The Excellent Adventures of ACA Members in Innovation and Exits

By: Marianne Hudson, ACA Executive Director

Three ACA member organizations have really put on their hiking boots with excellent adventures and exits in late 2016.  On top of some really great investor returns, they also include a couple of important social returns that I really like.  Let me tell you about them:

New Model of Funding Innovation and “Deep Technology”

Swati Chaturvedi cares deeply about “deep technology.”  She wants more angels to invest in companies that solve “the problem of disease, of food, of climate change” and created two new models and ways for angels to support these deep science companies.  First she started the MIT Angels of Northern California with contacts from her colleagues from the MIT Sloan School of Management, with more than 300 investors.  Based on that success, Swati co-founded Propel(x) in 2015 – this platform helps angel investors source, evaluate and fund groundbreaking deep technology startups.  A unique feature of Propel(x) is its relationship with 300 independent and unpaid experts who help investors with due diligence.  The expert reviewers like having access to new breakthroughs and the model also seems to work well for the startups and investors – to date, Propel(x) angels have invested $7 million in more than 30 companies.

Flyover Country has some Great Entrepreneurs – 400% IRR for West Coast Investors

While in Oklahoma to keynote an event, Dave Berkus was asked to meet with five companies and knew he wanted to invest in one of them ten minutes into a meeting.  Dave, who leads the Tech Coast Angels’ ACE Fund II, was interested in WeGoLook, a platform that connects people with on-demand investigators in remote locations, such as property inspections and notary services.  WeGoLook has closed its round, but opened it up for the ACE Fund.  ACA member SeedStep Angels had invested earlier in the round.  The result was great for the investors:  TCA’s ACE Fund members got a 7.8x return on their $200,000 investment when the company was sold for $42.5 million two years later.  And Dave also noted the special attraction of deals like this: “WeGoLook’s platform struck me as being so different and on target,” he said.  “The attraction was obvious; undervalued and yet very attractive.  On the West Coast, this kind of deal would have been prevalued so much higher, and the exit would have taken so much longer.”

Great Exits Fuel Angels and Whole Startup Ecosystems

Our members in Oklahoma had an even bigger exit late last year:  Selexys Pharmaceuticals was acquired by Novartis in a deal that reportedly could total $665 million.  Woo-hoo to SeedStep Angels and the many other investors in the company!  Selexys is focused on another “deep technology,” a treatment for sickle-cell disease.  Scott Meacham, CEO of i2E (a non-profit corporation that mentors technology based-startups in Oklahoma), points out three important wins for the ecosystem to celebrate:  1) the exits of both Selexys and WeGoLook provide financial returns to Oklahoma investors and jobs to Oklahoma residents, 2) they “put Oklahoma solidly on the map as a state with exciting, investable startup deals,” and 3) they “validate the Oklahoma model of helping build and support startup businesses.”

Hooray to each of these efforts and investments.  Here’s to even more great news in 2017, and climbing higher and higher on our investment mountains.