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Seed Capital From Angel Investors: Paul Olliver, Wider Wake Networks (Part 2)

Posted on Friday, May 28th 2010

By guest authors Irina Patterson and Candice Arnold

Irina: So, right now you have about 20 members in Wider Wake. How do you prescreen for your membership?

Paul: The membership criteria are quite tight, actually. All of the founding members have very applicable experience in digital media advertising. And that’s also reflected in the regular membership. So, we don’t have any silent money. We don’t have doctors, we don’t have structural engineers, we don’t have anybody who doesn’t have some insight, functional expertise, or experience in digital media advertising.

So, when we’re looking to get a deal done, the company that we’re investing in has got to see that as a value, because we could be looked at as a Swiss Army knife of experience and functional expertise. When we invest a million bucks into a business, we like to think it comes with a lot more than that million. It comes with the influence of not just us, five founding members of Wider Wake, but also the regular members and not more than one degree from any client they may want to touch, any company that they may want to partner with. It’s a very focused and in some respects a very limited membership.

There are a few angel groups out there that do have a very wide membership. And they look at widely different types of deals, but we have a focus on only one industry and only one niche in that industry. And that tends to de-risk some of the deals that we get involved in.

Irina: And your geographical focus is international; you don’t care where a company comes from, right?

Paul: Well, it’s predominantly trans-Atlantic. It’s the United States – and that tends to mean New York City, San Francisco, and L.A. Then, Thomas Falk lives in Germany; James Aitken has big influence and built a company in London. So we look at London deals, we look at European and the United States. We haven’t done anything in Asia, although we do have members in Asia. But we haven’t done anything there mainly because the founders’ experience tends to be trans-Atlantic.

Irina: And, in the United States, you don’t care which state the company is from?

Paul: No.

Irina: What about your success stories? Have any of your companies already had exits?

Paul: No. KlipMart (now part of DoubleClick) was the company that we formed in 1999 that we sold to DoubleClick in 2006. So, that’s very much a success that the founders have had, but not necessarily Wider Wake itself. I think it’s important to point out that we’re investing at such an early stage that we can’t expect any liquidity events or any exits to happen for at least three or four years after our investment. Wider Wake is itself only 18 months old, so a lot of the investments we’ve made under that banner are yet to be realized in terms of the successes that they may bring us.

Collective Media is run by Joe Apprendi, who’s one of the founding members; DBG (Digital Broadcasting Group) is run by Chris Young; appssavvy is one of the companies that we put money into almost at the very inception of Wider Wake. They’re a privately owned company so I can’t give you specific details on how their revenue is ramping. But they’ve gone from 2 people in whom we invested back in April 2008 to 43 people, at last count, almost two years later. So, it is somewhat of a case study for us.

The founders of appssavvy, Chris Cunningham and Michael Burke, have done a fantastic job, and they were just two sales guys and an idea. They didn’t have the previous experience in financial statements or financial projections, so I helped them, cowrote their P&L and helped them to raise some cash and and organize their company. And it’s somewhat of a case study in the sense that, yes, here’s some cash, but we’re going to follow it with advice on how to grow your business. You guys have got the sales side of the business down, so we’re not going to have much influence there. But what about organizational structure; what about marketing; what about a variety of support services, such as finance, HR, and all the other things that make up a company. We’ve assisted appssavvy by either finding the people to do it or doing it ourselves.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Seed Capital From Angel Investors: Paul Olliver, Wider Wake Networks
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