In just three years, SeedStep Angels has gone from a core group of dedicated founders to three chapters across Oklahoma. The angels have invested $1.5M in a dozen companies, and the deals continue to flow.
Part of SeedStep Angels’ strategy has been to accelerate progress through deal sharing and co-investing with other funds.
Angels see many benefits to co-investing — more capital, more contacts and greater diversity of all kinds — from experience and expertise, to geography. And for Oklahoma, promoting strong syndication sheds light on local opportunities. Even when an Oklahoma angel invests in an out-of-state syndicated deal, the odds of the reverse occurring go up simply through establishing relationships.
We are now starting to see dividends pay out from this strategy as we continue to raise co-investment for an increasing number of Oklahoma entrepreneurs. Recently, i2E clients have raised co-investment from as far as California to as near as Texas and Missouri.
Perhaps even more importantly, the gaps that exist among local investor groups with similar motives are beginning to disappear. Locally, Private Partners Opportunity Fund (PPO Fund), an angel venture investment group focused on income producing opportunities in Oklahoma, joined SeedStep Angels as an LLC. While they exist as an independent Oklahoma group, they now actively see and share deal flow on Oklahoma opportunities.
“We are a for-profit group of investors. Our No. 1 job is to create wealth. We believe that as we create wealth, we create jobs,” says Tom Evans, PPO fund manager.
“We have members from Alva, Cherokee, Ponca City, and Enid, from the whole northwestern part of Oklahoma,” he says. “We have a really great entrepreneurial membership. They eat, drink, and live entrepreneurship. Enid is known for that. These people have drilled a dry hole and stayed to drill another. They’ve had a crop disaster and planted again. They aren’t afraid to step out there. They have a high tolerance for risk that makes sense.”
Evans represents PPO Fund at SeedStep Angels’ deal-screening meetings and brings the opportunities back to members for consideration and vote. With funds to invest and lively interest from members, Evans is continually looking for the best deals.
“That’s why it’s incredible to be associated with i2E,” he says. “No way are they going to float something they don’t believe in. That gives me confidence, and, when they invest, they stay right there for the companies. They don’t invest and quit.”
Continuing to build trust among early stage Oklahoma investors is critical to creating an efficient capital market for Oklahoma entrepreneurs.
Like many angel groups, Evans says Oklahoma angels like to invest close to home.
“We love the ideas,” he says, “but we invest in the individuals. We want to see the passion, experience, and integrity of the person who wakes up at three a.m. thinking about how to make something work. It’s not like we’re hearing a pitch from someone from Chicago. We invest in entrepreneurs from Oklahoma.”
And there you have it. As passionate as entrepreneurs must be, startup communities also require local investors to share in that passion. That’s what makes groups like the PPO Fund and SeedStep Angels so vitally important.