Students, Canyon Angels investors make a big splash

Asher Cameron (right), Student Executive Director of Canyon Angels, talks with the Colangelo College of Business' Steve Thomas.

Investors were cautious. Medical technology companies can take forever to hit pay dirt.

But Grand Canyon University students found evidence that convinced them otherwise. As a vital part in the investment group Canyon Angels, the students researched Embody, Inc., a company that makes biomaterial products for tissue healing, digging deep into their technology and market projections.

They talked to Embody executives, who had a clear, uncomplicated presentation, students told investors, and showed its character by responding humbly to their pointed questions. Seven Canyon Angels investors were sold on the company and made an investment of more than $100,000 at a value of about $15 million.

Embody is being acquired by Zimmer Biomet Holdings, Inc. for $155 million and up to an additional $120 million that is subject to achieving milestones in three years.

“It’s a validation point for students in the real world. Students did the due diligence. Students did the deal,” said Tim Kelley, Canyon Angels Chair and Assistant Professor in GCU’s Colangelo College of Business.

Tim Kelley often says that the way to learn business is to do business.

It was also a big win for Canyon Angels, a nonprofit launched in 2015 with ties to a CCOB elective class, ENT 495. The 70 accredited investors have helped fund 62 startups.

“It’s a win for angel groups; it has an impressive metric,” Kelley said of the Embody deal. “It’s cool to see our little startup angel group have a splash that the community recognizes. We can use it to excite our members and we can use it to excite our students about ways to be in the real world.”

That’s his mission. He tells entrepreneurial studies students that if they aren’t starting their own company, they should be in Canyon Angels working with investors of companies that can impact the world.

Asher Cameron said students learn presentation skills in Canyon Angels.

Embody says its product supports healing in challenging orthopedic soft tissue injuries.

“It’s been super cool to see what happened to them, to see the kind of success a startup can have, and learn about them so we can identify more companies that are going to end up the same way,” said junior Asher Cameron, Student Executive Director of Canyon Angels.

The 30 students in Canyon Angels are hungry undergraduates who use University resources, Kelley’s expertise and a lot of research elbow grease to inform investors, he said. They go from a curated list of startups identified by investors and narrow them to three for a monthly pitch, including the latest on Feb. 8 at Canyon Ventures in Building 66.

“Our work this year has been getting better consistently, so I’m excited about what we can do,” Cameron said.

“You learn a lot. You learn the ins and outs of a company. You learn a lot about the fundraising process, so you have the skills to start your own company. You know how to pitch to investors because you’ve seen a million of these.”

This year, $1,000 is awarded to the group that investors vote had the best presentation, donated by Hool Coury Law. But Cameron said the work is mainly for experience and networking that can lead to employment.

You learn a lot. You learn the ins and outs of a company. You learn a lot about the fundraising process, so you have the skills to start your company. You know how to pitch to investors because you've seen a million of these.

Asher Cameron, Student Executive Director of Canyon Angels

“We have a significant number of past students who have gone into venture capital funds. Trinity Capital has employed five of our students out of Canyon Angels who beat out some Ivy League kids,” Kelley said.

Fear dissipates when they meet with entrepreneurs at early stages who face steep challenges.

“In academia we sometimes put them on a pedestal, but they are real people with real troubles dealing with massive unknowns. There are huge parts of the world they don’t know about but are going for it anyway,” Kelley said.

“So it’s OK that I don’t know everything. I feel empowered as a young student, having the ability to maintain conversations, do the research and interact with investors and entrepreneurs.”

"It's cool to see our little angel startup group have a splash that the community recognizes," Kelley said.

Often the students bring a fresh perspective.

“For the most part, we are older people as investors, so sometimes they truly grasp how this can impact life in ways we don’t,” said Kelley, one of the investors in Embody. “A lot of the companies have a digital aspect to it that is scalable.”

Many students could relate to the challenges of tendon and ligament injuries that Embody addressed with advanced medical technology.

Investors could certainly relate to the return – and the opportunity to mentor and work with a younger generation that is hungry to change the world.

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.

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Related content:

GCU News: How Canyon Angels work pays off for students

GCU News: Engineering a strong entrepreneurial spirit

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