Highlights from the 2014 ACA Summit

By: Marianne Hudson, ACA Executive Director

We had a great gathering of angel investors last week at the ACA Summit. The event in Washington, DC attracted more than 600 people, from 30 countries and 44 American states. Thank you to the Summit planning committee for putting together a terrific agenda and speakers, and also to our partners and sponsors, which added value and expertise to the event.  Everyone will have different highlights for the Summit, but here are mine:

  • Great networking events. Thursday evening’s ACA reception was at 1776 DC accelerator, with great food (from an entrepreneurial food incubator!) and opportunities to meet some of 1776’s entrepreneurs. I loved the reception for women investors at Foley Hoag law firm, as we saw a huge increase in the proportion of women at the Summit! The Canadian Embassy also hosted a great dinner for international guests, which also included a tour of Washington monuments.
  • Keynote presentation by Michael Chasen, co-founder of Blackboard, Inc and now CEO of SocialRadar. How many people can talk about leading a company from two people in a brownstone to 3,000 employees in a publicly traded company? His “5 Pieces of Unconventional Wisdom I Learned Building a $2B Company” had great insights and was hilarious.  
  • Keynote by Keith Higgins of the SEC. His speech included a reminder that the SEC planned for verification of accredited investor status in generally solicited deals to be done mostly by the “principles based methodology” rather than the four safe harbors that have attracted most attention. Speaking for himself, he noted that “a person’s investment in previous Rule 506 offerings or membership in an established angel group … would be reasonable for an issuer to verify the person’s accredited investor status.” Check out page three of his speech – and show it to your legal counsel!
  • Rob Wiltbank of the Angel Resource Institute released the 2013 Halo Report, focusing on trends in angel group investment. The report noted that angel investment activity on the rise with more high-valuation deals closed in 2013 than in 2012. While median round sizes held steady at $600K per deal, they were at a three year high when angels co-invested with non-angels. The share of angel investment in Internet, healthcare and mobile startups continued to increase.
  • Support from Members of Congress. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut discussed his upcoming bills for a federal angel tax credit and to address angel concerns in general solicitation rules, while Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina talked about simplifying general solicitation rules to truly increase investment in startups. Special thanks to former Sen. Don Riegle of APCO Worldwide for providing ideas on how angels can best connect with their Congressmen.
  • Focus on New Topics. As early-stage investing evolves, we become interested in new topics. Some of these – which have traction for the future – included Impact Investing, Investing in the Next Google – at Your Local University, Investing in Cyber Security Companies, Crowdfunding, and Creatively Finding Liquidity within a Startup Portfolio.

I had a great time, learned a lot, and wish I got to meet many more people (since I was often working behind the scenes).

If you were at the Summit, what were your highlights?