Startups are a crucial part of a dynamic economy, creating innovations and jobs, but they struggle to find funding from investors. The newly launched Carolina Angel Network (CAN), will close this gap by connecting alumni, faculty, students, donors and other members of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill community with promising affiliated, early-stage, private companies to provide advice, networks and funding.
Carolina’s Office of the Vice Chancellor for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development spearheaded the initiative to address early-stage funding gaps for startups and to ensure the most promising innovative ideas make it to the marketplace.
A campus-wide effort developed over the last year, the network is also led by the vice chancellor’s office in partnership with UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and the School of Law, with assistance from the vice chancellors for finance and administration and development. Business and law students will learn how to conduct preliminary due diligence on companies.
“We continuously seek ways to bring greater social and economic benefit to the citizens of North Carolina and beyond and nurturing vital new startups is an important part of our entrepreneurial strategies,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “I am very pleased to see this funding vehicle created to address a major roadblock to building successful companies that will create breakthroughs in how we live our lives.”
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, startups backed by angel investors have a greater chance of survival and success, creating more jobs than other startups without this support system. The Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire reports that in 2015 angel investors committed a total of $24.6 billion to U.S. startups.
“As we accelerate innovation on campus and beyond, it’s our obligation to connect, support and cultivate our entrepreneurial community,” said Judith Cone, vice chancellor for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development. “We are thrilled that Carolina Angel Network will serve as a catalyst and channel for empowering innovation and work closely with our other venture service programs, Carolina Kickstart, Launch Chapel Hill, Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network and the Carolina Research Venture Fund.”
The new network is positioned for success with oversight from key leaders widely known in the entrepreneurial community. Randy Myer, former entrepreneur, current angel investor and Kenan-Flagler professor, will serve as managing director. With more than 30 years experience as an investor and entrepreneur, he will lead a team that will manage deal flows – from pre-screening deals and performing preliminary due diligence to connecting founders and network members.
“The Carolina Angel Network is an amazing opportunity for its members to have a direct impact and influence on the success of UNC-Chapel Hill-affiliated startups,” said Myer. “What better way to harness the power of the entrepreneurial and investment community to vitalize our economy.”
Myer will work closely with a board of directors that includes both University and non-University members, including seasoned angel investors Lauren Whitehurst and Brian Bailey. Steve Lerner, an experienced entrepreneur, Carolina alumnus and former trustee, will serve as chair of the board.
The network expects to recruit more than 200 members over the next three years. To be considered for membership, applicants must be accredited investors and Carolina alumni, faculty, staff, parents or donors. For a company to be eligible for consideration, the venture must be affiliated with UNC, for-profit, meet minimum criteria and go through an extensive vetting process.
Carolina Angel Network anticipates closing a variety of deals in 2017 and beyond. To learn more visit the website.