Monday, January 29, 2007
Interview with Frank Peters, Chairman, Tech Coast Angels
The Tech Coast Angels (www.techcoastangels.com) is the largest angel investment group in Southern California, and the largest organized angel group nationwide. The group is known for providing mentoring, advice, and investing in up-and-coming local companies. The group recently appointed Frank Peters, an angel investor out of Orange County, as Chairman. Peters is also host of The Frank Peters Show (www.frankpetersshow.com), a popular podcast focused on angel and venture capital investing, entrepreneurship, and Southern California's technology sector. socalTECH's Ben Kuo spoke briefly with Peters to hear more about the group and a little bit about his podcasts.
Congrats on your new role as chairman of the Tech Coast Angels. For those out there not familiar with the TCA, can you tell us a little bit about the group?
Frank Peters: The TCA is the largest angel investment organization in the country now. We've invested in 120 companies in the past ten years, and just last year invested in twenty new startups, investing $10.6 million of our own money. Our portfolio of companies has attracted $800 million in venture capital financing, and we're excited about that because we're getting close to the magical $1 billion invested in portfolio companies. We have 270 members from San Diego to Santa Barbara.
What are some of the things you're thinking about with the TCA for the upcoming year?
Frank Peters: The fact that it's our tenth anniversary is very exciting for us. We're thinking of ways to tell the story, and blow our own horn, and that's very exciting. We're coming off a fabulous event--the LA Fast Pitch, which was held last Monday as part of LA Technology Week, and we've also got our big event scheduled on May 14th, the Orange County Fast Pitch. Those are some of the biggest events we have which are open to the public during the year. We're going to be putting extra effort and emphasis on those events this year because it's our anniversary.
Other initiatives we are working on are public relations and telling our story and promoting our portfolio companies. Last year, we spent quite a bit of money on a new foundation for our web site, and we will be giving visitors to our web site a reason to come back to the site with dynamic content, to give them the opportunity to learn how to make an effective pitch to angels, and how to approach venture capitalists, and other secrets to success. For example, we'll cover how to find a sponsor within our 270 members. That might look difficult, but we'll be covering how to find and network with an angel, and find someone in the angel network to get behind your startup. I have an interview with one of the original founders of the Tech Coast Angels, and I will start profiling them on the web site to help enhance the ability to identify the individual that might take interest in their company.
Those will be in the form of the podcasts you do?
Frank Peters: When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail! I've started videotaping all of my interviews, and ripping the audio out of the video. So I will have a 3 to 7 minute video clip to entice visitors to listen to the thirty to forty minutes of audio. I got the idea looking at the site of the Pasadena Angels, who at least name their significant members. We could do a better job of that, too.
Entrepreneurs often ask us how to get in front of the Tech Coast Angels, can you give us some hints and tips on what kinds of deals the angels find useful, and perhaps how entrepreneurs can best connect with the TCA?
Frank Peters: It's almost a shame that the Los Angeles Fast Pitch just concluded. You want to get out to where you can meet the angels and rub elbows. There's many of us who go out to events like OCVG and other events, and we're out there in the ecosystem. Number one, is use your network to connect to an angel investor out there--whether it's the Tech Coast Angels, or Pasadena Angels, or another group. Get a referral into the angels, whether it's from SCORE or your lawyer, there's lots of ways to get connected to Tech Coast Angel members. In lieu of that, you can go to www.techcoastangels.com and make an application. You can cut and paste your business plan into the form, and someone will call you and schedule a time to talk to you, if it is something that fits us. You'll be talking in a week or two with a group of angels. Answering the other part of your question, what kinds of deals we like, if you look at the area--take Orange County, for example--it's so highly diverse, with all kinds of sectors, spaces, and products, so we're not looking for anything in particular but in general wanting to see a product or service that could achieve rapid adoption in a very large market. That's what we're looking for. Of course, we're also looking for entrepreneurs who have experience in their field, and preferably serial entrepreneurs with passion. That's what all investors are looking for.
You also run a podcast, tell us about what that's all about, I think our readers would enjoy it...
Frank Peters: I started just over a year ago, as podcasting got kickstarted by Apple. I looked around, and observed that the TCA had great content. We have all these entrepreneurs, terrific relationships with the venture capital community, and there's real drama in their stories. Most of the entrepreneurs I interview have just been funded, and colloquially saying--they have their house on the line. There's real drama there. They literally have their house on the line if they make a mistake or can't execute. The purpose of the podcast is to educate those who will come later, and you've got to listen to the podcasts if you are thinking about making an application to the TCA. You can go to www.frankpetersshow.com and click to listen to the podcasts.
Our last question--it seem like Orange County has been doing great in terms of technology firms lately, how are the deals you are seeing?
Frank Peters: Orange County continues to see tremendous variety. I am also seeing entrepreneurs who are increasingly better prepared. It's very encouraging. There's more maturity, and whether it's due to some of the organizations out there providing networking and education like TCVN or OCVG or other reasons, I'm seeing entrepreneurs that have a better grasp on their business plan and executive summary, and who are a little more realistic.