MBA students from the new MBAs Across America program convened at the historic Fargo Theater last Friday to discuss their findings for establishing an angel fund in Fargo. The students have been in Fargo learning about the community, meeting its members through DinnerTies events, and talking with its many entrepreneurial players.
The Babson College students spent a week with Emerging Prairie’s Angel Fund Coordinator Intern, Maneesh Apte, living and working out of the Fargo Startup House. Through their varied analyses of the entrepreneurial landscape, the team laid the foundation for increased angel fund activity in the Upper Midwest region.
Team member Phillip Lachman noted the region’s previous experience with angel funds and investment groups, asserting that a necessary factor of a new angel fund would include an Executive Director role along with compensation based on fund performance. This requirement would allow for greater care during the due diligence process and evaluation of organizations to fund. In tandem with this structured, paid position, the team argued investors must also play an active role in the organizations they fund. This could mean anything from ad-hoc consulting services within their areas of expertise to serving on boards of directors for invested organizations.
If the fund is to be established, the industry focus would likely be broad. Fargo is deeply rooted in technology startups, but Jennifer Odera illustrated the rich ecosystem that currently exists to today’s discussion participants. With such a wide array of entrepreneurial activities, the MBA students thought it would be in the region’s best interest to focus on 4-5 key industries for potential investments.
Investments made by any new angel fund would consider venturing between $100,000 and $500,000 for individual deals with new organizations. Prior to the actual implementation of this fund, though, all the MBA students agreed the approach much first be steeped in education for the region’s nouveau riche, and partnerships must be made with similar funds in order to get the fund off the ground more rapidly.
Fargo was stop number four for the Babson students – part of a six week, six city tour designed to allow them access to diverse entrepreneurially-oriented entities in different parts of the US. They said they enjoyed their time in the city (along with the home-cooked meals), and they were excited about the witnessed prospects for further entrepreneurship developments.