LA GRANDE — A local nonprofit is looking to find some wings to help entrepreneurial enterprises get off the ground in Eastern Oregon.
Eastern Oregon Ventures has teamed up with Oregon Technology Business Center in Beaverton to host a free virtual workshop on angel investing. Wilson Zehr, business faculty at Eastern Oregon University, La Grande, owns and operates EOV, which has funded the activities of the EOU Entrepreneurship Club and Pub Talk. Angel investing, he said, is another way to support the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“The majority of the research shows that it is difficult for new ventures to thrive in isolation,” Zehr said. “We need investors, entrepreneurs, advisers, skilled employees, service providers, heroes and a number of other elements.”
Oregon Technology Business Center has been offering a successful program like this in Beaverton for many years, Zehr said, and it is similar to successful programs the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network offers in Portland and the Economic Development for Central Oregon.
“Eastern Oregon is one of the few parts of Oregon that doesn’t have access to a program like this,” he said.
The March 25 workshop will kick off this process in Eastern Oregon.
“This will help us gauge the interest of non-institutional investors in the region,” Zehr said. If we can pull together a group that is interested in supporting this activity, then we will start recruiting entrepreneurs. It can be a little bit of a chicken and egg type scenario, but this is how we are trying to address that.”
The program is informational in nature, but the ultimate goal is to help raise an angel fund to invest in early-stage Eastern Oregon business ventures. Zehr said the state of Oregon also has expressed an interest in chipping in. He also said there is no pre-set minimum funding goal.
OTBC works with a fund that is $25,000-$30,000 per year, he said, while Oregon Entrepreneurs Network’s Angel Oregon is back again this year after a three-year break with a fund of $125,000.
“This is just meant to be a starting point for EOV. As the activity became more popular, we would expect the size of the fund to grow,” Zehr said. “The initial contribution from the state should be $5,000. This has the potential to grow over time, if the effort is successful. Of course, if the activity is successful over time, the expectation is that state funds would not be required at all.”
Angel funds typically target traded sector startups with the potential for scale, he said, and investors in the fund control the investment decision.
“It will be self-directed,” Zehr said. “We just provide administrative services and direction.”
If you want to know more about angel investing, check out the workshop. To register, visit https://bit.ly/3b8G0qB.