Network to connect investors, start-ups

  • Article by: WENDY LEE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 21, 2011 - 10:20 PM

A secure Web portal will link Minnesota entrepreneurs and emerging projects with angel investors.

Entrepreneurs looking for ways to finance their ideas will have a new resource to tap later this year.

The Minnesota Angel Network, hosted by the BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota, will launch a secure Web portal that links Minnesota start-ups and projects with angel investors. The organization says it will provide mentors to participating businesses to help prepare them for fundraising and discussions with investors.

Todd Leonard, the network's executive director, said the goals are to increase the number of companies funded and the amount of angel investment in the state. The network is expected to be fully operational by midyear.

"We're trying to create a culture change," Leonard said.

The network said it will not be investing in companies directly. Investments would come from the network's angel investors, generally wealthy individuals, and could be up to $4.5 million. The network will be open to all types of start-ups.

Brad Lehrman, co-founder of innovation advocacy group Mojo Minnesota, called the network a "wonderful idea." He said it can be challenging for entrepreneurs to figure out the fundraising process.

"You can't look up angel investors in the Yellow Pages," said Lehrman, who is also a partner at law firm Lommen Abdo. "It's difficult to find that network. This will provide a tool to make it easier to access that kind of information."

One aim of the network is to help maximize the use of the state's angel tax credit, which gives angel investors tax benefits for investing in Minnesota start-ups and emerging companies.

The network is currently fundraising and is committed to not directly taking state money to fund its operations, Leonard said. How it will be financed, whether through sponsorships or charging members a fee, is still to be determined, he said.

Leonard is a board member at clean energy company International Green Power and the sole partner at consulting practice GreenStrong. He has also been in leadership roles at medical device companies, serving as president of Eden Prairie-based ProUroCare Medical Inc.

Wendy Lee • 612-673-1712

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