Founder laments lack of local entrants

After seeing $680,000 injected into start-ups during the past three years, Steve Vincent, founder and chairman of the Southern Oregon Angel Investment Network, said he's surprised more applicants haven't stepped up.

"I'm disappointed there hasn't been a better showing from Southern Oregon," he said after finalists were announced for the fourth round of angel investor grants Wednesday.

"The reason I've been working on this initiative is to grow the Southern Oregon economy. At the same time, we have to remind ourselves the individuals whose money is being invested have to make the best decision they can to get a good rate of return.

"I've done a lot of speculating," he added. "It could be the unemployment level. When the economy is down and the unemployment level is up, people aren't as willing to leave a safe paycheck and start a venture."

Rather than taking the leap, they may be playing it safe.

There's also the popular culture element.

"The television show 'Shark Tank' has created a little problem for us," said Vincent, referring to ABC's reality show where investors grill entrepreneurs looking for financial backing.

"I've talked to people on the phone who tell me they don't want to be part of our shark tank," Vincent said. "In some respect, the show might be hurting us more than helping us when we are associated with that format. The meaner they are, the more people watch; we're not about that."

Ultimately, he said, Southern Oregon Angel Network backers need to find ways to develop companies.

"Whether it is through SOREDI, Sustainable Valley or what's being done by the Ashland Chamber," Vincent said. "We need to find a way to assist them."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, friend him on Facebook and read his blog at Edge.

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