Angel, venture capital investment trends moving West

Sixteen percent of venture capitalists surveyed nationwide named the Rocky Mountain region as one of the next regions — outside Silicon Valley, New York and New England — poised for growth.

That’s not a huge percentage, but it still struck me as significant. So I asked Tom Duening, the El Pomar chair for Business and Entrepreneurship at UCCS, for his take of last week’s National Venture Capital Association and Dow Jones VentureSource annual survey.

For starters, he said, “venture capital is changing — for the first time in its history. There used to be a large gap between angel investing and venture capital.”

Not any longer.

If you’re unfamiliar with the terms, angel investing involves investing small amounts, say, thousands of dollars, in early-stage companies. Venture capital, on the other hand, involves investing millions of dollars of “follow-up” capital in companies that are maturing and growing.

These days, however, venture capitalists are investing very small amounts in startups, say, $50,000, behaving more like angel investors, as it were. But they also have access to funds that will provide follow-up capital down the road.

This technique is known in the industry as “spray and pray,” investing in numerous little deals, with the hope that one will be wildly successful.

Such investors, Duening said, are primarily investing in companies that don’t have a lot of overhead, such as social-media companies and Internet-marketing companies.

And they’re looking for young, innovative ideas. He’s seen this shift in investing nationally, and along the Front Range.

“There’s money here,” Duening said, referring to the Pikes Peak region.

“(Investors) have generated a good chunk of money; there’s no reason to think we’re a backwater here — that’s not the case. There’s money here, and it’s getting more organized.”

Not only that, but there’s a lot of innovation and really smart people in the region.

“Everything goes in cycles,” he said. “But our day is coming. It’s a great place to live, and things will happen.”

One thing that bodes well for the region is the dramatic shift in demographics. More and more Americans are moving West, away from the crowded East Coast, where taxes and housing costs are higher.

And as people migrate West, entrepreneurial opportunity comes with them.

“Wealth flows with people. They bring their cultures and talent with them, and wealth follows that,” Duening said.

“The time is ripe to recruit people out of those regions. We are poised to be the next growth region of this country.”

Duening is in the process of launching a venture fund, the Intermountain Fund, with UCCS as a general partner.

SBA update

The U.S. Small Business Administration has rolled out two initiatives aimed at increasing SBA-backed loans to small businesses in traditionally underserved communities.

The initiatives — Small Loan Advantage and Community Advantage — are designed to increase the number of lower-dollar SBA 7(a) loans going to small businesses and entrepreneurs. These government-guaranteed loans can be used for general business purposes, including purchasing equipment and real estate, and providing working capital.

As the agency transitions to these programs, which will begin March 15, the SBA will also discontinue the Community Express pilot loan program on April 30.

“Over the last two years, we’ve seen lending to all small businesses tighten up, and that tightening has been even greater in traditionally underserved communities, including among minorities, women and in rural areas,” SBA Administrator Karen Mills said.

“These new Advantage initiatives are aimed directly at getting more loans into these markets so these small-business owners can get the capital they need to start or grow their business and create good paying jobs in local communities across the country,” she said.

Both loan programs will include a streamlined application process for SBA-guaranteed 7(a) loans up to $250,000. These loans will come with the regular 7(a) government guarantee, 85 percent for loans up to $150,000, and 75 percent for loans greater than $150,000.

U.S. Bank tech update

U.S. Bank customers in Colorado, Kansas and Missouri can now use DepositPoint. This device allows individuals and small-business owners to scan checks from their home or office, submitting deposits to the bank electronically through their computer.

Colorado is part of this pilot-testing phase of the service, which is available to checking account customers by accessing U.S. Bank Internet Banking and choosing the “make a deposit” option.

Rebecca Tonn can be reached at rebecca.tonn@csbj.com or 719-329-5229. Friend her on Facebook.