Entrepreneurs with ties to Furman University – alumni, faculty, staff, donors, board members and parents of current or former students – now have a new source of capital for their start-up companies: investors with their own ties to the school.
The new VentureSouth Furman Angel Network is a partnership between Furman Innovation and Entrepreneurship and VentureSouth, one of the largest angel investment groups in the United States. Angel networks are groups of accredited investors who put their own money together to invest in early-stage ventures.
The VentureSouth Furman Angel Network connects entrepreneurs, mentors and investors within the Furman network to drive new venture growth, said Anthony Herrera, executive director of Furman Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the VentureSouth Furman Angel Network.
“This is the Furman network of investors helping the Furman network of entrepreneurs,” he said.
VentureSouth Furman Angel Network members must be Securities Exchange Commission accredited investors, have an association with Furman and pay $2,500 annual dues.
While college angel networks exist elsewhere, they are typically universities with large business schools, Herrera said.
“It’s very unusual for a traditional liberal arts college to offer an angel network,” he said.
Members will have access to all ventures screened by the VentureSouth due diligence team and priority access to any investment sourced from the Furman network, Herrera said.
Herrera said at least 10 people with Furman ties have committed to becoming members of the Furman Angel Network, while the goal is to have 30 to 40 members.
VentureSouth Managing Director Charlie Banks said members of the Furman network have opportunities to build diversified portfolios of investment. Also, Furman students and alumni know that if they create an investable company, they’ve got a captivated audience of potential investors.
“The No. 1 reason companies fail is they run out of cash,” he said.
Banks said VentureSouth looks at between 20 to 30 deals each month. It typically invests in between eight and 10 new companies every year and provides additional funding for another 10 to 20 companies that are already portfolio companies of VentureSouth. VentureSouth has invested over $50 million in more than 70 companies. It invested almost $4 million in 17 early-stage companies during the first six months of 2020. VentureSouth is generally “agnostic” related to the industries in which they invest in, Banks said. However, most companies ultimately funded are tech-enabled within markets that have the potential to grow.
“It lends itself to tech-based companies,” he said.
A byproduct of the VentureSouth Furman Angel Network will be an angel analyst program for students, Herrera said. The program, slated to start in the spring, will be open to all majors and teach students the skills they will need for private equity, venture capital, and investment banking careers, such as financial analysis, due diligence and valuation, he said.
Furman Trustee Robert E. Hill Jr., retired CEO of Acosta, said the VentureSouth Angel Network is the logical next step in the university’s efforts champion innovation and entrepreneurship and provides another way for people to connect with members of the Furman family.
“The Furman Angel Network will connect a lot of folks with a passion for Furman,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to invest in our students and give them a chance to connect with potential investors,” said Hill, who plans to join the network.
Herrera said the VentureSouth Furman Angel Network’s launch comes at an opportune time.
“Now more than ever, we need creative, innovative entrepreneurs coming up with new ventures, new products and new services that will enhance our lives, enhance our communities and create economic opportunity,” he said.
For more information about joining the VentureSouth Furman Angel Network, contact Anthony Herrera at Anthony.Herrera@furman.edu.