Monday, July 10, 2006

Sun Valley Angel Investor event

Yesterday, we wrapped up the angel investor event in Sun Valley orchestrated by the Keiretsu Forum. The weekend offered the attendees a chance to golf, hike, raft, bike, relax, etc. before heading home and making way for Gates, Buffett, Murdoch, the Google guys and the rest of perhaps the biggest collection of billionaires in the world at the Allen & Company conference that takes place each year in Sun Valley. Given the short notice of the event, it was well attended with angel investors coming in from Seattle, Boise, San Francisco, Denver, D.C., Atlanta and Sun Valley. They heard presentations from 3 companies in a wide range of arenas – Voxilla (operates in the VoIP space), Festival Media (trying to do what NASCAR did for stock car racing in the festivals business), and Positron (exclusive licensee of some killer Dept of Energy IP in what’s called “non destructive testing”). They all did a nice job presenting but I was most intrigued by Positron. If they can execute, they are going to be picked up by someone like GE.


Friday evening, I hosted a gathering at our place that was highlighted by a fireside chat with Debbi and Paul Brainerd. Paul is credited with creating the desktop publishing industry by founding Aldus which created the landmark PageMaker product. Aldus was purchased in the mid-90’s by Adobe for over a half billion dollars. Paul turned his attention towards philanthropy and became one of the key people who turned Seattle into a hotbed for philanthropic innovation along with a few others such as Scott Oki (longtime MSFT exec who started Microsoft’s international business), Jeff Brotman (co-founder of Costco) and of course Bill Gates. Paul and Debbi are amazing people who’ve done tremendous work with the Brainerd Foundation, Social Venture Partners, IslandWood and many other organizations. They spent most of their time talking about SVP and IslandWood – both stellar organizations I’ve had first-hand exposure to.


It was fun to see all of the relationships that were built throughout the few days people were in town. As I’d hoped, I thought there’d be benefit in cross-pollinating angel investors from around the country. There were already discussions about doing this more often as well as having collaboration from a few angel groups around the Northwest that are interested in joining forces with the Keiretsu Forum. For example, there is a great angel group in Boise that has many seasoned entrepreneurs and successful executives who’ve moved to the Boise area. One of their leaders (Phil Bradley – CFO of ProClarity which was recently purchased by Microsoft) attended the event and is the kind of seasoned entrepreneur enriching the startup community in Idaho which is still growing. He saw a number of synergies with the Keiretsu Forum that could benefit Idaho’s startup ecosystem.

No comments: