BY TERRY "STARBUCKER" ST. MARIE | GUEST BLOGGER
About 3 ½ years ago, not long after I moved to Portland, I attended a resident reception at my downtown apartment building. The Cable TV company I worked for back east had just been sold, and at the time I was actively networking for consulting opportunities, having decided against jumping back into the corporate world.
There I met Nick, who was doing something called “angel investing”—that is, investing his own money into early-stage startups. I really didn’t know that much about angel investing, but I did know a lot about the entrepreneurial spirit, having worked with two very successful cable TV pioneers, Jack Kent Cooke and Bill Bresnan.
Nick spoke enthusiastically about the different startups he was working with, and investing in, through a fund called the Oregon Angel Fund (OAF). Interestingly, one of the last things on his list of “why” was the chance for the big score.
Two months later I became an angel investor myself, and today, I can assuredly tell you that it has been one of the most awesome experiences of my life. Yes, there’s the thrill aspect of hitting it big, but as is the case with Nick, that’s not what drives me. I’m far more motivated by the chance to:
1. Broaden my horizons. I’ve been exposed to multiple industries and multiple talents that have taken my brain on a fantastic learning journey.
2. Make new friends and connections. I’ve formed lasting friendships with many of my fellow investors that has made the experience rewarding and fun, regardless of the results of the investments we’ve made together. I’ve also built relationships with some amazing, dedicated entrepreneurs who inspire me daily.
3. Make a positive economic impact. We’re making a difference in the Oregon economy. As an example, alumni of the Oregon Entrepreneur Network’s Angel Oregon Program, the first of many similar programs across the state, have created over 700 full-time jobs and brought in $105.8M in revenue since 2005. We’re not only putting money to work and creating new jobs, but also lifting the entrepreneurial hopes and spirits of our greater business community.
It’s likely to be a bit intimidating at first. Start with smaller funds and minimum investments if you can, and learn from more experienced investors, like I did with Nick. The Oregon Entrepreneurs Network (OEN) is hosting an Angel Oregon Fall Investment Term, which I participated in last year, designed to help beginners learn from experienced investors (you can learn more and sign up for an info session here).
That’s the great thing about Oregon – it’s a state where the word "collaboration" truly takes on a more tangible, and deeper meaning. If you are similarly blessed with the means to become an angel investor, and want to be part of a growing group of Oregonians who are supporting entrepreneurial dreams, giving back, learning, and having an awful lot of fun in the process, I’d strongly urge you to join us.
Terry “Starbucker St. Marie is a writer, consultant, and startup investor living in Portland, Oregon. He is the President of the Portland chapter of the Social Media Club, an investor in the Oregon Angel Fund and Angel Oregon, and is on the board of the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network.