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in Seattle, brought together about 15 medical device CEOs. Momentum built up then, when the assembled CEOs agreed that it was not just a good idea, but that they would be willing to participate in screening companies, and maybe even invest their own money.
The next meeting, a dinner at the Woodmark Hotel at Carillon Point in Kirkland, WA, drew about 45 wealthy individuals to discuss the idea in some more detail. That group also heard about best practices from Mark Klopp, a managing director of Coronis Medical Ventures in Sunnyvale, CA, and a member of the Life Science Angels in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Life Sciences Angels bills itself as the premier angel network for biotech and medical device entrepreneurs in the country, and has some numbers to back it up. Since 2005, that organization has invested $26.5 million in 30 companies which have received more than $500 million on follow-on funding from venture capitalists.
Based on what he’s seen so far, Klopp says Wings has a shot at becoming legit.
“There is a critical mass of experienced, smart and financially capable medical technology angels and entrepreneurs in the Seattle area. The Wings leadership group that has emerged is particularly strong,” Klopp says. He added that there are a lot of other tech-savvy angels in Seattle who might be interested in investing in great new medical treatments, but need someone with expertise to lead the way.
But when I asked what Wings must prove early on, Klopp provided a long laundry list. The group needs to offer startups not just money, but also mentorship; focus entirely on seed-stage medical technology; screen deals in an objective, non-political manner; communicate regularly with members; and syndicate effectively with other angel groups and VCs. So far, Klopp says he’s been impressed with how Wings is taking “a clean sheet approach,” borrowing best practices from other organizations, and trying to learn how to avoid the usual pitfalls.
Dan Rosen, the chairman of the Alliance of Angels, said he sees a role for Wings in the local innovation community. AoA has invested before in medical technology companies like Healionics and Impel Neuropharma, but most members lack med-tech expertise, and the due diligence phase was “difficult.”
“If the Wings group can attain critical mass of active members, sufficient local deal flow, and establish efficient processes to help their angels and entrepreneurs, they can be successful,” Rosen says. “It is our intent to work with Wings to help them be successful.”
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