Angel Investing is Up, But Will It Spark the NW Economy? Check Out “The Conversation”

3/2/11Follow @xconomy

Most people on the street would struggle to define what an angel investor does. Mostly, in Seattle anyway, they are the little-known startup investors who operate behind the scenes while venture capitalists get all the glory for bankrolling the would-be Googles and Facebooks of the future. But for a few minutes yesterday, Seattle angels got a moment in the sun on the KUOW-94.9 FM radio show, “The Conversation.”

I was happy to be the guest on “The Conversation” with Ross Reynolds, for a five-minute segment on the latest local trends in angel investment. Reynolds started off by asking about a recent report from the Seattle-based Alliance of Angels, which said it had invested $10.3 million last year in Northwest companies—up from $9.1 million a year earlier.

For those new to the whole concept of angel investment, I tried to make it a little more familiar by dropping a couple famous names like Paul Allen of Vulcan and Jeff Bezos of Amazon—who are a whole lot better known for things other than their angel investments. Bezos, in particular, was recognized by BusinessWeek last year as one of the nation’s top angels, for his shrewd early bets on Google and Twitter. On the local scene, I noted that Pacific Bioscience Laboratories, the Bellevue, WA-based maker of the Clarisonic skin brush, is one of the clear hits that emerged after getting support from Seattle-area angels.

Of course, I had to point out that while the increase in angel investment is encouraging, it’s not exactly a potent enough force to turn around the local economy. For every angel investing success story like Pacific Bioscience Laboratories, there are probably dozens of companies that never got any traction, and whose names nobody can really remember (or which nobody wants to remember).

It was a fun interview, and at least one Xconomy reader tells me it sounded good (although I must say I think my voice sounds really dorky on the air.) If you’d like to listen to the five-minute segment, you can follow the link here to the KUOW website. The angel investment segment comes up about 10 minutes and 10 seconds into the show.

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