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New England angel groups convene next week in Cambridge

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 29, 2010 07:20 AM

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Angel investing groups from around the region will gather in Cambridge next Wednesday for their 14th annual meeting. It's organized by CommonAngels and Hub Angels, two Boston-based groups of wealthy individuals who can provide anywhere from a few hundred thousand to a few million dollars to start-ups they deem worthy.

I spoke with James Geshwiler, managing director of CommonAngels, yesterday morning to get a sense of what they'll be discussing.

"The #1 issue is sufficiency and availability of capital," Geshwiler said, adding that groups want to be sure they can keep funding start-ups as they grow, not just hand them initial seed money. "We're looking at a venture capital industry and a population of high-net-worth individuals that is contracting. So we're increasingly putting emphasis on collaboration between different angel groups."

I asked how angel groups in New England have weathered the recession. "Clearly, everyone has lost members, and we had higher attrition in 2009," he said. But CommonAngels has also added a few new members, and Geshwiler says that if you look at a longer time frame than just the past year, "we're probably ahead by a little bit."

Also encouraging was a training seminar held earlier this month in Waltham under the auspices of the Angel Capital Association, intended to familiarize new investors with the world of angel investing. "Forty or fifty people showed up," Geshwiler said. "Some were new to angel investing and haven't joined one of the groups, and others were relatively new members of a group."

When the New England angel groups began gathering, one goal was to "improve the syndication process," making it easier for them to collaborate on initial investments and follow-on rounds. "Among angel groups, I'd have given our syndication work a C- then," Geshwiler said. "We've moved up to a B or maybe B-plus, but you can always do better."

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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