MN Angel Network Forms New Alliances to Help Entrepreneurs

Through the new partnerships, the network will soon offer courses that help entrepreneurs develop solid business plans and introduce a new pool of C-level software and IT veterans to those enrolled in its certification program.

The Minnesota Angel Network said Monday that it has formed two new alliances geared toward helping the state’s entrepreneurs and start-ups.
The network—an initiative led by the BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota that aims to accelerate the growth of emerging, technology-based companies—recently signed agreements with Kauffman FastTrac, a spinoff of the Kansas City, Missouri-based Kauffman Foundation, and the Minnesota Emerging Software Advisory, a nonprofit mentoring organization composed of C-level software and IT veterans.
FastTrac courses are designed to help entrepreneurs develop solid business plans. FastTrac TechVenture, the first course that the Minnesota Angel Network will offer, is specifically for entrepreneurs starting technology-based businesses. It focuses on protecting intellectual property, recruiting a management team, and preparing to approach investors.
“This builds on what we already do for Minnesota’s entrepreneurs, and it means we can support them even before they’re ready for our certification program or for fundraising,” says Todd Leonard, executive director of the Minnesota Angel Network.
The organization’s certification program, designed for those seeking to raise between $50,000 and $4.5 million in angel investment, aims to prepare entrepreneurs for successful fundraising and the rigors of investors’ due diligence. Companies that meet specific qualifications can apply for the program, and those accepted meet with an advisory team that closely analyzes their investor presentation, business plan, and other key documents.
After receiving certification, the network’s leaders introduce participants to investors throughout the state and the country. The Minnesota Angel Network has certified 17 companies since it was launched in August 2011, and nine of those have since gained investor commitments. 
Meanwhile, 46 percent of FastTrac participants have gone on to successfully launch businesses, Kauffman FastTrac CEO Alana Muller said in a statement. According to the FastTrac website, the program has served more than 300,000 entrepreneurs since 1993.
The Minnesota Angel Network will begin offering the FastTrac TechVenture program by the end of this year, and the first courses will be held in the Twin Cities. Early next year, the program will be available throughout Minnesota, starting with the network’s regional hubs: Fergus Falls, Hutchinson, Owatonna, and Willmar.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Emerging Software Advisory, through its partnership with the Minnesota Angel Network, will offer up mentors to work with software company CEOs enrolled in the network’s certification program and provide them with longer-term one-on-one mentoring. Minnesota Emerging Software Advisory comprises some well-known individuals—including former Lawson Software CEO Jay Coughlan. 
“Our members have a depth of entrepreneurial and corporate experience in the software space that’s unmatched in the region,” says Minnesota Emerging Software Advisory cofounder Jerry Grabowski, one of the group’s 11 members. “Because of that, we fill a need for [the Minnesota Angel Network], but we also bring more to the equation. We work with software companies not only in their early-stage growth and fundraising but at any stage of growth, and we set up a longer-term mentoring relationship of 12 to 24 months.”
The two organizations will jointly host events for software entrepreneurs and investors. The first such event was by invitation only and occurred September 27.
Late last month, Anser Innovation, LLC—a Minnesota Angel Network-certified company whose device lets people interact with their pets remotely—closed on a $1 million fundraising round, making it the third network-certified company to close on funding since May. Backing from angel investors will allow the Burnsville-based company to complete its product development phase in preparation for launch during the first quarter of 2013. (To read more about what's on the horizon for Anser, click here.)