Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

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November 26, 2023 | Katelyn Keenehan

Investor Spotlight | Meet Tony Shipley

Tony Shipley is a long-time investor with the Queen City Angels and has recently been nationally recognized for his investment in entrepreneurs.

In the world of angel investing, where opportunity meets ambition, few names shine as brightly as Tony Shipley’s. With a career spanning decades, Shipley has not only carved a path for his success but has also helped transform the entrepreneurial community. His remarkable journey, from a farm boy to a celebrated entrepreneur and angel investor, has been nothing short of fascinating.

Tony Shipley

Shipley graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), and went to work at a Fortune 500 company. After learning the ropes, he made the pivotal decision to become an entrepreneur himself. It was this leap that would shape the course of his career and eventually lead him to become an advocate for the entrepreneurial community.

“I became an entrepreneur, starting companies and walking in their footsteps, experiencing the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship. I understand it from their point of view,” Shipley shared, highlighting his empathy for founders embarking on the entrepreneurial journey.

His journey was not without its challenges. He recalled the early days when resources for entrepreneurs were limited, and even access to knowledge was a struggle.

“When I started, you had to go to the library or buy books to learn about new company start and related topics. It wasn’t like today, where you can just search the internet or meet folks in the community that have embarked on their own entrepreneurial journey,” Shipley reminisced. This scarcity of resources instilled in him a sense of responsibility to make the path easier for others.

The Creation of Queen City Angels

A defining moment in Shipley’s career was the creation of the Queen City Angels (QCA), an investment group focused on early-stage technology companies. He recognized the need for a support system that could nurture start-ups and provide them with the resources to succeed.

“I looked around at what was needed in our community, and we didn’t have an active investor group in the area that would invest in early-stage businesses,” Shipley said.

Under his leadership, QCA flourished, becoming recognized not only on a local scale but also on a national basis. The group’s success serves as a testament to Shipley’s commitment to fostering entrepreneurship in the community.

“The excitement of engaging with these people and then seeing them get success is what keeps us charged,” he said.

Hans Severiens Lifetime Achievement Award

QCA Bootcamp Panel

Throughout his career, Shipley founded or directly invested in over 50 start-ups. Recently, he was awarded the Hans Severiens Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Angel Capital Association. Named after the founder of the Band of Angels in California, Hans Severiens played a pivotal role in shaping angel investing as we know it.

Each year, the award is given to an investor who has had a significant impact on the community. “Receiving this award is not just about me but about recognizing the impact of our entire team and our collective efforts to promote early-stage startups,” Shipley emphasized.

Shipley’s Tips for Entrepreneurs

  1. Preparation is Key: Young entrepreneurs need to invest time and effort in researching and understanding their field, their market, and their competition. Preparedness increases the likelihood of success.
  2. Seize Opportunities: Shipley underscores the significance of capitalizing on opportunities that come one’s way. While luck may play a role in entrepreneurial success, being prepared to take advantage of unexpected events or lucky breaks is crucial.
  3. Adaptability: Shipley’s career path demonstrates the importance of being open to change. He encourages young entrepreneurs not to feel constrained by their initial choices. Instead, they should be willing to explore new paths and pivot their business if necessary.
  4. Learn from Others: Shipley advises entrepreneurs to learn from those who have walked the path before them.
  5. Teamwork: Shipley emphasizes the significance of teamwork in entrepreneurship. He believes that almost everything in life is team-oriented, even endeavors that may appear individual. Collaborative efforts can lead to greater success in business.

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