You have 15 minutes to earn $500,000. Go.

If you had to tell the story of your company and why it’s worth investing in — in 15 minutes with 12 clear, concise slides — what would that story be? That’s the question put before many entrepreneurs today, in part because angel Investing has exploded over the past decade. Once an investment strategy deployed only by the very wealthy, it’s now trickled down into mainstream America — and into Montana.

In essence, angel investors provide capital to entrepreneurs, startups and stage-two companies in return for equity. Most are looking for a financial return, of course, but they also enjoy using their funds to help make people’s dreams a reality; to promote their own areas of interest, such as sustainability; and to stay connected to the business world.

If you ask an angel investor why she does it, she’s likely to talk about the thrill of the startup and the promise of a great idea, before she ever mentions ROI. That’s why you’ll often find that angel investors pool their resources in networks focused on certain industries, ideals or geography.

This past year, Missoula Economic Partnership helped to identify investors and create MEP Angel Network. While network investors make individual decisions about what they invest in, they gather collectively to hear pitches and may also collectively conduct due diligence on opportunities.

MEP Angel Network works like many community investor programs. Investors specifically focus on entrepreneurs, startups and early stage companies. They aim to provide funding in the range of $250,000 to $750,000. They schedule pitch sessions up to four times, annually. And their mission is driven by a desire to help create a robust economy for the community in which they live and work.

Therein lies the true value to Missoula. Capital invested in promising local startups keeps them here by funding further research and development, opening up new markets for products and ensuring steady growth. The result is new jobs and the potential that the company may one day be a significant contributor to our economy, perhaps even among the largest employers in the state.

The opposite is also true. Over the years, not having a local angel network has cost Missoula both companies and jobs, because startups go where the money is. It’s a bittersweet proposition for entrepreneurs. An investor funds them to the tune of a million dollars, but they have to leave Missoula to get the capital.

That’s a loss we can no longer afford as a community, and one we believe the MEP Angel Network can help prevent in the future.

MEP Angel Network’s first pitch session was held April 3, when more than 20 investors and invited guests heard 25-minute presentations, including Q & A, from four companies. Each of these companies was vetted on paper, first by the Missoula Economic Partnership and then by the network’s Entrepreneur Committee, which consists of business people with financial operations, venture capital, equity and entrepreneurial backgrounds.

Following each presentation, investors can indicate their interest in progressing to the next phase with a company. That indication doesn’t bind investors, but it does launch a due diligence process and may lead to a negotiation.

The next pitch session is slated for 2013. So, dust off your presentation skills, winnow down that PowerPoint and get ready to sell the promise of your ideas, your company and yourself. You’ve got 15 minutes to land a million dollars. GO.

By James Grunke, Missoula Economic Partnership


Do you have a company ready to make a pitch for investor funding? See our MEP Angel Network program information and then download the application kit. We also encourage you to contact Brigitta Miranda-Freer at 406.541.6461.

Missoula Economic Partnership | 500 N. Higgins Ave. | Suite 300 | Missoula, Montana 59802 | P: 406.541.6461 | F: 406.541.6464