As the Willamette Angel Fund celebrates a decade of success, three students are embarking on a journey to replicate its model. Nathan Foos JD/MBA’19, Himalaya Rao-Potlapally MBA’19, and Natasha Torres JD/MBA’20 are creating a new, Oregon-based angel fund — aptly named Oregon Angel Partners. They will partner with angel groups throughout the West Coast to find emerging entrepreneurs and invest alongside seasoned angels. “These groups do an incredible job of finding high-quality deals, but they operate locally. Partnering with existing groups throughout the West Coast lets us diversify geographically without sacrificing quality,” Himalaya said. OAP expects to launch the fund later this year and is currently building a group of core investors to shape the direction of the fund.
Nathan and Himalaya are current members of the Willamette Angel Fund. Together, they have evaluated dozens of startup companies and co-invested alongside multiple angel groups in Oregon, Washington, and California. Himalaya and Natasha are also the founders of CarBar, which went from concept to launch in just eight months by partnering with the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network Startup Series. “Going through the OEN program really opened our eyes to the impact the angel world has on startup companies, which is something we want to bring to the table ourselves,” Natasha said. “A successful fund means more resources to develop the startup ecosystem and support aspiring entrepreneurs.” Oregon Angel Partners aims to invest in the development of entrepreneurship in Oregon and the West Coast, while actively engaging and educating new and seasoned investors in the private market. To this end, Oregon Angel Partners is currently hosting an investor education series.
The inspiration for Oregon Angel Partners came during a trip to Southern California, when Nathan was attending a meeting with the Pasadena Angels. “A handful of investors came up to my partner and I, asking if they could invest in Willamette’s fund,” Nathan said. “They were interested in our collaborative model and the opportunity to gain exposure to other groups.” After a decade of success, it’s clear Willamette’s model has attracted attention.
The Willamette Angel Fund invests in companies following an effectual model of entrepreneurship. Effectuation is extensively studied and practiced by Professors Rob Wiltbank and Stuart Read, two of the leading scholars on entrepreneurship and angel investing. Effectual entrepreneurship emphasizes a bottom-up approach using decision-making processes statistically correlated with new venture success. Effectual companies are customer-centric and capital efficient, coalescing around stakeholder commitments to increase their likelihood of success, and rapidly pivoting in response to changing market dynamics; all while stretching every dollar as far as possible.
The Willamette Angel Fund’s investment thesis has paid off, with evidence suggesting investing in effectuation is a winning proposition. Over the last decade, it has invested $630,586 into a total of 67 companies, some directly and some through other angel funds. Already, returns show Willamette’s direct investments into effectual companies outperform its passive investments made through other funds. However, because the Willamette Angel Fund is managed by full-time students with many other obligations, it is limited in the number of investments it can make and the number of angel groups it can partner with. “Our goal is to move faster, invest more frequently, and partner with more groups to achieve greater diversification and maximize our opportunities for success. The Willamette Angel Fund has shown investing in effectuation works, and we want to expand even further,” Himalaya said.
Oregon Angel Partners will offer investors the opportunity to diversify their portfolio across a spectrum of geographies and industries. By making investments based on academic research and embracing opportunities for co-investment, Nathan, Himalaya, and Natasha want to increase the resources available to investors and entrepreneurs throughout the West Coast. To learn more about core investor benefits and eligibility, or to join us at an upcoming investor training workshop, connect with Oregon Angel Partners at one of the emails listed below.