Looking to keep local startups local

Article Date: May 26, 2015

Kingston Business Hall of Fame 2013 inductee John Molloy is looking to keep local startup businesses local with the Southeastern Ontario Angel Network.

“If we don’t begin to invest in companies that are started here and start investing some money to help them grow here, these companies are all going to leave,” SOAN director Molloy said.

Molloy, the former president and CEO of Queen’s University’s PARTEQ, had organized an angel network focused on Queen’s innovations during his time with PARTEQ. Since then, he has expanded his focus to the entire Kingston region, working with other partners in Innovation Park to start the investment network over a year ago in April.

An angel investor is the term used to describe an individual who invests in small business ventures to help in their early stages of development. Angel networks, such as SOAN, serve as a matchmaker between angel investors and startup companies looking for capital.

As part of the larger Network Angels Organizations-Ontario (NAO-Ontario), SOAN is a not-for-profit corporation, funded through FedDev Ontario to stimulate economic growth within the southeastern Ontario region — from Brockville to Belleville.

“There’s a lot of people that have the resources but don’t know where the opportunities are or don’t know how to get to the opportunities,” Molloy said.

The network has since organized one successful deal with Mosaic Manufacturing, the 3-D colour-printing entrepreneurs from Queen’s, to help it achieve a $231,804 Kickstarter campaign.

The network is in the midst of working on one more deal this year.

Molloy said he would like to see three or four deals a year from the network, but the biggest difficulty is finding an angel investor that will begin the investing.

“The hardest part is finding someone to be first,” said Molloy, adding that it’s easier to find others to invest once the initial investment is made.

SOAN has strong support from organizations within Innovation Park, such as Launch Lab, which helps refer startups to SOAN as it provides services to businesses trying to get off the ground.

Michael Mann, CEO of Launch Lab, actually approached Molloy to get the angel network started in the area, having had experience organizing angel investments previously.

Molloy said that with all the services in Innovation Park, word goes around fast if there is a worthwhile investment opportunity for the network to look at.

“We’re trying to stimulate entrepreneurial activity and the creation and growth of new companies in this region,” Molloy said.

The network has mostly been focused on the technology sector, Molloy said, but there isn’t a specific mandate for the network. Molloy said it all depends on what the members of the network are interested in.

The province of Ontario announced on Monday that, in partnership with the NAO-Ontario, it will be launching the Impact Angel Alliance, aimed at encouraging more social ventures in Ontario.

Thus far, Molloy hasn’t found any opportunities or investors interested in social ventures, but he hopes that as its member base grows, so, too, will the diversity of interests within the network.