Wisconsin not only has one hyperactive angel group but appears to have the most angel groups in the US, and the number keeps growing, due in part to public support for angel programs.
Wisconsin Investment Partners, a Madison-based group, was named by the Halo Report as the most active angel investing group in the Great Lakes region in 2012. We wrote about them back in May.
The Yahara Angel Network is the latest group formed in the state, which sees itself as a national leader. The state has grown from only a handful of angel groups in the early 2000s to more than two dozen today. Groups have recently formed in Oshkosh, Vilas County and near Sheboygan.
Why so many?
“I think there are several reasons for the state’s strong angel investment infrastructure,” says Dan Blake, Director of the Wisconsin Angel Network. “Part of it is related to our Act 255 tax credit program, which was instituted in 2005 and provides a 25% tax credit for investments made in certified companies. Many groups were launched after that program was instituted and nearly $60 million in tax credits have been issued under the program.
“In addition, I think Wisconsin has a strong spirit of contribution and giving back. Many Wisconsin angels invest for the opportunity to mentor and work with entrepreneurs. Many were entrepreneurs themselves or just enjoy working with those who have that passion.
“Lastly, I think there are state organizations, like the Wisconsin Angel Network, that help provide resources to help groups form and also other tools for them to continue operating and seeing appealing deals.”
Wisconsin Angel Network
The Wisconsin Angel Network (WAN) is part of the Wisconsin Technology Council’s overall economic development and job creation efforts. As a strategic partner, WAN receives partial funding from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). WAN fuels the growth of capital in Wisconsin by operating as an umbrella organization providing services and resources to the early stage investing and entrepreneurial communities. WAN does not operate a fund or direct investments. The staff is comprised of a full-time director and many volunteers who help develop and launch its initiatives.
The Yahara Angel Network
The Yahara Angel Network, formed in June, is made up of business people from the DeForest-Windsor area of Dane County, says Jane Cahill Wolfgram, a member and co-manager.
“We’re trying to help grow the region’s economic base through the rapid growth of technology companies,” said Cahill Wolfgram, who has a background in public affairs and communications. “We have a group of experienced members who want to help fill the funding gap entrepreneurs face in growing their businesses.”
The group, which is continuing to attract new members from the area, is hoping to raise about $1 million, Cahill Wolfgram said. The group will operate by individuals choosing deals in which they would like to invest. Initial investments will focus on startups in biotechnology, agricultural technology, health care, long-term care and life-planning technologies.
“Groups such as the Yahara Angel Network help lay the groundwork for entrepreneurs in Wisconsin,” says Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, which worked with the group during its formation stage through its Wisconsin Angel Network (WAN). “We need to continue providing early capital to get their ideas off the ground.”