Monthly Meeting Lineup for April 18th

This week's RVI meeting (Wednesday 4/18, 8:00am, offices of TechSpring) included four presentations to see if we are interested in starting due diligence:

  • Treaty LLC - Developed FogKicker, a high performance anti-fog solution for mirrors, diving masks and goggles. A University of Massachusetts, Amherst based-team, now headquartered in Springfield, MA.
  • Premama - The fastest growing company in Rhode Island. They create products for pre and postnatal nutrition, with 10 products sold in over 7500 store.
  • Zippity - Provides full service, onsite car maintenance with our mobile service garages and tech-enabled user experience.
  • New England Breath Technologies (10:20am) - Fast, quick, non-invasive diabetes screening using breath analysis. This company is also based in Springfield, mA.

River Valley Investors invests in Valt.io

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Western-Massachusetts based angel network River Valley Investors (RVI) completed an investment in a Valt, a Western Massachusetts-based cybersecurity company.

Valt makes it easy for anyone to have a truly secure and unique password for every website they visit, without the impossible task of needing to remember them all. Their solution competes with other password management systems like those from LastPass and 1Password.

“The existing password management solutions aren’t easy for normal people to use, they are products created by programmers, for programmers. Valt’s intuitive solution offers the opportunity to bring strong security to us mere mortals,” said RVI Manager Paul Silva.

Valt CEO Brent Heeringa shares, “Valt is thrilled to have support from investors in Western Massachusetts and looks forward to a strong and fruitful relationship with RVI.”

This is River Valley Investors’ first investment in Valt.

Want to Transform the Local Economy?

Good News: Western Massachusetts is home to one of the top 100 startup accelerators in the world and has a rapidly growing entrepreneurship ecosystem. We have dozens of exciting young companies being born every year right in our back yard. WHAAAAAA WHOOOO!

Bad News: Those companies need access to high-risk capital but we don’t have nearly enough angel investors (AKA wealthy people who put their own time & money into startups). Too few angels means too little capital. Too little capital means many of our region’s greatest companies will have to move to where they can find the money.

The Opportunity: If you believe, as I do, that entrepreneurs are our best hope for growing the jobs and prosperity of our region, and if you have an income of at least $250k a year (and/or have a high net worth), I invite you to become an angel investor for our region. Doing so gives you the opportunity to help entrepreneurs with your money and your expertise. Startups are hard. Most fail and in so doing lose their investors money. But the ones that succeed create economy-saving jobs & prosperity. Their founders and investors earn enough to become the philanthropists of the future.

It truly is an opportunity to do well by doing good… and have a blast doing it.

If this sounds like interesting, I invite you to come to a meeting of the River Valley Investors, meet the crazy people betting on the innovators of the future, and consider joining us. To get meeting details, email me paul@angelcatalyst.com.

The Case For Being An Angel Investor

Marianne Hudson, executive director of the Angel Capital Association (the trade association for angel investors in the US) wrote an article making the case for wealthy to consider becoming angel investors. Her full article (with her permission) appears below:

 

The other day I was listening to an entrepreneur pitch his company to a group of potential investors and it hit me how great it is to be an angel investor. I’m admittedly biased, but I think being an angel investor is one of the best things high net worth investors can do.  Supporting great entrepreneurs is a real kick – and it can bring significant financial returns.

The rewards are many, assuming you can check yes to these basic caveats: Legally, you must have the wealth or income to be an accredited investor. Personally, you must be willing to lose your investment money, should have a portfolio strategy, and use good investment practices.  This high risk, high reward kind of investing isn’t for everyone, but for every article I read encouraging people not to get into angel investing, I see more reasons to do it.

First, consider the potential financial returns.  A study found that the overall return on 1,100 plus angel exits was 2.6 times the money in 3.5 years, or about 27% gross Internal Rate of Return.  Not bad compared to other types of equity investments. Even so, it’s important to look into the details.  More than 52% of those exits lost some or all of the investment and 7% provided nearly all of the returns.  This means that angels need to start with a strategy to make multiple investments to minimize risk and increase the chance of good returns. Angels should also educate themselves on good angel investing processes via eventsreading and networking with experienced angels.

Angel investing can also help diversify your overall investment portfolio.  Ryan Feit, CEO of SeedInvest, put it this way: “Allocating 5% of your overall portfolio into angel investments can increase returns while lowering volatility.  This is because early-stage, private companies generally have a low correlation with traditional asset classes, such as stocks and bonds.  A recent SharesPost whitepaper concluded that allocating 5% to private growth companies could increase the returns of a traditional portfolio by 12%.”

While returns are the measuring stick for any kind of investment, investing in early-stage companies provides a whole set of additional, hard to find, personal rewards:

  • Meet interesting people with fascinating ideas – Top entrepreneurs are the best communicators I’ve ever seen, getting across their technology or medical innovations in ways nearly anyone can understand while also explaining their business models very well. You can feel their tremendous passion and see how fast the wheels in their brains are going.  Through angel investing I have also had the pleasure of meeting other investors. Often we have highly different backgrounds, yet we share a common core that builds great bonds, leading to long-lasting, true friendships. And let’s not forget the great food and beverages we enjoy as we analyze and debate our next investment.

  • Support what you care about – Since angels decide which companies they want to invest in, they can put their own money in the kinds of businesses that are the most important to them. This might be industry sectors you have experience in, or entrepreneurs who are alumni of your university, or supporting a demographic you care about such as women entrepreneurs.

  • Know you’re doing good – As Feit says, “Unlike any other type of investment, startup investing provides the opportunity to invest in innovation and to feel real ownership in the companies that you invest in. Every year, angel investments create thousands of revolutionary and life-changing technologies.” I’ve met so many angels who are also proud that the companies they invest in create new jobs.

  • “Entrepreneurship without the responsibility” – Super Angel David S. Rose coined this phrase in his 2014 book“Angel Investing: The Gust Guide to Making Money and Having Fun Investing in Startups.” Entrepreneurship is exciting.  As I wrote a few years ago, one of my favorite angels has said how much he loved starting his very successful company and selling it for a great return, but he didn’t really enjoy the part in the middle—running and growing the company.  As angel investors, we know that the responsibility for a company’s success lies with the CEO and we can enjoy being involved with the company without having the responsibility of leading “in the middle” to get to a great exit.

  • Learn new skills – Angel investing offers something new for everyone. Learning new things like deal terms, the most effective way to mentor entrepreneurs, or how to be a good board director can be lots of fun. Sometimes gaining these skills can also lead investors on new life paths. For instance, one reason angel investing is attractive to women is because it’s a fast track to learning about being on boards of directors, getting board experience, and then leveraging this to become better candidates to serve on corporate boards.

  • Apply current skills in new ways – Angel Barbara Clarke is an example of how an investor’s background can contribute to the angel process. As she told me recently, “Everyone on a due diligence team has their own unique expertise and experience. For example, angels with journalist backgrounds are good at research and interviewing. My background is management consulting, and I’ve found that I am comfortable with competitor and market analysis, even in industries and fields I am unfamiliar with.”

When you add the financial benefits with the personal perks, how can’t you make a case for angel investing? My advice? Continue to learn as much as you can about angel investing before diving in, but know up front that it is one of the best things you can ever do.

8 Steps to Becoming an Angel Investor

The Angel Capital Association put our a great starter guide for people who are Angel Curious (my term, not theirs :)).

The Short version:

  1. Make sure you meet accredited investor standards
  2. Understand the risks of investing in startups
  3. Educate yourself
  4. Ask experienced angels for advice
  5. Join an angel group or angel platform (like the River Valley Investors)
  6. Develop an initial investing strategy
  7. Actively participate in Q&As
  8. When ready, write that first check

Get the full details from the original article here.

Welcoming New RVI Members: Andrew Klopfer, Mike Michon and Norm Smith

We are pleased to welcome Andrew Klopfer, Mike Michon and Norm Smith as RVI's newest members.

 Andrew Klopfer, Returning RVI Member

Andrew Klopfer, Returning RVI Member

Andrew Klopfer is a returning RVI member. He has experience with over 3 million square feet of commercial real estate, analyzing businesses, client management and selling business opportunities to investors. He is a relationship builder and seller in his heart and thrives on helping organizations and people understand risk and make money. Andrew has spent the past 4 years at ARK Ventures, LLC, where he runs Business Development and Investment Strategy. 

Andrew brings strong experience in business development, sales, prospecting, asset management, due diligence, investor presentations, and relationship management. He is passionate about hockey, and was formerly a journalist. Andrew is certified in Real Estate Finance, received his MBA from Babson College, and his BS from Union College in upstate New York. 

 Mike Michon, New RVI Member

Mike Michon, New RVI Member

Mike Michon has 26 years’ experience in building and real estate management. Currently, Mike is the Principal at Interland Real Estate, LLC. He previously worked for St. Michael’s Construction, Corp. 

Mike has received a number of building and construction management certifications from Boston Architectural College and Wentworth Institute for Technology, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Building Construction Technology from Framingham State University.

 Norm Smith, New RVI Member

Norm Smith, New RVI Member

Norm Smith is an innovative executive adviser to privately held businesses with extensive experience leading and managing complex organizations in sophisticated and challenging environments. 

Previously, Norm worked at the MassMutual Financial Group, a Fortune 100 company, for sixteen years, serving for more than a decade as either its Corporate Controller and Chief Accounting Officer or Chief Financial Officer of its U.S. insurance operations.  A CPA, he has a held a variety of other senior financial roles including being the Corporate Controller and Chief Accounting Officer of the Paul Revere Insurance Group (now UNUM) when it was publicly traded on the NYSE and Audit Committee Chair for an offshore reinsurer majority owned by Cerberus Capital Management.   

Prior to joining MassMutual, he spent six years as a founding member of a hedge fund and hedge fund back office business.

Norm holds both an MBA and a BBA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Isenberg School of Management. At UMass, he was given the ECAC Merit Medal awarded to the outstanding senior student athlete, and he remains an actively involved alumnus across a range of programs and initiatives. 

River Valley Investors opens 2018 with investments in 3DFortify and Cambridge Blockchain

Western-Massachusetts based angel network River Valley Investors invested in 3DFortify, and completed a follow-on investment in Cambridge Blockchain early this year.

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3DFortify was a MassChallenge finalist, and the company went on to become a 2016 Gold Prize winner. In 2017, the company won the JEC Group’s 2017 International Startup award. The company combines 3D printing and magnetics to create aligned reinforced carbon fiber composites. “Our patented technologies allow for cheaper, faster, and the most complex composite manufacturing to date,” writes CEO Josh Martin. “We are ushering in a new generation of custom, high performance products.” River Valley Investors participated in a syndicated seed round, led by Mainspring Capital Partners in Boston and Prelude Ventures in San Francisco.

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Cambridge Blockchain, an alum of Valley Venture Mentors and with roots in Western Massachusetts, offers a proprietary software stack that has the potential to dramatically strengthen identity verification tools. The startup has recently entered into a partnership with IHS Markit, a UK-based data analysis firm. The recent funding, in combination with this partnership will allow the company to bring it’s secure and client-controlled peer-to-peer data sharing platform to big banks.

This is River Valley Investors’ first investment in 3DFortify, and third investment in Cambridge Blockchain.

 

About 3D Fortify:

3DFortify combines 3D printing and magnetics to create aligned reinforced carbon fiber composites. www.3dfortify.com

 

About Cambridge Blockchain:

Cambridge Blockchain offers proprietary software stack that has the potential to dramatically strengthen identity verification tools. www.cambridge-blockchain.com

 

About River Valley Investors:

River Valley Investors (RVI) is Western Massachusetts' angel investor network, including successful entrepreneurs and executives dedicated to helping each other find, evaluate and profitably invest in exciting companies with significant growth potential.  www.rivervalleyinvestors.com.

River Valley Investors Invests in Pixm, Relativity6 and Infinite Composites Technologies

Western-Massachusetts based angel network River Valley Investors completed a series of three technology investments at the end of 2017. These include Pixm, Relativity6 and Infinite Composites Technologies.

Among these investments is New York City-based Pixm, a company that utilizes deep learning technologies to stop phishing breaches. Pixm was a MassChallenge finalist. “River Valley Investors’ investment in Pixm will help enable us to hire the data scientists and data architects we need to grow our product,” Arun Buduri, the company’s Chief Product Officer explains.

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Relativity6 is a Cambridge-based company that assists insurance companies and other enterprise clients in better understanding their customers. The company uses state of the art machine learning tools to increase customer engagement, and reactivate unresponsive customers. “We call our proprietary system of algorithms 'behavioral listening algorithms' because we've trained our models to tune into strictly action based variables, leaving subjectivity aside,” writes Alan Ringwald.

Alan went on to comment that “RVI has been the most professional and organized angel group I've worked with. They were very transparent and delivered exactly what they promised, I'd recommend them to any entrepreneur.”

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Infinite Composites Technologies builds composite tanks that are lighter and store more gas. CEO Matt Villarreal writes that, “These funds [from River Valley Investors] will enable ICT to secure a number of pending contracts in the space industry as well as contribute more resources to sales and marketing. Working with RVI has been a great experience. They are organized, thoughtful and transparent which makes them a great capital source for startups.”
 

About Pixm:

Pixm utilizes deep learning technologies to stop phishing breaches. www.pixm.net

 

About Relativity6:

Relativity6 assists insurance companies and other enterprise clients in better understanding their customers. www.relativity6.com

 

About Infinite Composites Technologies:

Infinite Composites Technologies built the infinite composite pressure vessel (iCPV), the only high-pressure fuel system to hold more fuel weight than cylinder weight. www.infinitecomposites.com

 

About River Valley Investors:

River Valley Investors (RVI) is Western Massachusetts' angel investor network, including successful entrepreneurs and executives dedicated to helping each other find, evaluate and profitably invest in exciting companies with significant growth potential.  www.rivervalleyinvestors.com.

Monthly Meeting Lineup for February 21st

This week's RVI meeting (Wednesday 2/21, 8:00am, offices of TechSpring) included three presentations to see if we are interested in starting due diligence:

  • Sunrise Health applies AI to text-based group therapy to make mental health care more scalable, personalized, and accessible.

  • Galaxy.AI Galaxy's machine vision solution analyzes damaged vehicle image to generate claim cost for insurance cos, replacing manual claim estimation.

  • Uknack Our goal is to help young professionals move into the workforce more quickly, and help them quickly translate education and talent into experience.

Monthly Meeting Lineup for January 17th, 2018

This week's RVI meeting (Wednesday 1/17, 8:00am, offices of TechSpring) included two presentations to see if we are interested in starting due diligence:

  • Kalion - Brings cleaner, greener, cheaper molecules to market. Specifically, Kalion has found a way to produce two platform chemicals, glucaric acid and 3-HBL, using synthetic biology. Kalion is an RVI portfolio company based in Milton, MA.
  • Cambridge Blockchain - Puts control of personal identity data back in the hands of the end user. Cambridge Blockchain is an RVI portfolio company, and is raising Series A funding.

Monthly Meeting Lineup for December 20th

This week's RVI meeting (Wednesday 12/20, 8:00am, offices of TechSpring) included four presentations to see if we are interested in starting due diligence:

  • Orono Spectral Solutions - Advanced chemical sampling organization on the verge of generating significant new sales as a result of the U.S. DOT approval of testing method. The company is based in Maine.
  • Launchpad Medical - Developing the first bone adhesive to repair bone fractures and stabilize metal implants. The company is based in Lowell, Massachusetts.
  • Spring Loaded Technologies - Energizes knees with the power of bionics to enhance and restore mobility. The company is based in Nova Scotia.
  • PCB:NG - Cloud manufacturing for electronics. A New York-based company.

Monthly Meeting Lineup for November 15th

Next week's RVI meeting (Wednesday 11/15, 8:00am, offices of TechSpring) will include four presentations to see if we are interested in starting due diligence:

  • Infinite Composites Technologies - RVI portfolio company, raising another round. The company designs, develops, and manufactures advanced gas storage systems for aerospace, industrial gas and transportation applications. Based in Tulsa, OK.
  • Valt - Valt Visual Password Manager is a new approach to password management. Based in North Adams, MA.
  • ConnectM - Diagnose/monitor health of homes/buildings to protect HVAC assets & improve health & wellness. A Boston-area company.
  • Medumo - Focused on first digitizing the hospital experience and predicting patient adherence. Also a Boston-area company.

Monthly Meeting Lineup for October 18th

This week's RVI meeting (Wednesday 10/18, 8:00am, offices of TechSpring) included three presentations to see if we are interested in starting due diligence, and one follow-on presentation:

  • MachineMetrics - This is an RVI portfolio company based in Northampton, MA.
  • Pixm - Makes technologies to stop phishing breaches. A MassChallenge company, based in Boston.
  • uknack - Hire talented college students to elp you grow your busines. A Boston-based company.
  • FairMarkIT - Provides price benchmarking and rapid procurement. A Boston-based company.

Monthly Meeting Lineup for September 20th

This week's RVI meeting (Wednesday 9/20, 8:00am, offices of TechSpring) included two presentations to see if we are interested in starting due diligence, and one follow-on presentation:

  • NextChar -  Formed to deliver high-performance biochar, which is currently in high demand, at a commercial scale to the North American markets. Based in Amherst, MA.
  • Northeast Energy Group - A fully automated, 24-hour wholesale diesel and home
    heating oil distribution facility in Springfield, Massachusetts. 
  • Dookans - Makes it easier for people to find, order from, and pay mobile food vendors by leveraging mobile technologies. The company is based in the Boston area.

Welcoming New RVI Member: Murdoc Khaleghi

We are pleased to welcome Murdoc Khaleghi as RVI's newest member.

 Murdoc Khaleghi, new RVI Member

Murdoc Khaleghi, new RVI Member

Dr. Khaleghi MD MBA FACEP has co-founded several successful health technology companies, such as StemoniX and EverlyWell, and has served as the Founding Chief Medical Officer of several more.  In addition, he has published 8 books, including an Amazon best seller, and he and his work have been mentioned or featured on CNN, 20/20, The Doctors, The Tonight Show, PBS, NBC, and more.  Locally, Dr. Khaleghi is President of Westfield Emergency Physicians, and Chief Medical Information Officer at Baystate Noble Hospital. Dr. Khaleghi holds degrees in bioengineering, medicine, and business from UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, and Columbia University.

River Valley Investors completes an investment in SnoopWall

Western-Massachusetts based angel network River Valley Investors has recently completed an investment in SnoopWall, the world’s first breach prevention security company delivering a suite of network, mobile and app security products as well as cloud-based services protecting all computing devices from prying eyes and new threats through patented countersurveillance cloaking technology.

SnoopWall puts confidential information behind firewalls, using award-winning, patented NetSHIELD appliances. SnoopWall technology is able to detect block remote control, eavesdropping and spying.

“Cybercrime is expected to cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021, up from $600 billion today,” said SnoopWall CEO Gary Miliefsky. “Small and medium enterprises generate more than 80 percent of global GDP, and have become the No. 1 target of cybercriminals.”

SnoopWall has recently secured a partnership with Assurant Inc., a global provider of risk management solutions. Through this and other partnerships, SnoopWall’s services are being extended to small and medium size enterprises across the United States.

 

About SnoopWall:

SnoopWall’s mission is to be a trusted provider of cost effective, proactive security solutions to enhance organizations cyber-risk mitigation strategies. www.snoopwall.com.

About River Valley Investors:

River Valley Investors (RVI) is Western Massachusetts' angel investor network, including successful entrepreneurs and executives dedicated to helping each other find, evaluate and profitably invest in exciting companies with significant growth potential. www.rivervalleyinvestors.com.

RVI MONTHLY MEETING LINEUP FOR JULY 19th

This week's RVI meeting (Wednesday 7/19, 8:00am, offices of TechSpring) included three presentations to see if we are interested in starting due diligence:

  • M1 Tapes - "The only tape measure you will ever need." This is a Valley Venture Mentors alum company, based in Haydenville, MA.
  • 3DFortify - An advanced manufacturing startup that aims to disrupt additive manufacturing, ushering in a new generation of custom, high performance products. The company has developed patented process that combines 3D printing and magnetics to create carbon fiber composites with magnetically aligned reinforcement. They are headquartered in San Francisco, CA.
  • Monsarrat - A new type of mobile gaming. In one month, Pokémon Go earned $268 million. In two months, they lost 80% of players. Monsarrat adds longevity to augmented reality gaming. A Boston-area based company.