William Draper III, the famed venture capitalist best known for backing successful companies like Zappos and Skype, among many others, thinks Philadelphia has great energy.
The city has an excitement, he said, that he thinks is now missing in Silicon Valley.
That’s how the investor and author of “The Startup Game” — which he gave away at the event — opened his lunchtime keynote speech at the sold out 14th annual Angel Venture Fair at the Union League yesterday. In a grandiose room tightly packed with approximately 300 people — a mix of angel investors and startup founders — and an introduction from Mayor Michael Nutter, it would have been difficult not to feel the buzz.
“Your innovations are driving Philadelphia’s growing reputation as a smart choice for business,” Mayor Nutter said, addressing the audience at the Union League.
Below you’ll find video of Mayor Nutter offering his introductory remarks:
Over the last few months, Nutter has appeared at numerous local technology events throughout the city to tout the importance of the local industry, most recently judging the Switch Philly demo competition during Philly Tech Week.
Following Mayor Nutter’s remarks, the 35 companies accepted to exhibit and pitch split into two groups and were given the opportunity to present 15 minutes pitches. Angels could wander in and out of pitches as they liked or meander through the maze of exhibition tables talking to founders. Based on the presentations this reporter saw, the average funding ask hovered around $500,000.
Draper offered his keynote over lunch, telling stories about his experiences and doling out advice to both angels and entrepreneurs gleaned from a long career in the business.
Below Draper offers advice to entrepreneurs looking for investment from venture capitalists.
“Be sure that they are supportive, that they are team builders, that they’ve got success in their genes, as well as money in their jeans — a different kind of genes,” Draper said.
Angel Venture Fair Executive Director Marc Kramer — he’s also a professor, author and entrepreneur — said the event is unique because it expands the reach of mid-Atlantic angel investors by exposing them to a cast of startups from all over the world. Kramer told Technically Philly the companies presenting at the fair had been culled from an applicant pool of 110 companies.
“The whole idea is if America is going to continue to be successful we’ve got to get money behind these early stage companies,” Kramer said. “Provide them with the funding that way they can create employment opportunities and grow.”
The Angel Venture Fair, Kramer believes creates something of a virtuous cycle of investment, not only in startups, but for the mid-Atlantic region.
“For the angel investors themselves it means that they have more quality opportunities to invest, which helps them increase their own wealth and they’ll pour even more money back into these companies,” Kramer said. “At the end of the day, it’s really about job creation.”
Even though Angel Venture Forum Managing Partner and Mataron Development Managing Director Marc Mathis is based locally, he confirmed that he finds value in looking at companies from outside the region.
“We are simply located in the mid-Atlantic region, so that is our target market and, of course, my main focus is minority business development, but we look at companies abroad, west coast, east coast, globally, whatever comes to the table that can hit our sweet spot and we see an opportunity,” Mathis said.
On the entrepreneurial side, e-commerce discount designer retail site Kembrel.com co-founder Stephan Jacob said the fair is helping him start conversations with investors who are not typically as interested in retail.
“For us we’re out raising some money and extending our Series A, so it’s a wonderful way to start dialogue with potential new investors,” Jacobs said. “It’s also a great way to simply network and get exposure and gain exposure for the brand in the larger Philadelphia angel community.”
Kramer told Technically Philly that it’s tough to quantify how many deals get done as a result of the Angel Venture Fair, but with so many entrepreneurs swapping business cards it seems like quite a few closed out rounds may just be a matter of time.