Student input helps Canyon Angels take wing
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University has found another way to invest in the community.
The first meeting of the Canyon Angels, the new investor group formed by Tim Kelley, assistant professor of entrepreneurship and economics at GCU, was by all accounts a rousing success Wednesday night on campus as 68 investors heard presentations by representatives of three startup companies.
As an added bonus, three GCU student teams followed the 15-minute presentations with their due-diligence findings about the companies. Kelley said the student input will “more than likely” be a regular part of the meetings, which will take place about 4-5 times a year.
“I was incredibly impressed by the students doing the due diligence,” said David Blackledge, an attorney who’s an adjunct professor at GCU and also is a founding member of the Canyon Angels advisory board. “This is a cut above.”
Another advisory board member, attorney Michael Hool, said, “The investors will appreciate the student input. It’s a cool differentiator — in most angel groups several members of the group get paid to do due diligence. And these students will be our next entrepreneurs.”
Dr. Randy Gibb, dean of the Colangelo College of Business, said there are three objectives for GCU’s newest Angels:
“One, we want to increase the number of accredited investors who are actively investing in startups,” Gibb said. “Two, we want to help the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Valley and help startups. And three, we want to get our GCU students involved and give them the bug to learn from doing due diligence so that when they go forth with their own ventures they’ll know that much more and they’ll have a jumpstart toward success.”
To read more about Canyon Angels in the Phoenix Business Journal, click here.
Kelley, a longtime angel investor, said only a small percentage of people who have the net worth to be able to invest in startups actually do so. He first proposed two years ago that GCU form an investor group, and the idea got traction when Gibb arrived on campus in July 2014.
Once Kelley was handed the ball, he ran with it by contacting investors he has known for years and assembling the advisory board. The next step is supervising the natural evolution of the group.
“I think the students did a great job and communicated freely,” he said. “As we form a culture as an organization and start to decide where the priorities are and how we interact with one another, what’s most common is that angels will team up together to invest in deals. There’s a level of confidence that they gain from the group they’re part of.”
The three businesses that were presented Wednesday were eVisit, a telemedicine startup that handles the intake process for physicians; ClearVoice, a content project-management system that helps companies identify their core audience and gain insights into how they are slotted on the Internet; and Smart Armor, which helps users keep track of their possessions and personal needs through their smart phone.
Ira Hayes, who is beginning his doctoral work on a degree in Organizational Psychology and Industrial Leadership at GCU, is a member of the Smart Armor team, which has presented to every group of investors in the Valley. “This one was the most innovative,” he said.
Hayes’ perspective was echoed by Hool, who said, “I’ve been involved in a lot of these types of things, and this is a real healthy start to putting an angel group together. We’ve just got to keep the momentum and have the investors who were here reach out and bring their investor friends.”
The Canyon Angels are a natural outgrowth of the Canyon Challenge, the annual competition that awards $15,000 to GCU students, prospective students and staff whose entrepreneurial ideas are judged to have the most potential. Students are able to practice their presentations in monthly GCU Shark Tank meetings, patterned after the “Shark Tank” television show.
There’s more community investment to come in this sector. GCU also is preparing to launch the Lope Kingdom Fund, which will invest in startup businesses that are in the Canyon Corridor area or agree to move there. It also will provide job opportunities for west Phoenix residents.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected]