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Grand Angels President Talks Growth, Opportunities in MI

Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor — 

Grand Angels, one of Michigan’s most active angel investor organizations, has just released its annual report. The findings highlight the group’s decision to make more investments and refine its direction to encompass four market segments: life sciences; digital media, software and IT; advanced manufacturing and materials; and advanced technologies in agriculture and food.

Since its inception in 2004, Grand Angels has invested $16.2 million in 32 startups. In the past year, Grand Angels has invested $2.5 million into 12 startups, including four newly announced portfolio companies: Accio Energy, A2P, Tecat Performance Systems, and Zipments.

“When we started, there were three angel investing groups,” said Jody Vanderwel, president of the Grand Angels. “All were founded close to the same time, but there was no real culture of angel investing at that time. The venture capital community was just getting started, and there weren’t many incubators or pre-seed funding.”

One thing that makes organizations like Grand Angels different is that, though each accredited investor is making his or her own investment, the decisions are made in the context of the group, and they share due diligence duties.

“It’s a much more active form of investing,” she added.

As far as trends Vanderwel has noticed emerging over the past 10 years, life sciences has become an increasingly hot sector in Michigan, she said. The group typically looks for business-to-business applications in the IT and media startups it invests in, and advanced agriculture is a sector Vanderwel considers to be up and coming.

Other stats from the report: In the past year, 63 applications for investment were received from active startups, 19 companies pitched Grand Angels, and 70 percent of Grand Angel investments were in biotech and IT/software companies.

Vanderwel said that alternative funding methods like angel investing are instrumental in the diversification of Michigan’s economy. “In the future, I’d like to continue to see the angel investing industry grow and develop, and grow the state’s entrepreneurial community, attract and retain talent, and grow Michigan’s economy.”

To read the Grand Angels report in detail, click here.