Strategies for Attracting the Best Deals and Exits – Build a Strong Reputation in Your Community

By: Marianne Hudson, ACA Executive Director

Every day, ACA members ask us for ideas on how they can improve everything from deal flow to impact to liquidity.  Other members have fantastic ideas and experience in solving those same issues.

So let’s say you are part of an angel group that has lost some of its mojo and you’re losing out on the very best entrepreneurs because of newer players in your startup ecosystem.  These investors have innovative ways to fund companies and have deep connections into the leading entrepreneurs, innovators and follow-on investors.  What do you need to do to be innovative and not only bring a fresh take to your entrepreneurial community, but also regularly help great startups grow with these investors?

Two ACA member angel groups have tackled this issue head-on and others can learn a lot from them.  The Queen City Angels in Cincinnati will lead a session at the ACA Summit in San Francisco on how it got clear on its strengths, weaknesses and opportunities, then developed and implemented fresh strategies for diversity, speed, brand image, and approachability to drive its future growth.  Angels who attend this session will get actionable tools that lead to great deals, new members and much more.

Another member group, the Hyde Park Angels in Chicago, has also been through a journey that has doubled its investing and updated its image as one that can add considerable value to top startups.  Take the following excerpt from a Chicago Tribune story:

Hyde Park Angels is one of Chicago’s best-known investment groups, but recent changes to its strategy have it making more deals than ever as it enters its 10th year.

It’s gone from a group where inexperienced investors went to try out angel investing to one where seasoned investors turn for good deals, said Maura O’Hara, executive director of the Illinois Venture Capital Association.

The group, which grew out of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business in 2007, was always well-regarded, O’Hara said.  But in recent years it has invested more in content and events, in organizing its roster of investors – many of whom are entrepreneurs or executives – into subject matter categories, and in recruiting investors with deeper pockets.

Those changes are attracting portfolio companies despite an increasingly competitive early stage funding market in Chicago, O’Hara said.

“If you’ve got a great business and you’re looking for a VC, you want the money, but you also want the Rolodex that comes with the money,” she said, noting that many leading venture capital firms offer advisers and connections.  ‘Now all of a sudden you’ve got Hyde Park Angels … where they’ve got 100 people with 100 Rolodexes.”

Hyde Park Angels has invested $8.2 million in 29 deals this year, up from $4.1 million in 20 deals in 2015, said Alida Miranda-Wolff, who runs the group’s strategy and communications.  She sad a new focus on branding and bringing more entrepreneurs into its investor network has improved the group’s deal flow.

Who doesn’t want a result like that? 

Hyde Park Angels went to these strategies after talking with entrepreneurs and others in the ecosystem to better understand how they were viewed.  That’s not always easy, but they took the steps that made a difference.

One of the strategies that appears to be working is creating content and education for entrepreneurs.  They are a go-to source for the very entrepreneurs they want to work with.  Miranda-Wolff has led the creation of a series of articles, podcasts and other education with the practical information entrepreneurs need to know to attract capital, grow their businesses, and have successful exits.  Check out their active educational blog for entrepreneurs.  There are some great articles there – and it could give you some ideas of how to share your own knowledge and build your relevancy in your own ecosystem.