Say “hiya” to the Keiretsu Forum

keiretsulogo.gifI had lunch recently with Steve Murchie who is the President of the newly formed Denver chapter of a national angel network called the Keiretsu Forum. There are 9 chapters in the US, whose members have invested more than $70M in a diverse set of real estate, technology, life sciences, and software companies to date. One advantage of a network like this is the ability to syndicate deals between chapters.

“Given that we’re a large and diverse organization, I can’t say that there’s any particular industry or type of deal we prefer. But if I look at our portfolio, I would say that we lean toward serial entrepreneurs and management teams with depth and experience, and a business model that is straightforward. So I haven’t seen many bets on technologies that don’t have a demonstrable path to monetization. We will step forward and help teams fill gaps through hands-on help, contacts and connections, though; we consider that an important value-add.” – Steve Murchie – Denver Chapter President

The first meeting of the Denver chapter of investors is March 27th. If you’d like to present your company, check out the application process or contact Steve Murchie directly. I believe there is no cost to go through the application process but once a company is selected to pitch at a meeting they are required to pay a fee.

I always grimace when I see organizations charging entrepreneurs to pitch to investors, but it seems that most of the angel networks including CTEK still do this to cover their costs. In my mind this cost should somehow be borne by the investors, who are the recipients of the (theoretically valuable) dealflow. If they don’t find value in the dealflow, then something is wrong and the fallback seems to be to charge the entrepreneur. To be fair, Keiretsu and CTEK both have “membership fees” paid by their angel investors that help to defray these costs, but I guess these fees are not enough on their own to cover operations, and thus the “success fees” are an unfortunate fact of life. The solution, obviously, is to charge a higher membership fee and provide enough value to make it worth the money to the investors. It’s just easier to charge the entrepreneurs and it can be intelligently argued that they receive value from the process. That doesn’t mean I have to like it though. As an investor, I prefer to think of much of what I do as giving back and helping my community. I’m willing to bear the actual costs associated with my dealflow (which, by the way, are very close to zero).

One thing that Steve told me about is how Keiretsu seeks to involve VCs in their process and meetings, providing a few complimentary memberships for this purpose. They’re not necessarily there as investors but as coaches to the angels and presenting companies. I think this is a very smart move. More than a few companies have been jacked up by inexperienced angel investors who overvalue the company early on or who don’t set things up correctly when venture investment is a future possibility. Involving a few professional VCs is synergistic for a variety of reasons.

Steve says that the March 27 meeting is close to capacity already, with about 70 investors attending. If you’d like to attend as an investor, contact Steve quickly.

From the sound of things Keiretsu is off to a good start so far in Denver, and it’s nice to know there is another seed stage funding source for the area with the ability to quickly syndicate our best opportunities.

file under: Blog, Startups