By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Angel investing is important to any community trying to support tech-based start-ups as evidenced by initiatives underway in both Knoxville and Chattanooga. In the Gig City, the initiative even has an official name – Chattanooga Cherubs, a tip of the hat to the term used to describe baby angels with wings.
“Our goal is to educate the market about angel investing and see what the market wants to do going forward,” says Lindsey Cox, Chief Executive Officer of CO.LAB. The end result could be anything from more individual angel investors to an organized group or even a fund.
Joining the energetic Cox in the initiative are Jay Shaffer and Sahej Singh. The former is a long-time executive with Sun Microsystems who has four start-ups under his belt and recently became a resident of Chattanooga. After exiting his last start-up, Shaffer joined the Atlanta Technology Angels (ATA) and brings that very active experience over the past two years plus to the team. Singh leads business intelligence & strategy for Reliance Partners, one of the nation’s fastest growing commercial insurance agencies with a large presence in trucking and logistics.
“We see it as new angels, capitalizing on all the people who have moved here in the last few years,” Cox says. It is something that the three co-conspirators understand well. Singh is the most senior resident of Chattanooga, joining Reliance Partners in July 2018, while Cox is the newest, moving to the city last April.
Shaffer describes the group’s approach as “grassroots, bottoms up . . . an on ramp for people to get into angel investing.” He adds that while the target is on recruiting new angels, those who are more seasoned are welcome to participate.
Access to capital is a priority for CO.LAB. In an earlier article in teknovation.biz that focused on the entrepreneur center’s plans for 2022, Cox said that Chattanooga Cherubs is “a fresh call to the table, particularly for younger people who are interested in Blockchain and crypto and could become interested in angel investing.”
So, what’s the plan?
Chattanooga Cherubs has carved out the third Thursday of every month for those interested in angel investing to convene. The inaugural session in January was what Cox described as “Angel Investing 101.” The February 17 noontime topic – click here to register for the virtual session – will be on accreditation, and specific areas will be covered in March, April and May.
“June will be audience choice,” Cox said. By then, the organizers expect to have a core group that will decide how they want to move forward.
Shaffer jumped into angel investing in a big way when he joined ATA which he says is an all-volunteer enterprise. He started by reviewing 25 applications each month and presented the most promising five of those to a committee that ultimately selected two start-up entrepreneurs to pitch that month. When he joined ATA, it had about 30 members, but is now up to 60.
Now that he is a resident of Chattanooga, he’s still active in ATA as well as helping grow an angel base locally. Shaffer and his wife were looking for what he says was a “lifestyle change” after 25 years in Atlanta. They visited Chattanooga and made the decision to relocate, citing factors like walkability, the growing tech community, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and access to outdoors.