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WRAY: Wooing investors with big local ideas

  • Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News Bea Wray, Executive Director, works in the Creative Coast office on York Street.

As children gear up for school this fall, The Creative Coast is bustling with activity, too. This is the season for attracting investors to local entrepreneurs and startups. It takes four events, many collaborating organizations and an army of dedicated volunteers to successfully pull it off.

First, one of my favorite events is StartupLounge, which takes place Oct. 1. This is an invitation-only event that consists of an intimate conversation between real investors and real startups and entrepreneurs. This is not a crowded networking event of job seekers and service providers but a select group of 70 or so pre-qualified entrepreneurs and investors.

Participating entrepreneurs have worked hard to develop their ideas and business plans and are ready to talk confidently with approved angel investors. These investors are often people whose day jobs are law, medicine, business and even retired professionals from these fields.

They are passionate about building jobs in our region, and they know that the innovative economy is one of the best ways to make that happen, so they put their money where their mouths are and stand ready to write checks for a piece of the most enticing entrepreneurial pie. These checks can range from $10,000 to $50,000 in equity investments.

We expect to receive more than 50 applications from entrepreneurs throughout the region for this year’s StartupLounge. We generally select 24 participants who will each have a chance to mingle with investors in a casual, relaxed environment and showcase their product or service on a tabletop display.

Here’s where we created the second event. Out of the 24 participating entrepreneurs from StartupLounge, we will select 10 stellar investment opportunities and give each a chance to present to a handpicked group of professional investors from Atlanta, Charleston, Greenville and beyond on Friday, Oct. 2.

Unlike StartupLounge, where we maintain a low pressure environment, this event involves presentations more the reality show “Shark Tank.” The entrepreneurs have less than five minutes to capture investor interest and make their mark by sharing essential details about market size, innovative solutions, their team, investment need and exit strategy.

Running simultaneously to both of the above events is what we call “investor weekend.”

Through the generosity and collaboration of TAG (Technology Association of Georgia), SEDA (Savannah Economic Development Authority), ATDC (Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center) and SCAD, we bring 10 experienced and committed investors to Savannah for two days, and they are exposed to local entrepreneurs as well as the local community.

In addition to mingling with entrepreneurs at Startup Lounge and listening to selected investor pitches the following day, we also take these investors on tours of SCAD and the Georgia Ports Authority. The more these investors know about our community, the more likely they are to make investments here.

Being exposed to this caliber of investor is a great experience for budding entrepreneurs and an incredible door opener for Savannah. Collectively, this group has invested in more than 300 companies and seen more than 100 successful exits: That means they made money on their investment.

A side benefit of the lounge is the chance for local angel investors to invest alongside these professionals.

As a lead-up to Startup Lounge, ATDC — along with Ariel Southeast Angel Partners — conducts a three-part investor readiness class throughout September for all entrepreneurs. While the classes are open to the public, they are required for the top 10 entrepreneurs we select to present to the investor panel.

Here’s the fourth event in our investor attraction season.

As a bonus for the participating entrepreneurs, five of the top 10 finalists will be selected to present at Geekend’s Pitch Circus on Oct. 15. John Burke, True Ventures investment group founder, will serve as ringmaster for this year’s Pitch Circus, which is exciting news.

As one of the highest profile investor groups in the tech industry, True Ventures has made more than 175 seed investments in startup companies, including FitBit and MakerBot.

Let the investor season begin. Entrepreneurs are busy people, so we coordinate all of the above for them in an efficient and streamlined manner. Only one application is needed for all three entrepreneur opportunities, and The Creative Coast will make the rest happen like clockwork.

Download your application from The Creative Coast website at www.thecreativecoast.org. Investors interested in participating can contact me direct by email at bea.wray@thecreativecoast.org.

 

Bea Wray is the executive director of The Creative Coast, a not-for-profit organization that promotes the creative and entrepreneurial community within the region. Bea can be reached at 912-447-8457 or bea@thecreativecoast.org

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