Atkinson's MBA Angels Take Flight
Atkinson’s Entrepreneur program quietly took flight this year with a new experiential learning class in Angel Investing as part of the “New Ventures to Launch” class taught by Professor Rob Wiltbank. This new opportunity allows students to participate in key aspects of the two entrepreneurial sides of building new companies and investing in new start-ups. “Both sides teach principles on management around creating value, just from different perspectives”, said Professor Rob Wiltbank. A unique feature of the angel investing experience is that the students will invest real money for equity stakes in start-ups using the new Willamette’s Venture Fund, which has about $300,000 in contributed capital to date.
Students gain real world management decisions by directly participating in angel investing groups in Portland and Eugene. An angel investor is usually an independently wealthy person who provides capital to start-up companies in exchange for ownership. Angels fulfill an important need for developing the next generation of businesses by investing from $100,000 to $2,000,000 in promising companies between the seed stage (founder financed) and formal venture capital investors.
The steps the class takes to evaluate a start-up give insight to other individuals or businesses thinking about how to invest in a growing company. Angel students travel and network with business experts to hear actual start-up company pitches seeking investment. These opportunities are evaluated as a class using criteria such as:
- Feasible – can the new opportunity be done given the capital and time limitations?
- Reachable – do channels exist to reach customers?
- Valuable – is value created for customers, company, and investors?
- Scalable – how difficult is it to reach volume product production?
- Durable – can the product and company withstand competition and new technologies?
- Saleable – is there an exit plan for the company to be sold or IPO?
Successful company evaluation leads to the due diligence process that includes conducting on-site company visits to assess the personnel, operations and financial aspects to ensure company health. After the decision to invest, students pitch the Willamette Venture Fund’s board of directors for approval of the start-up investment.
The angel investing class brings exciting and compelling long-term value to stakeholders such as students, Willamette’s MBA program, and Oregon business. The experiential learning skills and business networking gained by students will last a lifetime and add value wherever they go. A long term goal of the program is to have a self-sustaining fund that serves as an endowment for Atkinson. A lofty goal? Yes, but like the forever optimistic entrepreneur, the sky’s the limit with the Willamette Angel Fund.