Minnesota Angel Network Links Investors, Start-Ups

A new initiative hosted by the BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota will provide a statewide Web-based portal designed to connect the state's start-ups with investors.

Start-ups from across Minnesota will soon have a new resource for connecting with angel investors and potentially securing financing.

The BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota announced Friday the launch of a new public-private partnership-called the Minnesota Angel Network (MNAN)-which provides a statewide Web-based portal for angel investors and emerging companies. It is supported by a consortium of investor networks, foundations, business leaders, and universities, and it's hosted by the BioBusiness Alliance.

Todd Leonard, who will work full-time as executive director of MNAN, said in a Thursday phone interview that he will tap the staffs of the BioBusiness Alliance and LifeScience Alley-which joined forces in October-but MNAN may add permanent employees in the future.

Jeremy Lenz, vice president of operations for the BioBusiness Alliance, told Twin Cities Business that his organization has received state funds to implement a road map for helping companies secure early-stage funding. MNAN is the result of two years of planning and effort from multiple state agencies, as well as local business leaders including Joy Lindsay, chairwoman of the Minnesota High Tech Association and president and cofounder of StarTec Investments, LLC.

BioBusiness Alliance CEO Dale Wahlstrom said in a statement that MNAN will be a “critical companion to boost development of start-up companies and to maximize the utilization of the new Minnesota angel investor tax credits on a statewide basis.”

The new credit, signed into law on April 1, gives a 25 percent tax break to individuals and investment funds that provide as much as $4 million in seed money to businesses focused on high technology or new proprietary technology.

A total of $11 million in tax credits was available in 2010, and the state will fund $12 million in credits annually between 2011 and 2014. Credits cannot exceed $125,000 per person per year.

MNAN is currently beta testing its Web site, which it expects to be fully operational by mid-2011.

According to Leonard, the site will allow companies to answer a series of questions, which will help create a summary of their business plan, in turn making it simple for investors to locate companies in which they are interested.

“We're not the group that will deliver a business plan,” Leonard said. “We're helping them prepare for the rigors” of interacting with sophisticated networks of investors.

He also said that questionnaires completed by the companies will help identify gaps in their business plans or needs that can be met by service providers such as marketers. This helps ensure that companies are ready to connect with potential funding sources, and “allows investors to mitigate some of their risk,” Leonard added.

The secure site will also allow investors to view company profiles anonymously prior to determining if they want to connect.