Highlights and Member Insights from the 2017 ACA Summit in San Francisco

By Graeme Thickins, ACA PR Team

More than 650 angel investors came together for a very full three days of learning and networking at the 2017 ACA Summit in San Francisco April 26-28. Attendees represented 42 American states, 5 Canadian provinces, 18 countries, and more than 36% were women – a new record for the annual ACA event. It would take a book to fully recap the entire event, but here are some notes and quotes that will give you a taste of what transpired.

Summit Insights from Steve Baggott and Tony Shipley, Queen City Angels

These two angels put together some great notes to share with their colleagues.  Now you can see some the biggest points they took home too.

Angel Investing Learnings:

  • In the “Structured Exits” panel, we learned about additional ways to structure deals to reduce risk.
  • There are opportunities for portfolio companies to secure important funding via NIH, NSF, and other grants.
  • Continued evidence that diversity and inclusion in startups supports greater success.
  • Interest is growing in impact investing.
  • Desire for angel-only investment rounds pre-exit.

Macro Trends/Industry Insights:

  • The intersection of handheld devices, Internet of Things, big data, sharing economy, and breakthroughs in energy will drive unprecedented innovation and disruption.
  • World’s largest companies (Google, Amazon, Apple) are “taking over your home.”
  • Daimler will introduce a self-driving sedan in 2018.
  • Legacy auto companies are facing “near death experiences” and need to reinvent themselves
  • Sharing economy: millennials will choose not to own those assets they do not need to own. 

  • Blockchain is continuing to grow in importance.

  • A complete rethinking of education is needed in the U.S. 

Three Most Important Responsibilities of the Board:

  • Keep steering the company toward exit.

  • Ensure you can fire the CEO.

  • Never run out of cash.

Membership Practices:

  • Extend membership to adult children of members at reduced dues. (Need to work though accredited investor question.)
  • Ensure there is an “Angel 101” course for all new members. Mandatory before they can make their first investment.
  • Monthly “lunch and learn” on hot topics.

Screening/Due Diligence:

  • New concept for assessing founder/entrepreneur: “Distance traveled.” How many adversities/ obstacles has entrepreneur previously overcome, such as:
    • Economically disadvantaged
    • First to attend college
    • Job at young age
    • Social/cultural/language barriers

Angel Group Practices:

  • Portfolio company support ideas:
    • A LinkedIn Group as a forum for portfolio CEOs.
    • A CEOs-only lunch quarterly.
  • Portfolio management ideas:
    • Conduct review of portfolio companies, identify top 20%, and ensure disproportionate support for these potential stars.
    • Annual summit for all portfolio companies, in which they provide brief (5-10 minute) update, followed by social event. 
    • Courtesy of our angel friends “down under”: semiannual bus tour visit of five portfolio companies. Each company prepares a cocktail representing their company and provides a brief update on progress/challenges. Each visit is about 30 minutes, followed by a group dinner. They call it “the angel portfolio pub crawl.”

Watch for the Upcoming “American Angel” Report

ACA’s Marianne Hudson gave a brief look at a report due out this summer on the demographics and investment activity of U.S. angels. It’s being produced by ACA in partnership with Wharton Entrepreneurship. Based on responses from 1659 angels (21% women, with a range of experiences from new to those investing since the 1970s), median portfolio was seven investments (although with incredible portfolio growth as angels invested longer and longer, and the median check size was $25K. The report will be repeated in future years. Look for much more in the full 2017 report this summer. More information at this website.

News Announced During the 2017 ACA Summit:

For another look at the Summit, here’s the link to all the Twitter posts that contained the event hashtag: #ACAAngelSummit. (Tweets appear in reverse chronological order.) It was an active Twitter stream throughout the event and in the days following -- hundreds of posts from attendees with their comments and photos!

That’s Part 1 of our 2017 ACA Summit recap. Part 2 is in a separate blog post. Even more insights there!