A collaboration between three Ontario angel networks will create more funding opportunities for entrepreneurs seeking start-up investment or early-stage capitalization, according to board chairman Carmen Gicante of the Windsor Essex Capital Angel Network.
The recently-announced initiative will see the Southwestern Ontario Angel Network, which includes WECAN and London, join funding forces with similar organizations in Kitchener-Waterloo and Oakville-Burlington bringing together angel investors with more resources and experience in helping entrepreneurs turn their dreams into reality.
Dubbed Equation Angels, the partnership is expected to create more avenues for investment.
“The current COVID-19 situation has created delays in business-case development,” explains Gicante. “July and August are traditionally slow months anyway but funding for new start-ups has essentially dried up and we are hopeful this new initiative will be of benefit to entrepreneurs seeking investment.”
And while there will be more competition for investment throughout Southwestern Ontario, there will also be as many as 200 potential investors in the funding pipeline, added Gicante.
Loosening the purse strings
Jim Marsh, dean of the Zekelman School of Business and Information Technology at St. Clair College and a WECAN board member, said that finding like-minded investors has been a challenge for many start-ups but the new initiative should help loosen the purse strings.
“In addition to making more investment funding available, it will also help expose Windsor-area start-ups to a great range of investment opportunities across Southwestern Ontario,” he said.
Given the current world-wide health-care needs, ideas and proposals involving medical supplies and systems are currently ‘hot’ explained Marsh but he added they come with their own issues.
“Proofing and testing is more onerous because of what these products could potentially be used for which creates a need for long-term investment,” said Marsh. “Testing and getting these products to market can be difficult but the potential payoff can be quite good.”
Marsh added that often new companies are seeking additional funding to help them with marketing efforts so they have a better chance of penetrating a very competitive marketplace.
Mentorship, networking and advice are also a large part of the ecosystem, said Marsh.
“It’s not just about providing the funding, it’s also about providing help as a sounding board,” he explained.
‘Game-changer’ for local entrepreneurs
Deborah Livneh, an instructor at the University of Windsor’s Odette School of Business and entrepreneur-in-residence with WEtech Alliance, believes the new collaboration can be a game-changer for area entrepreneurs looking to kick-start their dreams.
“It’s a very important piece of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and bringing it all together under one umbrella is a very positive development,” she said. “It will provide local entrepreneurs exposure to investors across most of Ontario along with high-quality funding opportunities.”
Livneh said it’s not unusual to have as many as 70 investors on a remote meeting call and those opportunities are crucial to the success of small businesses looking to access start-up funding.
Eventually, investors and entrepreneurs will be able to meet face-to-face once again which remains preferable to conference calls through one of the many meeting apps such as Zoom.
“These are serious investors and it’s taken this process to a completely new level.”
“It’s a competitive process and the ones we see are the best of the best,” explained Livneh. “You only have a few minutes to make your pitch and then the investors take time to look at the deal in details and do their due diligence. These are serious investors and it’s taken this process to a completely new level.”
Marsh said that regular meetings were expected to resume in September and that entrepreneurs interested in accessing the potential funding pipeline can find application forms and information on the WECAN website.
Typically, WECAN investors meet monthly to listen to proposals from entrepreneurs seeking investment with decisions relating to such funding being made after a lengthy vetting and due diligence process.
Interested investors, please contact Deborah Livneh Eng. MBA
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