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Angel investors network ready for round two

Basking in the success of its inaugural Southern Oregon Angel Investment Network competition in 2011, the local investors' group has put out the call for a new round of entrepreneur entries for 2012.

More than 30 companies and entrepreneurs, primarily from Jackson County, threw their ideas into the ring during the first competition.

Folium Partners, an Ashland company that makes audiobook applications, came away from March's Southern Oregon Angel Conference with a $155,000 investment prize that grew into $300,000 before two-dozen investors were done closing the deal in June.

Last year's estimated prize began at $125,000, with $5,000 buy-ins from 25 investors. Steve Vincent, the local angel network founder and a regional business manager for Avista, projected this year's investment prize would be $125,000 also, but envisioned it going higher.

"These guys are having fun," said Vincent of the grassroots economic development effort coming from outside corporate boardrooms or philanthropic organizations. "They are looking for a company with a plan that will provide a good return and can't get capital."

Vincent said investors often look only at projects within their areas of interest or expertise. The angel network's broad-based group opens the door wider.

Applications for the latest competition are due Jan. 31. A conference where finalists will give final pitches is April 11.

Several of last year's entrants wound up in the Sustainable Valley Technology Group business incubator in downtown Medford, and some of those companies may make another run at the prize.

Most of the applicants last year didn't turn in business plans until right before the deadline. "They didn't feel they would have their best stuff until the end," he said. "They didn't want to submit and then amend their work."

Entrepreneurs with an eye on the prize can learn more at the Jefferson Grapevine meeting Wednesday, Nov. 16, at the SOU/RCC Higher Education Center in downtown Medford. A session on business plans and what angel investors want to see is scheduled from 3 to 5 p.m. A company pitch session and feedback will follow from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

"A lot of entrepreneurs had a good idea, but they didn't have the full package investors were looking for," said Ron Fox, executive director of Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc., which earned national recognition for its role in putting the competition together.

Additional primer sessions are scheduled for Jan. 18, on business pitches, and March 14, on negotiating terms.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email business@mailtribune.com.