Good Things Come to Those that Wait

I cannot tell you how pleased I was this past week when I received word from Todd Federman advising that, at long last, one of North Coast Angel Fund’s portfolio companies, Assurex, is in the process of being acquired.

While the details of the transaction are either not yet available or confidential, suffice it to say that it is truly gratifying that after approximately ten years of investing literally millions of investor dollars into literally dozens of promising Ohio based startup businesses, a first such business will be experiencing a liquidity event.

The founders of and investors in Assurex might finally recoup their investments or even make a profit.

This is great news not only for the founders of and investors in Assurex but it will hopefully signal the coming of more liquidity events for more North Coast Angel Fund portfolio companies.

With a series of such liquidity events we might hope to see an increased interest on the part of local investors in investing in local startups as well as interest on the part of investors from other areas in investing in startups in this region.

These are all very good things and the result of well over a decade of visioning, lobbying, planning and hard work by a vast team committed to the region.

I first met John Huston, founder of Columbus-based Ohio Tech Angel Fund, on November 8, 2004 (in other words almost twelve full years ago). I was President of the Ohio Venture Association at that time and John had addressed the OVA at my invitation.

I was so impressed by John’s presentation, and so convinced that a fund similar to OTAF could help reinvent and reinvigorate our region’s then-beleaguered economy, that I put together a one-page summary captioned “North Coast Angel Fund” and began to aggressively lobby/ campaign for it. David Brown helped with this time-consuming process, as did others.

We met with legislators and other influential people. For example, Ray Leach of JumpStart and Jamie Ireland.

Our concept was not universally well-received, with many telling us that local angels would be far better off investing in established local funds rather than investing themselves.

Surely, we were told, if they invested themselves through an angel fund they would be like “lambs to slaughter.” They would lose all of their money and never consider investing in another startup. This would therefore set the region back another 30 years. Or so we were told by the many nay-sayers.

After months of lobbying and campaigning, the tide finally started to turn. Support for the “North Coast Angel Fund”, as I had referred to it on the one-pager, started to build. Notably Ray Leach of Jumpstart decided to back the effort. I had never sought to manage the group as I was convinced the manager would be uncompensated and I was putting several children through Harvard at the time.

As it turns out Clay Rankin, who was a member of OTAF (John Huston’s angel fund), was hired to manage the group and he has done so wonderfully. Todd Federman likewise.

And so here we are, almost twelve years to the day after I started to lobby / campaign for a “North Coast Angel Fund,” celebrating a first liquidity event and hoping that with strong foundation laid and pipeline built over the twelve years that this is the start of something transformative for the region.

When I put together my one pager on the “North Coast Angel Fund,” I had no idea whether we could ever launch such a fund, but I saw what such a fund could do for our region. I had absolutely no idea it would be almost twelve years to get a first liquidity event.

All of which proves that good things come to those…. who wait.

And those twelve years will have been well worth it if this latest Assurex development is the start of a series of liquidity events that can collectively be the catalyst for dramatically increasing the investor support available to startup businesses across our region.