much. What is your opinion on this?

A: If you are strictly looking to maximize your profit you’ll probably invest in tech and medical companies. E8 was formed with the thesis in mind that sustainability and profitability often go hand in hand. E8 is mission-focused, and a portion of my portfolio I want to invest in impact. But don’t confuse investing through E8 with philanthropy. We invest in startups because we want them to grow into successful businesses. If they are not profitable and don’t survive on the market our impact is zero. So, we do look for returns.

Coming back to your question, everybody involved in E8 can also invest outside of E8 in companies with different focuses. Being part of E8 doesn’t bind an investor to only invest in deal flow he gets exposed to via E8.

Q: How does the investment process look like at E8?

A: Either companies know E8 and apply by themselves, or we find companies and recommend them to apply. After that, they go through a screening process and the startups that look promising get the chance to present to the membership. If there is interest, members then collaborate to do due diligence. We write a brief (10-20 pages) due diligence report summarizing aspects that an investor should be aware of before E-8 members write checks individually. Recently, we also had a fund, but that is now closed.

Q: What do you think of Seattle’s startup ecosystem?

A: I think we have a great ecosystem fed by the tech giants Microsoft and Amazon. Because of those companies we have many people here who feel they have learned how established companies work and now want to try finding success as entrepreneurs. Also, many investors have been part of Microsoft or Amazon at some point in their career. So, mostly thanks to these two companies, we have many startups, talent, mentors and investors in Seattle. What stands out about the culture here is that many people really want to do good and try to give back to the ecosystem. People here are very engaged in the success of the startup community. However, from E8’s perspective, in order to get sufficient deal-flow in cleantech, we have to look in a greater area than just Seattle simply because there wouldn’t be enough companies here.

Q: What are some other impact-driven organizations that pop into your mind and that are good resources for startups?

A: Fledge is impact-driven like E8. Luni Libes would be the contact point for Fledge. Others are Powerhouse in Oakland, Elemental Accelerator in Honolulu, Greentown Labs, and LACI in LA.

Q: What recommendation would you give someone who is interested and new to all things startup in Seattle?

If you are interested in investing, I think SAC is a great place to get involved. Go to meetups, join groups, and network. Even if you don’t write a check, see if you can help with due diligence somewhere. You learn so much analyzing companies. Those would be my recommendations. Also, I should mention that being an angel investor is legally restricted only to “accredited” investors.

Wikipedia Def. Accredited Investor: “In the United States, to be considered an accredited investor, one must have a net worth of at least $1,000,000, excluding the value of one's primary residence, or have income at least $200,000 each year for the last two years (or $300,000 combined income if married) and have the expectation to make the same amount this year.” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accredited_investor, Last retrieved on 10.30.2019)

Here are some things I learned from this interview:

In the interview Eric mentioned some resources and organizations, find out more about them here:

About Seattle Angel:

A strong ecosystem creates an environment that allows startups to thrive. Seattle Angel’s goal is to strengthen Seattle’s startup ecosystem by increasing the access to funding for entrepreneurs to push their ideas further.

About the author: Sven Goepfrich

https://www.linkedin.com/in/svengoepfrich/

Sven Goepfrich is currently finishing his MBA in Syracuse. His studies focus on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. At his school, he is working for the department of finance. Sven was actively interning with the Seattle Angel Conference in summer 2019. He is currently looking for full-time career opportunities in this field.

The blog-series “Startup People of Seattle” introduces some of the key personas in the ecosystem to learn more about what they are doing, to share their thoughts and ideas, and to promote networking.

In our 12th interview, meet Gary R. Ritner:

“Here is one portfolio theory: Rob Wiltbank studied angel returns for years. The results have been approximately the same. If you invest in ten start-ups, five go broke in the first two years, three will return something, but you make all your money on one or two deals. Overall the return on investment in angel investing is high, IRR +20%, but you must have a portfolio to minimize risks. I suggest investing in at least 15 companies.”

Gary R. Ritner is co-founder and president of the Puget Sound Venture Club, PSVC.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/gritner/

Q: Could you talk some about your background?

A: After college I worked in both big and small stock brokerage companies. At one point I realized that what I enjoyed doing most was raising money for startups, so I did that for about 30 years. In 1985 venture clubs started to form around the country and a local attorney, John Steel, said that we needed one in Seattle as well. This is how the Puget Sound Venture Club came into existence.

Q: Could you talk some about the Puget Sound Venture Club?

A: Compared to Keiretsu, Alliance of Angels and E8 we are small. We have a membership cap of 35. As an angel club, the Puget Sound Venture Club does not have a fund, so every angel makes individual investment decisions. The purpose of the club is to be a place for investors to see deal-flow and to network. We are looking for technology startups that are raising go-to-market money, meaning the product should be done. Sometimes, we also invest in medical and medical device startups prior to FDA approval. We focus on northwest startups. Present and past members have made over 1000 investments since we started.

Q: How does the process look like for founders who want to present their startup to the Puget Sound Venture Club?

A: Founders often contact me first and I will schedule a 30-45min call with them. After that, if both parties agree, the companies send an executive summary. The Puget Sound Venture Club charges them $150 to do that. Out of all the companies sending in an executive summary, we choose approximately six companies each month to present to our screening committee, and two or three of those companies get the opportunity to present to our membership. Typically, no formal due diligence happens after that, so it is up to each member to decide whether to invest in either of the startups or not.

Q: What criteria do you look at when deciding whether to invest in a startup or not?

A: Most important is the team. I also look at go-to-market strategy, being realistic about competition, and deal-terms of the offering, meaning whether the pre-money evaluation is too high. A lot of evaluations are too high as founders are often over-optimistic. We also want to see the potential of a 10x return within five years. Aside from these items and since we get our money returned through an IPO or an acquisition, founders and investors must agree with those exit scenarios. I like entrepreneurs who have the ability to recognize their mistakes early and who can adapt if something is not working. I suspect Jeff Bezos has that unique ability to recognize his mistakes early. I want entrepreneurs to be aware of what they don’t know and to listen to advice. Many refer to this as the coachability aspect, and in my experience, female entrepreneurs are much better at this. Intuition, or “gut feel”, is another important trait for a CEO, and I think female entrepreneurs generally have that trait more than men as well. Startups also shouldn’t be naïve when it comes to sales. Many founders believe that great products sell itself, but that is not how the business works. “Nothing happens in the world until somebody sells something.”

Q: What are things founders often do that investors don’t like?

A: The number one complaint I hear from investors is that founders do not keep them informed about what is going on. Founders should always keep investors in the loop through monthly or quarterly updates.

Q: What advice would you give a new angel investor?

Here is one portfolio theory: Rob Wiltbank studied angel returns for years. The results have been approximately the same. If you invest in ten start-ups, five go broke in the first two years, three will return something, but you make all your money on one or two deals. Overall the return on investment in angel investing is high, IRR +20%, but you must have a portfolio to minimize risks. I suggest investing in at least 15 companies.

Angels must be aware that it can become difficult to see many startups fail early on while waiting on first returns. A lot of people, who are wealthy enough to angel invest, are not cut out for angel investing because of that. They cannot live with losing half their money in two years. It takes a certain personality.

Another aspect I’d advice to consider is whether an angel wants to be investing individually or as part of a fund. Most companies only accept a minimum investment of $50K. So, to be an individual investor you must be willing to invest around $750.000 – 15 deals. If you want to invest less while having a diversified portfolio, venture funds are the way to go.

Here are some things I learned from this interview:

In the interview Gary mentioned some resources and organizations, find out more about them here:

About Seattle Angel:

A strong ecosystem creates an environment that allows startups to thrive. Seattle Angel’s goal is to strengthen Seattle’s startup ecosystem by increasing the access to funding for entrepreneurs to push their ideas further.

About the author: Sven Goepfrich

https://www.linkedin.com/in/svengoepfrich/

Sven Goepfrich is currently finishing his MBA in Syracuse. His studies focus on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. At his school, he is working for the department of finance. Sven was actively interning with the Seattle Angel Conference in summer 2019. He is currently looking for full-time career opportunities in this field.

The blog-series “Startup People of Seattle” introduces some of the key personas in the ecosystem to learn more about what they are doing, to share their thoughts and ideas, and to promote networking.

In our 14th interview, meet Jon Staenberg:

“Selling is an important skill I want to see in an entrepreneur.  Selling is selling not just your product but your competence so others want to be part of your team. A red flag to me is if a startup raises money but the founder’s friends and previous coworkers haven’t put money in the deal. That means he hasn’t sold those who know him/her the best!”

Jon Staenberg has raised and managed multiple funds and is an experienced angel investor having invested in about 400 startups.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonstaenberg/

Q: Could you please introduce yourself and talk some about how you got into startups considering your background at Microsoft.

A: I moved to Seattle in 1988. I always wanted to do Venture, however, I got the advice to first get some operating experience. So, I was working with Microsoft for six years before going into Venture Capital. Eventually, I created my own fund. My fund focused as a differentiator and value proposition on connecting Seattle and San Francisco, which at the time meant connecting Microsoft to the Valley. This helped startups either partner with Microsoft or learn more about Microsoft as a competitor. Focusing on connecting Microsoft and the Valley was my way of differentiating my fund from all the funds already existing at the time. I raised two funds in which I invested alongside some of the great Sandhill VC’s. Later I joined a larger fund and became the Seattle partner for that fund. That fund was called Rustic Canyon with offices in Seattle, Silicon Valley and Los Angeles.

Aside from my fund activities, I am one of the most active angel investors in Seattle having done some 400 total investments. I have also started several companies. I am passionate about startups, investing in them, mentoring and even starting them!

Q: What startup stage do you invest in?

A: I have done investments in startups at all stages, from first money in to very late stage. I am more of an opportunistic investor. I see the world as very dynamic; Things are changing all the time. A strategy that might have made sense two years ago might not be the best anymore in the present. That concept of moving strategies is going to be even more relevant in the future because things are changing at a faster and faster rate. I should note that all this only applies to me as an individual investor. In a fund, following a clear strategy is expected. I am most excited right now about the use of Big Data in improving performance of venture investing.

Q: Would you say you don’t have an investment thesis then?

A: I would say I don’t have a traditional investment thesis. I don’t say, for example, “I only invest in blockchain.” I do have a strong focus on people and product/market-fit and market sizing, though. I also prefer investing alongside a group of value-added investors.

I am raising a new fund right now, and instead of a thesis we have an approach. Unlike traditional venture funds, which don’t use much data, our sole approach eliminating all but 100 companies is using data. So, at this stage we are not analyzing business plans, talking to entrepreneurs, looking at markets, etc., but we have a 40 Terabytes database of 500.000 companies around the world and we use AI to select the most promising ones. Finally, we evaluate and stack-rank the last 100 companies but ultimately select using more traditional methods of conversations and traditional due diligence.

For the last 30 years in venture, there are so many VC firms using similar methods and doing similar things, but the biggest ones are winning because they see all the deals. Many smaller VCs on the other hand struggle to see good deal-flow. In such a competitive environment you need to do something different. So, using data makes that difference for us. A benefit of data also is that it changes. In a traditional fund the strength, weaknesses and biases of the people involved in the fund stay with the fund. In comparison, AI allows us to learn constantly from our past decisions. The more investment decisions we make, the better we get. The old way rarely improves. Marginally yes but not really much. We can refine and tweak and get better and better. That gives us an advantage over everybody else.

Q: You said you pay a lot of attention to people. So, what are you looking for in people?

A: I am looking for sheer talent, passion, willingness to learn, and willingness to go the extra yard.  And I want a great story-teller.  Many of the things I am looking for in an entrepreneur are like what you want to see in an athlete. I also want to know why success is important to a founder. That informs me of what happens if things don’t go as expected, because they never go as expected. Aside from all that, I prefer working with entrepreneurs I know and have some history with…but there is nothing more exciting than finding the next great young entrepreneur.

Q: How does your personal due diligence look like?

A: It is not very structured. I really want to spend time with the founder going on walks and getting to know each other. Of course, I also look at the market etc., but the founder or founding team are what matters most to me, especially when it comes to early stage startups. Selling is an important skill I want to see in an entrepreneur, so a red flag to me is if a startup raises money but the founder’s friends and previous coworkers haven’t put money in the deal.

Q: What challenges do you see startups face regularly?

A: Entrepreneurship is hard. There are many challenges and they make it easy to get overwhelmed. One of biggest challenges in my eyes is prioritization. Considering resources are limited, you must make sure you work on what benefits you most. You must be effective. You also always have to expand your skill-set as the company grows. Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs are great examples for people who grew alongside their companies. Integrity is another challenge. People don’t usually talk about this, but entrepreneurs constantly have opportunities to bend rules, so integrity matters. Another difficulty is attracting talent. Founders need to surround themselves with an amazing team.

Q: In your opinion, what are typical mistakes startups make?

I think not raising enough money is a big one. Also, founders must plan ahead for raising the next round and have conversations way before needing money. That way they can establish relationships. Another mistake is to react too late to issues/ignoring them for too long. Finally, being an entrepreneur is hard. HARD! I encourage founders/CEOs to have some kind of personal board of directors so they can have ways to share ideas and feelings.

Q: From your experience, what is the difference between being an individual angel vs. running a fund?

In a fund you have much more responsibility, so you must document much more, do background checks etc. before investing. You must also be committed to a fund for 10 – 14 years. As an individual investor, I can simply invest in what sounds good. It is less restrictive and at this point in my life I enjoy that freedom…still being involved but not having the commitment of being a GP in a fund.

Here are some things I learned from this interview:

About Seattle Angel:

A strong ecosystem creates an environment that allows startups to thrive. Seattle Angel’s goal is to strengthen Seattle’s startup ecosystem by increasing the access to funding for entrepreneurs to push their ideas further.

About the author: Sven Goepfrich

https://www.linkedin.com/in/svengoepfrich/

Sven Goepfrich is currently finishing his MBA in Syracuse. His studies focus on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. At his school, he is working for the department of finance. Sven was actively interning with the Seattle Angel Conference in summer 2019. He is currently looking for full-time career opportunities in this field.

The blog-series “Startup People of Seattle” introduces some of the key personas in the ecosystem to learn more about what they are doing, to share their thoughts and ideas, and to promote networking.

In our 16th interview, meet Peter Chee:

“I think one of the biggest problems that people face after quitting their job at Amazon, Microsoft, or Google is that they don’t have a network in the startup-world. So, they need to be connected to the right people and resources.”

Peter Chee is founder & CEO of Thinkspace. He is fascinated by the personality of entrepreneurs and enjoys being surrounded by people who do things that have never been done before.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/pchee/

Q: Could you first talk some about your background and how you got into startups?

A: I have been surrounded with entrepreneurship ever since I grew up. After graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in MIS I was working for a startup company called Starwave. That was my favorite professional experience throughout all my career. I especially enjoyed working with so many innovative people. This is also what inspired me to found “thinkspace.” Since I love the mindset and energy of entrepreneurs, I wanted to be surrounded by those people all the time.

Q: Could you talk some more about the founding story of thinkspace?

A: When I started thinkspace eleven years ago, very few coworking spaces existed in Seattle. Only one other coworking space, Office Normads, launched six months before me. There were very few incubators at that point even. For me, it was always about being around people who do things that have never been done before. My preference was to work with people in technology simply because that was my background. So, therefore thinkspace focuses on tech startups.

Q: You have also been involved as a judge in a business plan competition at the University of Washington. Could you share your thoughts on student entrepreneurship?

A: Being a graduate of the University of Washington, I always enjoy having the opportunity to give back and help current students with their learning. Therefore, I spent time not only judging, but mainly mentoring students who were coming up with startup ideas. Aside of sharing my perspective and feedback with them, I also helped them with connections to move their ideas forward.

I think student entrepreneurship is a fantastic learning opportunity for students. It also provides them with opportunities to network, and it’s a new experience – Their school is a safe environment to try entrepreneurship without having anything to lose.

Q: What would you say are the differences between co-working spaces and incubators?

A: I think there are huge differences. Incubators are typically investing money into the startups and their programs are typically only 3-12 months long.

We, as a tech-focused coworking space on the other hand are here to support companies for as long as they feel it is helpful to them. We don’t kick them out. We also don’t invest money.

Q: You say, “supporting the companies.” How exactly does thinkspace support member-companies?

A: I think one of the biggest problems that people face after quitting their job at Amazon, Microsoft, or Google is that they don’t have a network in the startup-world. So, they need to be connected to the right people and resources. What we offer startups at thinkspace is numerous connections. We always know good resources and people to talk to whatever problem founders might be facing.

We also provide founders with flexible, monthly space for their company. For them this means they don’t need to sign a long-term leasing contract. If a company doesn’t know whether they will survive the next year, they are better off without making any longer-term contracts. So, we provide value to them because we eliminate some risk.

Aside from all that, thinkspace offers office hours during which members can meet different kind of experts and ask for their input and advise.

Q: How would you recommend someone to stay informed about what is going on in Seattle’s startup ecosystem?

A: One email I have in my inbox every Monday is Seattle Startup Digest. I think this is a helpful resource and a good starting point for people who want to get involved in the community. I also want to recommend Startup Haven Seattle Poker 2.0 which is run by Bob Crimmins. I think this is the best startup event in Seattle. If you want to meet other founders, this is the place to go.

Q: You have been involved with startups for such a long time now, what would you say makes a startup interesting to you?

A: I think most interesting are the founders themselves.

Q: What are attributes of a successful entrepreneur, and what is some advice you’d give a founder?

Successful entrepreneurs are the ones who are open to learning and open to receiving feedback.

I commonly see very smart founders who have strong technical and coding skills, but they underestimate the sales and marketing side. Also, marketing in startups under very limited budget is a whole other story than marketing in a big, established company. This needs to be considered when making a hiring decision for example. Someone who ran a whole marketing department before, might not be a great fit for a startup role as the conditions are totally different.

Another mistake to avoid is putting too much energy into technology and coming up with a solution too soon. Founders are fascinated by solving a technological problem and creating something because this is what they enjoy doing. What they should do first though is talking to customers and figuring out what their needs are and what they are willing to pay for. I think customer validation is much more important than the technological aspect.

Here are some things I learned from this interview:

In the interview Peter mentioned some resources and organizations, find out more about them here:

About Seattle Angel:

A strong ecosystem creates an environment that allows startups to thrive. Seattle Angel’s goal is to strengthen Seattle’s startup ecosystem by increasing the access to funding for entrepreneurs to push their ideas further.

About the author: Sven Goepfrich

https://www.linkedin.com/in/svengoepfrich/

Sven Goepfrich is currently finishing his MBA in Syracuse. His studies focus on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. At his school, he is working for the department of finance. Sven was actively interning with the Seattle Angel Conference in summer 2019. He is currently looking for full-time career opportunities in this field.

Xiao Wang is the founder of Boundless, a startup helping immigrant families navigate the immigration process. When Xiao was young, his family spent five months' rent paying their immigration attorney to make sure they didn't lose their chance to stay in America. This made affordable, reliable immigration services the problem Xiao felt compelled to solve. He knew becoming an entrepreneur would require hard work and sacrifice (not all rainbows and unicorns), but says it's been worth the struggle.

Mikaela is a Founder/CEO and executive coach. In 2015, she founded Reverb, to help companies create healthy, inclusive cultures that scale. Last year, Reverb was named as the second fastest growing company in the state by PSBJ. Before Reverb, Mikaela held HR leadership roles at several Northwest companies. She enjoys being part of the Seattle startup community, where she gets to work with mission driven leaders. Her book Female Firebrands: Stories and Techniques to Ignite Change, Take Control, and Succeed in the Workplace was released in January 2020.

Resources: https://ideamensch.com/xiao-wang/

The blog-series “Startup People of Seattle” introduces some of the key personas in the ecosystem to learn more about what they are doing, to share their thoughts and ideas, and to promote networking.

In our 11th interview, meet Rebecca Lovell:

“More needs to be done to enable access to resources for underrepresented entrepreneurs, especially women and people of color.”

Rebecca has been involved in several key organizations in Seattle’s startup ecosystem, such as Alliance of Angels, Northwest Entrepreneur Network, GeekWire and the University of Washington. Today, Rebecca is executive director of Create33, a resource center for technology entrepreneurs.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/rebeccalovell/

Q: Could you introduce yourself and Create 33?

A: I am the executive director of Create33. Create33 is a resource center for entrepreneurs providing access to customers, capital and talent through educational programming, mentorship and connections. We also provide workspace and a supportive community. However, we’re really in a new category and not a typical coworking space. We have as much in common with an incubator or accelerator.

Q: Having worked with a lot of startups, what do you regularly see entrepreneurs struggle with?

A: Our focus here at Create33 is on seed-funded entrepreneurs. The biggest challenges facing those entrepreneurs tend to be hiring a team, fine-tuning customer-acquisition, and seeking series A funding. Consequently, most of our educational programming focuses on team-building, culture, talent acquisition, customer discovery, understanding the investment landscape, etc.

Culture is key and should be a high priority to startups very early on. Once a culture has formed it is very difficult to change. A benefit of a positive culture is that it attracts talent, which is important for startups competing with big, financially strong companies that can pay high salaries.

Q: Why does Create33 focus on seed-funded entrepreneurs?

A: In Seattle, many resources exist for entrepreneurs in the idea-phase all the way to raising seed funding. Examples for organizations focused on startups in those very early stages are: Seattle Angel Conference, Alliance of Angels, Techstars and “Ready, Set, Raise” by Female Founders Alliance. After entrepreneurs raise their first institutional funding, however, they fall off a resource cliff in Seattle.

Q: On LinkedIn you say: “In the heart of Seattle's thriving innovation ecosystem, Create33 is a resource center for technology entrepreneurs.” Why would you describe the ecosystem as thriving and what do you think are its strength and areas of improvement?

A: In Seattle, not only do we have early-stage investors like SAC, AoA, and Madrona, that are located here, but three quarters of the money flowing into Seattle-based companies comes from outside-the-region investors. This demonstrates that Seattle is being perceived as a global hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. In addition to that, the startup community in Seattle is very collaborative offering a lot of mentorship opportunities to founders. Seattle is also the cloud capital of the world which is why a lot of startups in Seattle are enterprise-focused.

Regarding weaknesses of the ecosystem, more needs to be done to enable access to resources for underrepresented entrepreneurs, especially women and people of color. Data shows that nationwide in the last 13 years only 16 percent of first-round venture funding went into women-led startups, “women-led” meaning that at least one woman is on the founding team. In this respect Seattle placed below the national average. One potential reason this is, which the study revealed, is that women-led companies tend to over-index in consumer products and retail. Seattle’s startup ecosystem on the other hand has a strong enterprise-focus. Not only equal opportunities for women should be part of the discussion, but the same applies to people of color or the LGBTQ+ community for example. Some great organizations, like Female Founders Alliance and Future For Us, support under-represented groups in Seattle, and we need much more of that, not just as stand-alone organizations but for all of us to commit to inclusion and belonging in the workplace.

Q: What do you think makes a successful entrepreneur?

A: Founders that I love working with are the ones who have a magical combination of confidence and humility. Those founders have the conviction and passion to pursue a dream, that is just a little short of crazy, but at the same time they are listening to their market and customers. This is the coachability-aspect that many mentors and investors are looking for in a founder.

Q: What advise do you often give to founders?

A: A classic mistake founders have made in investor pitches is to say that they have no competition. I advise companies to think about alternative ways customers currently solve a problem. If there truly is no competition, there is no market opportunity as there is no problem worth solving.

I also coach founders on the lean startup methodology with respect to customer discovery. Founders start with a hypothesis about what customers need, but before they go to work on the product or write a line of code, they should test the hypothesis by talking to 100-200 potential customers.

Here are some things I learned from this interview:

In the interview Rebecca mentioned some resources and organizations, find out more about them here:

Create33: https://create33.co/

Seattle Angel Conference: https://www.seattleangelconference.com/

Alliance of Angels: https://www.allianceofangels.com/

Techstars: https://www.techstars.com/

“Ready, Set, Raise”: https://femalefounders.org/accelerator/

Female Founders Alliance: https://femalefounders.org/

Madrona Venture Group: https://www.madrona.com/

Future For Us: https://futureforus.co/

About Seattle Angel:

A strong ecosystem creates an environment that allows startups to thrive. Seattle Angel’s goal is to strengthen Seattle’s startup ecosystem by increasing the access to funding for entrepreneurs to push their ideas further.

About the author: Sven Goepfrich

https://www.linkedin.com/in/svengoepfrich/

Sven Goepfrich is currently finishing his MBA in Syracuse. His studies focus on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. At his school, he is working for the department of finance. Sven was actively interning with the Seattle Angel Conference in summer 2019. He is currently looking for full-time career opportunities in this field.

The blog-series “Startup People of Seattle” introduces some of the key personas in the ecosystem to learn more about what they are doing, to share their thoughts and ideas, and to promote networking.

In our 17th interview, meet Sharad Agarwal:

“In healthy real-estate markets, it is possible to achieve a 15% IRR. To achieve a significantly higher IRR in startup investing, you have to find startups that are in the fat tail. If you are investing in startups to fill that high risk – high reward hole in your portfolio like I am, you have to be disciplined to avoid the temptation to invest in low risk – low reward startups.”

Sharad Agarwal is an active angel investor in Seattle. His professional background is in computer science R&D, and he is working for Microsoft.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/sharadagarwal2/

Q: Could you please introduce yourself?

A: I have been an active angel investor for over 5 years. I have 18 companies in my portfolio.

My professional background is in computer science R&D. I am a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, and have been there for over 15 years, working on advanced & applied research in mobile computing, datacenter networking, and geo-distributed cloud services. I have co-authored over 35 scientific publications with over 6,000 citations, and co-invented 47 issued patents. I have advanced Microsoft products with my research, including Windows 10 and Windows Phone 8. I recently became an ACM Distinguished Engineer. I have Computer Science Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. degrees from University of California Berkeley.

Q: You have been working for Microsoft for years now. Working for such a large company, how did you become interested in startups and angel investing?

A: I had a lot of experience investing in real estate, stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, and had a diverse investment portfolio across those asset classes. However, I felt that none of those would get me an outsized return, and I needed to include a high risk - high reward component in my investment portfolio.

Working in Computer Science and having moved up here from San Francisco, I have many friends and colleagues who are in startups. Hence, investing in startups felt like the natural choice to fill that hole in my investment strategy.

Q: On LinkedIn, I saw that you participated in SAC between 2014 and 2016. How was that experience for you and how did it lead you to Grubstakes?

A: I participated as an investor in SAC VI, SAC VII, and SAC VIII, and then as the Assistant Fund Manager for SAC IX. I had a tremendously positive experience going through SAC. John Sechrest is doing the entire Seattle startup ecosystem a huge service in training new angel investors and new entrepreneurs in the process of investing and fundraising. There is huge untapped potential in Seattle – we have many accredited investors who have not yet invested in startups, and we have a lot of experienced talent at companies like Microsoft and Amazon who have not yet embarked on their entrepreneurial journey. The almost decade long effort that John has been leading with Seattle Angel Conference is exactly what our community needs, and our community has already benefited tremendously from it, including myself.

SAC is the ideal start of an angel investing journey but should not be the end. It is first and foremost a learning opportunity. Once an investor has learned the ropes at SAC, they should be able to define their investment thesis and evaluate the different investment entities and vehicles out there for the next phase in their investment strategy.

At the end of SAC IX, a few investor colleagues and I felt the need to continue our investments in a collaborative group setting. Existing angel investing groups did not have the structure and process that we wanted. This was the genesis of Grubstakes. Together with Javier Soto, David Grampa, Ravi Grover, and Yoko Okano, we founded the network of angel investors known as Grubstakes.

Q: Could you talk more about Grubstakes? How does Grubstakes invest in startups and how involved are you in mentoring entrepreneurs through Grubstakes?

A: Grubstakes is comprised of about 50 angel investors in Seattle. We are a network of angel investors in Seattle that fund and mentor startups. Our mission is to foster an engaged, collaborative, and smart angel investor community, and to ensure that startup founders are well financed and succeed through exit. Our defining characteristic is our collaborative spirit. Grubstakes members are accessible to others, responsive to inquiry, and generous with their time. We help each other and the startups we fund. Startups that we invest in must have an ambitious vision and a realistic plan to get there. We have resources, experience, and the right attitude to partner with startups that we invest in for the long haul.

Any member of Grubstakes is able to bring a company to the membership for consideration of investment. Those members who are interested will form a due diligence team, investigate, and independently decide to invest. If some members do decide to invest, we will help them create a Grubstakes SPV in the form of an investment LLC that will pool the individual cheques into a single investment and line item in the startup's cap table. We have our own lightweight process for LLC formation, legal docs, banking, and annual LLC maintenance that the elected managing member of the LLC can follow. We also have established relationships with several investment entities in our ecosystem, including SAC, SeaChange Fund, OVF, AoA, Flying Fish Ventures and SWAN Venture Fund.

We actively mentor entrepreneurs that need and/or ask for mentorship. This includes startups that we have invested in, and those that are too early for our investment but nonetheless have the potential to one day attract our investment.

Q: What was the biggest surprise about Angel Investing for you?

A: The power law of investment returns. This was not so much a surprise because many articles have been written about it, but something that I did not fully internalize until I got into it. In healthy real-estate markets, it is possible to achieve a 15% IRR. To achieve a significantly higher IRR in startup investing, you have to find the startups that are in the fat tail. If you are investing in startups to fill that high risk – high reward hole in your portfolio like I am, you have to be disciplined to avoid the temptation to invest in low risk – low reward startups. Each dollar that I invest in the latter is a dollar that I do not have available to invest in the risky ones that may net me the higher return.

Q: What are some of the things you have learned about startup investing?

A: You have to actively manage your investments. Simply writing the cheque is not enough. Many entrepreneurs need help, feedback, advice, referrals, and recruiting talent. When I invest in a company, not only do I want a high return, I also get emotionally attached to the entrepreneur's success. I like to believe that my money is greener than that of typical angel investors because I am available to help. With my growing portfolio that is at 18 companies now, I cannot help every one of them. I focus on the ones that I can have the most impact on with my involvement and where the founding team is interested in my help.

Q: What investment thesis do you have? What are some of the criteria you use when making investment decisions?

A: My investment thesis is to make money. I don't intend to be glib in that answer, but truthfully, I do not limit myself to startups that fit a specific mold. There are many criteria that I look at in each investment, including the credentials of the founding team, product-market fit, customer excitement, willingness of the founding team to stick with their vision despite all the roadblocks they will encounter, and so on. I have no special criteria that other investors will not also have. However, there are two criteria for me that I will not compromise on. The founders have to be honest and truthful in my due diligence – I cannot invest in a team that lies or hides. The business model must be ethically sound.

Of course, all startups at the angel investing phase have many holes and unanswered questions. In doing due diligence, I have to be convinced that it is possible to fill those holes and that this team is capable of filling those holes. There are some technologies and markets that I am more familiar with, such as cloud services and B2B SaaS, so I tend to be more confident about my investigations of startups in those spaces and am able to measure the investment risk and return more accurately.

Q: What would you say is more important, portfolio diversification or investing in startups within an industry you are familiar with?

A: It depends on your ability to mitigate the risk in either strategy.

A big risk with focusing on a specific industry is quantity of quality deals. Depending on the market you are in and the industry, it may take a long time to deploy a bucket of investment dollars without lowering your investment quality bar.

In my case, I have a network of phenomenal investors who cover a wide variety of industry expertise. These are individuals in Grubstakes, some of whom I've known for years, whose opinion and expertise I value and trust. Their due diligence gives me the confidence to invest in industries that I am not familiar with. Similarly, they can rely on me to help evaluate companies in my wheelhouse and be open and honest with them about what I have found. With such a great network of people who rely on each other, I have no need to limit myself to industries that I am familiar with.

Q: How difficult is it to see companies fail early on while waiting to get cash back through an exit by a company?

A: This is the issue that I see new angel investors struggle with the most. Angel investing, specifically in companies that are at a very early stage, is a long game. You will see your failures first and your successes last. Your big successes will need time to grow the team, evolve the business model, perhaps pivot, before they make it big and get to an exit. It does not make sense to calculate a ROI before 10-15 years from the start of your angel investing, and perhaps even longer if you do not grow your portfolio quickly. You have to invest in a large number of companies and wait for the small number of big hits that will make your return.

Seeing companies in my portfolio fail is simultaneously painful and gratifying to me. So far, I have had 3 failures and 1 successful exit in my portfolio. Every company that I invest in, I get emotionally attached to, so I personally feel the impact of the failure, obviously not as much as the entrepreneurs do. It is gratifying to see the failures at the same time. I want the companies that will fail to fail early. I want the entrepreneurs to learn from the failure and move on to something else that will be successful. I see little value in prolonging the pain. The challenge for them of course is to discern the fatal roadblocks from the surmountable roadblocks. In each company's failure, I want to learn why they failed, but not memorize those lessons as there are many factors that typically lead to a failure.

The most common reason I have seen for failure is when the founding team strays from the key business thesis that they created their startup to answer. There are many distractions on the path of a startup's success that can lead you astray. One of those is relying too much on one big customer. That one customer's needs may not fit your business thesis perfectly. If you build a large team to service that one customer, and that customer disappears, then you have a lot of hungry mouths to feed with too little else growing in the garden. It is not easy to find the right balance between short-term revenue from one large customer and long-term growth.

Q: What other challenges have you experienced in angel investing?

A: Something that I don't see enough investors do (including myself) is due diligence on past investors in a company you are considering, and investors in later rounds of companies already in your portfolio. I have seen investors take a large position in a company and then lead the company astray. It is rare, but a risk worth mitigating by carefully vetting others who are or will be on the cap table.

Q: What are some other key organizations in Seattle’s startup ecosystem, like accelerators, incubators, coworking spaces, makerspaces or angel groups that you know of?

There are many and I'm sure I will miss some. Here are the ones that I interact with that I have not mentioned above:

Q: What recommendation would you give someone who is new to the ecosystem and wants to learn more about startups? Are there any Meetups, Books or Courses/Programs for example that you recommend?

A: This is where being in Seattle gives you a distinct advantage. Seattle has many open opportunities for learning about and engaging in the startup ecosystem. Seattle Startup Week has many fun events. The Seattle chapter of Startup Grind that Mike Grabham organizes has many events to hear from influential people in our ecosystem and to network with others who are also learning about startups. Startup Haven that Bob Crimmins founded organizes periodic events as well that I enjoy. Try to snag an invite to Techstars Seattle Demo Day. Of course, Seattle Angel Conference will give you the most in-depth information, especially at the workshops that are organized prior to the start of each conference. A book that I thoroughly enjoyed is Shoe Dog by Phil Knight - the Audible version is very well narrated.

Here are some things I learned from this interview:

In the interview Sharad mentioned some resources and organizations, find out more about them here:

About Seattle Angel:

A strong ecosystem creates an environment that allows startups to thrive. Seattle Angel’s goal is to strengthen Seattle’s startup ecosystem by increasing the access to funding for entrepreneurs to push their ideas further.

About the author: Sven Goepfrich

https://www.linkedin.com/in/svengoepfrich/

Sven Goepfrich is currently finishing his MBA in Syracuse. His studies focus on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. At his school, he is working for the department of finance. Sven was actively interning with the Seattle Angel Conference in summer 2019. He is currently looking for full-time career opportunities in this field.

Xemelgo is the winner of Seattle Angel Conference XVI 16 - Akhila Tadinada, Co-Founder of Xemelgo talks about her SAC experience.

Stephanie Kim founded Moonlit Skincare along with her best friend. After eighteen months of hard work, they landed their products in Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters holiday packs. Moonlit was already focused on sleep wellness when the pandemic hit. With people feeling more stress and not getting restful sleep, their products are more relevant than ever. When major retailers ran out of hand sanitizer, Moonlit quickly contacted its partners and produced shareable packs of travel sized sanitizer. Stephanie thought she would spend her career in corporate beauty, but is now thriving as an entrepreneur.

Mikaela is a Founder/CEO and executive coach. In 2015, she founded Reverb, to help companies create healthy, inclusive cultures that scale. Last year, Reverb was named as the second fastest growing company in the state by PSBJ. Before Reverb, Mikaela held HR leadership roles at several Northwest companies. She enjoys being part of the Seattle startup community, where she gets to work with mission driven leaders. Her book Female Firebrands: Stories and Techniques to Ignite Change, Take Control, and Succeed in the Workplace was released in January 2020.

Seattle Angel Conference XVII  has selected Six Startup Finalists.  We were pleased to receive over sixty company submissions in this cohort. Forty five investors collaborated together and with cohort founders - all with the goal of identifying the top six most investable companies.  Like so much in our lives in this moment, COVID-19 has a major impact on our investment process and the relationships we build along the way. Thankfully we have a passionate and enthusiastic cohort of founders and investors who’ve ensured that even as we move to virtual events, meetings and chat rooms, we remain laser-focused on improving the startup ecosystem here in the Pacific Northwest.

We want to congratulate FieldNotes AI, Nav.it, Neptune Fish Jerky, PDM Automotive, Qase and Tribute on their achievement and we will be announcing the winner on May 13th as part of our Final Demo Day Event..  Since the Final event will be virtual, we will be welcoming attendees from outside the Pacific Northwest which gives us a great opportunity to showcase some of our local startups to the rest of the world.

The Final presentations for Seattle Angel Conference on May 13th  will be a virtual event on Zoom.  Sign up for a ticket if you are wanting to see the Finalist Pitches and want to mingle with the investors and companies that participated in this round of Seattle Angel Conference.

Seattle Angel Conference is a six month program that runs twice a year, connecting early stage startups with new Angel Investors that culminates in a $200,000 investment in one of the companies. Through this process, we have engaged more than 1400 companies and created more than 400 new Angel Investors in the Seattle Area.

Seattle Angel Conference Investment Winner 19

On April 12, Abterra Bio (formally Digital Proteomics) WON the $200,000 investment offered by Seattle Angel Conference (SAC) round 19.

Natalie Castellana, CEO of Abterra Bio, says of winning the SAC 19 investment:

"Abterra Bio is thrilled to have won the SAC XIX Angel Conference. We're eager to put the investment to work building better antibody therapeutics for cancer patients.  The SAC process, and the invaluable input from our due diligence team, has made us a stronger company.  They helped us identify areas of improvement across the board from finances to branding to fundraising strategy."

Mindy Barker, the lead of the due diligence team for Abterra Bio, says:

“I enjoyed serving as the lead of the Abterra Bio due diligence team.  Natalie was incredibly responsive and explained a very complex and unique technology and simplified the ability to conclude the company was investable.  Abterra is not only an attractive financial investment but will make a difference in health outcomes as better therapeutic antibodies are identified.”

Kate Fuller Ghaffari is the fund manager for SAC 19 and Abterra Bio. She says about her experience:

“Participating in the Seattle Angel Conference (SAC) has been instrumental in my experience as both an angel investor and emerging fund manager.

“It’s been wonderful to meet founders and investors from all across the continent and to be actively involved in a community that values mentorship, education and growth for all parties involved.  The support and resources that SAC provides to founders and investors are truly unparalleled.

“If you’re interested in getting involved, I highly recommend attending a SAC workshop which are open to the public and offered all throughout the year.”

The Seattle Angel Conference 19 final event started with an overview of startup numbers presented by the Queen of Data, Elaine Werfelli. SAC has worked hard to increase the number of women and people of color as both their investors and founders. We are pleased to announce that this round we managed to get 50% female investors. This is a higher percentage than any other angel group in the Northwest.

We are particularly grateful to Kate Fuller Ghaffari for stepping up to be the SAC 19 fund manager. It is a lot of work and she was always there supporting us all.

The SAC 19 process started in January of this year with over 80 companies applying for the round. On 4/6, the final 6 companies were chosen for the intensive 5 weeks of due diligence. This process was completed on 5/12 when each of the final 6 companies made a final presentation with some final questions asked by the due diligence team leaders.

This round of SAC has seen exceptionally good companies. All 6 of the finalists were considered investable by their due diligence teams at the end of the 5 weeks of analysis. Each of the steps was a difficult choice: going from the original companies, to the 12 quarterfinalists, to the 6 finalists, and to the 1 winner. It was an honor to be able to work with such excellent companies.

As usual with a SAC round, many of the investors are getting together to invest in “sidecar” funds for some of the other companies that participated in SAC 19.

The goal of the Seattle Angel Conference process is always that everyone is a winner. Even if a company doesn’t “win” the final investment, they might get outside investment. Every company that participates in a SAC round gets feedback on how they can do better and move their company forward.

For the investors, there are multiple wins of the Seattle Angel Conference. Of course, they have the opportunity to see a lot of quality, interesting companies. They also learn how to analyze a company to look for possible risks and opportunities. Last but not least, they have the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting new people -- both investors and founders!

Workshops for SAC 20 have already started on Thursdays at noon and Tuesday evenings. We would love to have you join us. The schedule is HERE:

https://www.meetup.com/Seattle-Angel/events/

Follow us:

@nwangelconf

@Seattle_Angel

When Angela Robert’s company won SAC XIV in 2018, she could never have envisioned that just one year later, the world would come to a halt and nurses would take center stage in the fight against a global pandemic. Her company Conquer Experience uses virtual reality to bridge the training gap between classrooms and the operating room. The former gaming programmer turned entrepreneur talked with SAC investor Julie Schlosser about her SAC experience and where’s she’s taking her company in this new normal.

You have to show up, pay attention, and participate.  Jim Benson from Modus Institute has valuable tips for getting the most from your virtual experience.

Q: To start, could you please shortly introduce yourself?

A: I just joined the Galvanize team as member success manager. My role as such is to make sure that startups here have access to the right resources to grow. What that means is that I try to ensure that Galvanizes’ mentorship programs and events are tailored to the problems that founders face daily. Before Galvanize, I spent the last two years creating and running an innovation hub/early stage incubator, called 42 Accelerate, within the nonprofit coding school 42 Silicon Valley. 42 Accelerate was all about helping founders go from Ideation to MVP. Before that, I had a startup called Zimetry.

Q: You just moved from Silicon Valley to Seattle. Could you talk some about how the startup ecosystems are different?

A: For once, startups at both places have very different goals. In Silicon Valley, for a long time, the philosophy has been to use massive amounts of money early on without any potential of profitability for 8-10 years. The goal was to first get as many active users as possible, and then to figure out how to monetize the business. This approach seems outdated though, and I think Seattle is ahead when it comes to teaching the new startup philosophy – the “Lean Startup”-approach. According to “Lean Startup,” the goal of monetization should be a high priority very early on. Silicon Valley, on the other hand, is very strong in understanding the value of customer feedback. Most founders there embrace talking to customers at every step along the way. Other than that, the kinds of startups in the two ecosystems are very different. In Seattle there are much more B2B startups while Silicon Valley is very consumer-focused.

Q: Could you talk some about the value Galvanize provides to its member founders?

A: Most coworking spaces have some sort of focus, and ours is on startups. What makes us unique, I think, is the customization of our programming and our efforts to understand the founder’s needs. My position, “member success,” for example, is not a position that exists in other coworking spaces. Other benefits are: We regularly host community events here, like the Open Coffee that takes place every Tuesday morning. We organize internal events for our members that are tailored to the problems founders currently face. We have about 30 mentors on campus. We have partners who are willing to offer free legal advice, marketing advice, etc. We can introduce our members to people in our network, like product managers or senior engineers for example.

Q: You mentioned before that part of your role with Galvanize is to understand what problems entrepreneurs are facing. Could you talk some about what you have discovered so far?

A: The two things founders who I have talked to struggled with the most were hiring and sales. For tech companies, hiring is naturally one of the biggest challenges. Here at Galvanize, many companies are in their series A range and are hiring for the first time. People say that the first 20 employees a founder hires determine the success of his company. This explains why hiring is such an important topic among founders here. Another aspect many founders struggle with is sales. Often, technical founders have not found themselves in a sales role before, but they might not yet be in the position to hire someone else. For this reason, many of our members are in the challenging position that they must learn how to pitch their company and sell products. Talking about problems founders face, investor access was not mentioned as often as hiring and sales, but some founders still brought this up as well. Seattle is strong in angel and series A investing, but when it comes to series B, there seems to be a gap in funding. My advice for startups regarding this is to start networking and practicing early on, 6 months before even looking for an investment in example. During this time, a startup can learn from feedback and build relationships with investors. Some additional aspects that weren’t brought up by founders but that I observe as issues are: As mentioned earlier, I think most founders in Seattle do not fully use the potential of customer feedback. Also, cofounder problems are frequently the reason why a company doesn’t work out. To avoid cofounder problems, a founding team should take the time to get to know each other very well; they should take time to discuss their goals and expectations, and they should possess complementary skills.

Q: Did startups bring up problems in their relationship to angel investors at all?

A: In Seattle I have not heard such complaints yet. I think though that founders should search for angels who try to help with their expertise and network in addition to the investment. At the same time, you want the investor to not control the execution to the point where it slows down decision-making. I think communication is important in the relationship between founder and investor and the terms of the investment should be clear to both sides from the beginning. I recommend founders to screen investors just as much as investors screen startups before committing to the relationship.

Q: What is your conclusion from all that you have experienced about the startup ecosystem in Seattle so far?

A: I think that Seattle is in a great position going forward. Like I said, I think it is good that many preach the “Lean Startup” methodology here. Especially the talent this area has in cloud services will provide many opportunities going forward. I also have been surprised by how connected the startup community is here in Seattle. Here are some things I learned from this interview: Many founders struggle with hiring and sales, but also investor access and cofounder problems are relevant issues. Seattle’s founders could embrace customer feedback more. Founders should interact with investors much earlier than when looking for funding. In the interview Josh mentioned some resources and organizations he finds helpful, find out more about them here

Galvanize: https://www.galvanize.com/campuses/seattle42

Silicon Valley: https://www.42.us.org/

Zimetry: https://www.linkedin.com/company/zimetry/about/

Open Coffee: https://www.meetup.com/de-DE/Seattle-Startups-Open-Coffee/members/5089344/?op=&memberId=5089344

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