It was a fast-paced day of networking for attendees at this year’s Michigan Capital Network Association (MCNA) annual spring event. The day’s theme, Relationships | Your Angel Superpower, allowed emerging entrepreneurs to rub elbows with successful business owners, investors and venture capital experts. The spring event also allowed MCN leaders to update investor-members on portfolio investments and share current trends in the VC and angel investing ecosystem in Michigan. The gathering was held at the University Club of Michigan State University in Lansing on May 10, and included a keynote address from a leading investment strategist who spoke about some of the factors impacting the economic landscape this year.
The day started with a buffet of breakout sessions, including Innovative Ventures in the Angel Pipeline. This rapid-fire session allowed nine emerging businesses to tell attendees about their product or service and the business concept behind them. The entrepreneurs received feedback from a panel of three MCN leaders, Diane Durance, President of MCN Association, Michael Koziara, Chair of the MCN Association Investment Review Committee and Leland Richards, Director of BlueWater Angels. The ideas literally covered the spectrum – from improving the growth potential of our agricultural land to removing dangerous debris in space.
“This was a terrific opportunity for these individuals to briefly introduce themselves and their business ideas to a roomful of experienced angel investors,” said Diane Durance. “MCNA’s mission is to help our members connect with entrepreneurs, and this was a great chance to begin that relationship.”
Peter Deppe, Founder and CTO of KUHMUTE, called the experience extremely beneficial. “It’s not often that we have a chance to speak with so many potential investors all at once, so I’m grateful to Michigan Capital Network for creating this opportunity for me and the other presenters in the room. It was even more valuable to receive strategic business advice from the panelists. Their insight is invaluable to startup entrepreneurs like us.”
Next up was the release of the 2022 Michigan Angel Report, presented by Mike Flanagan, Managing Director of the Michigan Angel Fund. His presentation was followed by a Q&A session titled Funding Success Stories, featuring comments from three entrepreneurs supported by MCN angel investors – they included James Millar, CEO of Atterx Biotherapeutics, Kabir Maiga, Co-Founder of PassiveBolt and Scott Burr President and CEO of Accelerated Filtration Inc.
“I was honored to join other startup CEOs in sharing the real-life challenges and rewards that come from being an emerging business owner,” said Scott Burr. “It wasn’t that long ago that I was hoping to get the same kind of opportunity to speak directly to a roomful of investors about my innovation, so I can relate with the new entrepreneurs who were in the room. My encouragement to them is the same I give to everyone – if you believe in your idea and yourself, you can overcome the hurdles in the startup world.”
While promising ideas were the topic in two of the sessions, investment trends and fund performance were on the minds of other attendees at the spring event. MCNA Treasurer, David Hodge of NPF Investment Advisors, was joined by his NPF colleague, Dan Lupo for the Economic Trends Driving Investment Strategies session. David addressed the current economic and investing climate and provided some insight on what the next 6-12 months may bring to the VC and angel investing market in Michigan.
Later, the MCN leadership took turns providing the MCN Fund Updates. Jody Vanderwel, a founding member of Grand Angels and a Managing Partner of MCN, highlighted the performance of Fund I, which set the successful foundation for future VC funds managed by MCN. She was followed by CEO and Managing Director, Paul D’Amato, who spoke about Fund II. Managing Partner, Dale Grogan, then updated the attendees on Fund III. The session concluded with a status report on Fund IV from the newest MCN Principal, Meagan Malm. Meagan spoke about the early progress of several Fund IV companies including PhotoniCare, Accelerated Filtration, Inc. and HistoSonics.
“We’re excited to share the overall story of MCN with our investor-members,” said Paul D’Amato. “The past few years have seen a high level of VC and angel investing activity, and the performance of some of our portfolio companies has been superb. The industry is going through a bit of unpredictability right now but we remain optimistic about our investment options and look for continued success in the future.
The event concluded with a dinner program and a keynote presentation, 2023 Investment Outlook: Age of Uncertainty, from Christopher Shipley, Chief Investment Strategist – North America, for Northern Trust. Mr. Shipley pointed to the inflationary and interest rate changes impacting the U.S. economy over the past nine months and presented some insight on what may happen in the back half of 2023.
For Jody Vanderwel, who’s been a leader in the angel investing industry for nearly 20 years, the big takeaway from the day was the ability for attendees to establish new relationships and reconnect with old friends.
The importance of relationships in the investment market simply can’t be overstated,” Jody said. “It’s why MCN exists. We want to be the connector between entrepreneurs and investors so that everyone benefits. Our sessions today proved just how important networking can be to the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
- Kyle Hepp, BoxMagic
- Tim Murphy, Airdrop Gaming/Audio Radar
- Peter Deppe, KUHMUTE
- Troy M. Morris, KMI
- Michael Dalley, Aerial Vantage
- Richard Colonna, QCG
- Rebecca Altounian, Saliva Systems
- Alvin Smucker, SWRT Solutions
- Jared Raszewski, DisSolves