From Inside Business By YANA SAMBERG
Sometimes, business success requires divine intervention.
And for a fourth year in a row, 757 Angels has continued to seed its faith in Hampton Roads by investing capital in its start-ups.
The group estimates that 90 percent of investment stays in the Hampton Roads area, helping companies across industries such as health technology, autonomous cars, and medical devices grow.
In 2017, the group invested just over $9 million in seven companies. In 2019, the investors saw continued growth, and its biggest year, as the group invested $15 million in 11 companies. According to Executive Director Monique Adams, 757 Angels invested in five new companies and made follow-on commitments to six previously funded companies. Over the last five years, the group has put $60 million into regional and state businesses.
“When the group was founded, it was deeply concerned about our economy’s dependency on federal spending, hospitality/tourism and the port,” Adams said. “In order to facilitate economic diversification and the creation of high paying jobs, the group formed an angel group, led by experienced venture capital investor Paul Hirschbiel and corporate securities attorney John Paris.”
757 Angels is a driver of building the innovation economy, Adams said. The group continues to focus on providing early stage investment opportunities to its member investors and assists entrepreneurs through funding, mentoring and strategic advice and education. Businesses interested in getting funding and support from the group must apply during one of three selection cycles each year. The next application deadlines will be April 1 and Sept. 9. Applications can be submitted via the group’s portal. Each application cycle lasts about eight weeks, where promising companies are invited to meet with 757 Angel board, industry experts and make a pitch for support.
The group also offers businesses a chance to participate in the 757 Accelerate program, a 12-week mentorship, milestone driven program that brings together resources from three universities and six cities/counties to help development of startups.
Doctor Kirk Heath, who co-founded Modio Health, said “Modio owes much of its success to the first individuals and organization that had faith we would achieve what we have in the health tech industry.” Modio received early investment from the group.
Adams explained that 757 Angels is an network of investors that allows members to make individual as well as group decisions to support two to three “compelling” start up businesses during each of three selection cycles each year. Currently the group has 126 regional investors who are accredited per the Securities and Exchange Commission guidelines.
“757 Angels continues to be focused on growing our membership. Awareness of the group’s activities is critical to building the membership. Diversification and inclusion are critical to the continued growth of the group,” Adams said, adding that the group is “intentional” about ensuring the group reflects demographic as well as industry diversity. For example, 30 percent of the 757 Angel board is female, and the Chairman of the Board is Nancy Grden, who leads the Strome Entrepreneurial Center at Old Dominion University. This investment in diversity extends beyond the group, Adams explained.
The group’s continued success helps create jobs, diversify the local business base, and develop return on members’ investment.
“We believe diversity will lead to heightened connectivity to more diverse entrepreneurs,” Adams said.
StartWheel’s mission is to centralize and mobilize efforts that foster the growth of entrepreneurism in our regional innovation economy. We aim to support and cultivate an entrepreneurial network in HRVA where talent, resources, information and leadership come together.