March 20th, 2012
I’m confused, scared, and more than a little ashamed
Now I realize that I’ve developed—even perhaps cultivated—this persona of being a “rah rah” cheerleader for all things startup in Portland and Oregon. I realize that—at times—I’ve been so Pollyanna saccharine-sweet about the potential for entrepreneurs in our area that it’s made people cringe. I get that.
But I also like to think that, even with that, I can step back and express indignation. When warranted. And this? Boy howdy, I think it’s warranted.
Now, let me preface this rant with the following: I’m both a champion and a critic. Sitting here on my ass. Doing not much. But writing. And any—ANY—entrepreneur who goes out there and starts a company is better than I am. Granted.
But this isn’t about entrepreneurial efforts. It’s not about startups. It’s about what’s broken in the Angel investing community in our region.
And I’ll also say that this may lose me more than a few friends in organizations for which I’ve been a steadfast supporter. It may garner me a bit of ill will with those who I’ve thought of as colleagues and confidantes. And it may offend some folks whom I hold dear.
So be it. I’ve got to say it.
WTF Angel Oregon? This is one of your concept companies? Blanket Booster? Again… WTF?
Now, I’m perfectly willing to admit that maybe not enough interesting companies applied. Maybe not enough capital-efficient tech companies applied. Maybe their pitches were subpar. Maybe the CEOs were having an off day. Maybe the selection committee was feeling a little grumpy toward tech.
Maybe maybe maybe. Still. A bar. That holds a blanket off your feet. That’s one of the most interesting concepts you’ve seen this year?
I get that not every tech startup is interesting. I’m willing to wrap my head around the fact that Soothie Suckers had a broad demographic and seemed like a sound Angel investment. I’m even willing to stretch my imagination that velcro horse boots are a better risk than tens, if not hundreds, of other tech startups in our region.
But, I’m struggling to grasp how a rail that holds your blanket off of your feet is a better investment than the hundreds of concept companies I’ve talked to in the past six months.
So where to lay the blame? Well, I see two immediate candidates.
One is Angel investing in our region.
Yes, it’s decidedly weak in tech. And with good reason. Very few of the Angels in our region have a tech background. As such, they’re not very confident investing in tech. Angels invest in what they know. I get that.
But. If Oregon Angel investors find a piece of metal strapped to the foot of your bed to keep blankets off of your toes a more compelling business model than companies building far more impactful and far less capital intensive ideas? We’ve got a bigger problem on our hands.
But let’s be fair. It’s not just the investors to be blamed. Or the selection committees.
Maybe, just maybe, Blanket Booster was actually—without a doubt—one of the best candidates. And if that’s the case? Well, that makes me even more sad and ashamed.
Because it tells me that you didn’t even have the confidence to take your awesome idea to Angel Oregon. That you didn’t feel like you had something worthy of investment. That you didn’t think your startup was worth submitting to a selection committee.
So problem number two: You didn’t even enter the race.
I can’t blame the selection committee for selecting this company if it was one of the best of the bunch. I can’t blame them if your startup wasn’t even if the running.
I can’t blame them that if somehow, someway, your aggressive humility prevented you from applying with your awesome concept. And that just makes me sad. More than I can tell you.
And that is even worse. Not what they picked. But that you weren’t even in the running.
Because fact of the matter is that there are any number of things we can learn from Blanket Booster being a finalist in the Angel Oregon concept stage. But most of them just make me confused, scared, and more than a little ashamed.
Ugh. What a sad note to end the day. There are so many of you. With so many awesome ideas and startups and companies. And you’re not even in the running.
We’ve got to fix this. The blame? It lies with each and every one of us. And we’ve got to fix that.
Or maybe I’ve just got something stuck in my craw. And I should just go back to my cheerleading.
(Image courtesy Motoko Henusaki. Used under Creative Commons.)