Why is this important to you?
I believe there are many talented minorities who have performed well academically or in their careers but who require more knowledge and discipline to raise capital that will allow them to staff, build, and grow their businesses.
Why does early stage capital often elude minority entrepreneurs?
Access to capital is about more than a single person but about a community! Look at what is going on in Silicon Valley. It wasn’t that Google founders Sergey Brin or Larry Page had families who could write a $100,000 check for their startups. It was their relationship to Stanford that gave them access to a community of wealth. For many reasons, predatory or otherwise, there is no real monetary wealth in minority communities. This has created a lack of knowledge, sophistication, and wealth available for entrepreneurs to launch ideas or test their ideas before looking for angel or venture capital funding. We have a long way to go but I hope in the next few years NMAN can become this type of community.
What do you hope the half-day symposium will accomplish?
I’m truly excited about the symposium because we have three primary tracks including finance, legal, and market opportunities. Each track has three classes more narrowly focused on subjects that I think are relevant and critical for entrepreneurship and wealth creation. Some of the interesting topics include: crowdfunding, a game changing capital source that is controversial to some investors; how to make money from selling or licensing intellectual property; and new opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors in the EdTech market. So each attendee can choose what most benefits them, gain practical knowledge, and make immediate connections.
What advice do you have for angel investors who are new to markets within technology and innovation?
I’d encourage them to start with companies that are working in sectors with which they are familiar. It’s OK for them to not understand all the technical aspects of a company’s solution as long as: 1) it is targeting a problem the investor fundamentally understands and 2) they know the solution actually works (or will work). For example, a physician who has done well and wants to invest in tech might not know all the details behind a new medical device but he might deeply understand the health issue creating the demand. And another doctor might not understand the technology behind a new patient-facing app delivered as a SaaS (software as a service) but she will know the pain points in a patient’s daily experience, which that app is meant to address.
Also, if a person feels as though they found an unmet need in a market that is not of their particular expertise, I’d encourage them to spend at a minimum six weeks at 20 hours a week monitoring a business in that space, meeting people, and finding a management team that knows that industry.
Explain why crowdfunding should be an option for new entrepreneurs?
Crowdfunding, in all its varieties, is an unparalleled source of pre-seed and seed capital via reward, donor, equity and debt finance models. It has a real opportunity to apply leverage where all other traditional financial services are failing.
The benefits of crowdfunding can decrease the cost of product development and pre-marketing, while at the same time generate revenues before production, and therefore provide, at best, a positive cash flow from the start. Crowdfunding denotes space for co-creation and the involvement of the end-user in the product definition resulting in a greater pool of innovative ideas, pre-sales, market research and a free word-of-mouth market channel.
What goals does NMAN have for 2013 and beyond?
Going into 2013, we hope to grow to 300 members on our Gust portal where we manage our membership, communicate with members, and apply document management. The portal will allow our members to reside anywhere in the world but still be able to conference in, collaborate, download and share deal flow regardless of their geography. Secondarily, we hope to open one other region based on membership geography. If 10 or more members are located in a similar city or region, we will open a new chapter there.