Three Questions on Startup Culture and Investing Strategy with Greg Huey of Alliance of Angels
We may have similar names, but we come from different worlds. Greg Huey, the new program director of Seattle-based Alliance of Angels, has a business background and more than 10 years of investment and corporate development experience. He bears little resemblance to a certain Xconomy Seattle editor, besides having an avid interest in the local innovation community, a love of coffee, and a slight aversion to British food.
This is Huey’s first month on the job. He succeeds Rebecca Lovell, who became executive director of the Northwest Entrepreneur Network in February. Huey says his responsibilities at Alliance of Angels now include spreading the good word about the not-for-profit investor organization, attracting early-stage companies to present to the angel network, and positioning his group as “entrepreneur-friendly.” He also wants to coach companies on their business plans and presentations, and help angel members “feel more comfortable to step up” and lead investment deals. “Angel investing can be shoot-from-the-hip,” Huey says. “We want to provide a more systematic process in which to evaluate investments and portfolios.”
Before this job, Huey handled mergers and acquisitions and other corporate development for Hewlett-Packard in London for a year and a half. He focused on deals in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Prior to that, he spent six years as an investor at Frazier Technology Ventures in Seattle (2001-2007), and also worked at GTCR, a private equity firm in Chicago. He did his MBA at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, where he was a classmate of BuddyTV’s Andy Liu, a prominent entrepreneur and investor in Seattle. Huey is a native of Portland, OR.
I was particularly interested to hear how the economic doom and gloom of the past eight months has affected Huey’s outlook on early-stage investing, and what he sees in Seattle after being away from it for a little while. He noted that Alliance of Angels is coming off a strong year in which it made 36 investments, and five of its portfolio companies were acquired (including Insitu, which was bought by Boeing for some $400 million—Alliance of Angels’ biggest exit to date). And two weeks ago, the organization announced a new $4.25 million seed fund.
“We will focus on any growth opportunity,” Huey says, whether it’s in software, wireless, hardware, devices, or non-technology fields like coffee or nail salons. “We’re open for business. We have our first investment committee meeting next week.” And the first investment deal on Huey’s watch may very well come out of that meeting (which is for the new seed fund).
Here are some other highlights from our conversation:
Xconomy: Given your international perspective, what are your thoughts on Seattle as an innovation cluster? How does it compare to other regions?
Greg Huey: The U.S.—and Seattle—has got an entrepreneurial zeal and risk-taking [culture] and optimism that leads the world by leaps and bounds. In Israel and Europe, success is defined … Next Page »