Reevaluating How Angel Investors Collaborate With Startup Communities

Written by Simon Huang.

Entrepreneurs have long known the key to startup success is collaboration. Behind every billion dollar IPO and every glitzy product launch stand years of shared ideas, partnerships and long hours bouncing ideas off neighbors in co-working spaces. No startup is an island. These lessons, however, have been slower in coming to the angel investment community.

With, the first ever convening of the country’s angel investors and community leaders, coming up in November 12-13 in Dallas, it’s important that we reevaluate how angels can collaborate – not just with each other, but with America’s vibrant startup communities.



Image Credit: Halo Report

Case in point: Upstate New York. The region boasts some of the country’s best engineering talent – produced by the likes of Cornell, the University of Rochester and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Taken with the area’s low cost of living, along with the presence of tech giants like IBM, and Upstate’s entrepreneurial potential is promising.

It could be even higher with more and better angel interaction, says Mitchell Patterson, Upstate New York native and one of its most active entrepreneurs and investors. As the Founder of Startup Weekend Syracuse and former Vice President of Armory Square Ventures, a local VC fund, Mitchell has a front-row seat watching how investors interact with Upstate ventures.

The relatively modest cost of living, Patterson claims, makes Upstate New York ideal as a kind of “runway” for the larger markets of New York City and Boston. But while plenty of companies start in the area, they often aren’t able to scale, leading them to relocate prematurely. “Companies that we can grow, when they need more capital, it isn’t there, so they move to Manhattan or Boston or San Jose. Companies often don’t end up growing here.”

Given the reputation of startup ecosystems for energizing local economies, this is an unfortunate trend. However, the arrival of more capital isn’t a cure-all either. The small size of Upstate New York and similar markets means that the methods that worked in New York City or San Jose don’t quite fit. “There are some investors who try to use what they used in previous regions,” Patterson observes, “who try to make the community fit the model rather than making their model fit the community.”

So how should an angel interested in the promise of lesser-known markets make their approach? “I don’t like to try and reinvent the wheel. I look at what someone else has done and how I can use that as a tool in my own arsenal, making modifications.” This is precisely, Patterson continues, what a convening like can offer to both the angel and entrepreneur communities. Gathering the country’s angel investors and founders can only help close the gap between vision and execution.

“One of the problems with a lot of investment initiatives over time has been that everyone wants to replicate Route 128 or Silicon Valley and culturally, these regions are all different.” Call it a cultural exchange, or one of best practice – angel investors who want to keep a finger on the pulse of the Startup Revolution will be well served to find themselves in Dallas next month.

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