Washington, DC Notes
My first visit to Washington, DC was in 2010 at the invitation of President Barack Obama for the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship. It was an extremely beneficial visit for me because l was the only invitee to be granted a personal meeting with President Obama. Additionally, I was interviewed for the CNN International programme ‘Quest Means Business’, the Voice of America and Market Street Radio and I appeared on Bloomberg TV. I also attended a lunch in my honour hosted by the Turkish Ambassador to the US. This 3-day trip to Washington, DC was one of the most memorable trips of my life.
Almost three years later l again found myself in Washington, DC to participate in the Angel Capital Association (ACA) Congress, which gathered over 600 colleagues from all over the world. l was a panel speaker in the session on ‘Investing In the Right Team’ with the moderation of Parker MacDonell from Ohio TechAngels, who is also the Secretary General of the ACA .
The Angel Capital Association (ACA)
The Angel Capital Association (ACA) is the official industry alliance of over 100 of the largest angel investor groups in the United States. Since its founding in 2004, it has played a significant role in bringing together the previously separate angel and venture capital industries, in order to make networking, practices, and innovation in the field of investment easier.
The ACA, which grew out of four Angel Organization Summits convened by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in 2002 and 2003, sponsors a summit meeting in a different city each year where the leaders of the major organized angel groups, together with government leaders, academics and venture capitalists, share best practices and build new ideas based on this knowledge. The ACA has become the nationally recognized voice of the angel investment community in the US, mirroring the role that the National Venture Capital Association plays for the venture community. The ACA is the official US representative at the World Business Angels Association (WBAA).
Since the ACA was formed with the charitable aim of developing education and research in the field of angel investment, chair members and leaders of the ACA are frequently involved in educational programs such as the Power of Angel Investing Seminars organized by the ACA’s affiliated foundation, the Angel Capital Education Foundation. While individual angel investors and angel group leaders participate in ACA events, membership in the organization itself is only for organized groups of angel investors that meet the ACA’s requirements, not for individual investors. The ACA’s website lists angel groups across the nation which bring together investors in local regions or specific industries.
The founding chairman of the ACA was James Geshwiler of Common Angels in Boston, who was succeeded by John May of the New Vantage Group in Washington, DC. The current chairman is John Huston of the Ohio TechAngels Fund.
Marianne Hudson, Executive Director of the ACA, has been leading the organizing team of the annual conference every year. The first one l participated in was in Boston, and I took my family along because my daughter was keen to visit Harvard University and MIT. Last year it was in San Francisco, and this year it was in Washington, DC. Next year it will be in Minneapolis. Thanks to the ACA, l think l will have visited all 50 states of US by the time l am 90 years old:)
The ACA is the global voice of the USA, which has 268,000 angel investors in the early stage investment market. The ACA in the USA, EBAN in Europe, BANSEA in Asia are also founders of the World Business Angels Association (WBAA), based in the UK.
March 25, Tuesday
Travelling to Washington, DC
It was a comfortable flight from Istanbul via London Heathrow by British Airways on the 25th of March. I met up with Francisco Banha from the Portugal Business Angels Association and Marco Villa and his team from Italian Business Angels at Heathrow Airport. Because our seats were reserved very close to each other, it was able to chat with Francisco between London and DC.
It took half an hour by taxi from Dulles Airport to the Washington Hilton, the venue for the Congress, and it cost $60. The weather was a little bit cold and snowy. The hotel was downtown and conveniently close to such places of interest as the White House and the Capitol. Watch out when you get into a taxi and ask the driver to take you to the Hilton, because there are several Hiltons in the city. Not knowing this, we ended up at the wrong one. Our taxi driver was a Pakistani man in his 50s, but with his light hair and blue eyes, it was impossible to guess his origin. He was interested in the philosophy of Mevlana from Turkey, who lived centuries ago in Konya. I gave him a book name by author Elif Shafak, ‘Love’, which is composed of scripts from Mevlana’s teachings about the love of human beings.
The first night was a disaster for me. My room was so close to the main air conditioning system of the hotel that l had to use earplugs to block out the noise and get any sleep. The next morning l carried all my belongings to another room with a very nice view of the city and no noise from the air conditioning.
About the structure of the ACA Congress
The ACA Congress has a standard format. The first day has 4 main parts: The International Exchange Workshop and the Angel Resource Institute’s courses and Innovation Showcases. The first night is for the international dinner, attended by most participants. The second day offers hundreds of panels in many rooms and an awards ceremony. The third day is for closing remarks.
The 2014 ACA Congress Programme
Day 1: March 26, Wednesday
- Part 1: International Exchange Workshop
- Part 2: Early Exits Course / Angel Investing Overview Course / Valuation Course
- Part 3: Innovation Showcase (IT, Clean Tech, Life Science)
- Part 4: Dinner: Hosted by the Canadian Embassy
Day 2: March 27, Thursday
- Part 1: Hundreds of Panels
- Part 2: Awards Ceremony
- Part 3: Reception: 1776 Accelerator
- Part 4: Dinner, wherever you like
Day 3: March 28, Friday
- Part 1: Panels
- Part 2: Lunch, Closing Remarks
You can find the full agenda of the Congress via this link:
26 March, Wednesday
I participated in the International Exchange Workshop to get an idea about what is happening worldwide in the early stage market. This year, there were about 50 participants from 30 countries. I was the only one from Turkey.
1:30 pm was a session entitled ‘What’s New in the Developed Markets’.
Albert Colomer, EC Member of EBAN and President of Catalonia Business Angels made a presentation about the great initiative of EBAN: Global Business Angels Week. l serve as the Coordinator of the Week for Europe.
Here is Albert’s presentation on this:
EBAN celebrated this week in 34 countries with 140 events in 75 different cities last year. Jose Barosso, President of European Commission, sent a special message and Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, issued a statement about the importance of the week. Because EBAN received so many applications from all over the world about celebrating the week with events in the home countries of applicants, the EBAN Board decided to globalise the event.
The logo of the week was produced last year by a Turkish advertising agency, Gram Istanbul, and the week and its logo were first introduced at the gala dinner of the 11th EBAN Winter Summit held in Istanbul on the 17th of January, 2013. You will find the news soon on the official website of the Global Business Angels Week:
You can visit the following link for the full programme of the International Exchange Workshop:
During the workshop, we were given info-cards listing forthcoming events in the international market:
- EBAN 2014 Annual Congress in Dublin, 19-20 May 2014
- NACO National Angel Summit in Quebec City, 1-3 October 2014
- FIBAN European Business Angel Conference in Helsinki, 17-18 November 2014
- UKBAA Investment Summit in Liverpool, 1-2 July 2014
During the lunch break, a friend from the US Commerce Department, David Jason Lee, surprised me by showing up at the hotel for a chat.
Innovation Showcases: In other rooms, you could meet some of the best emerging companies from around the world and hear perspectives from fellow angels. You could hear presentations from a select group of exciting early stage companies, divided by sector: Internet/IT, Life Sciences, CleanTech, and Consumer Products. Entrepreneurs and innovators each made brief presentations. A panel of sector-focused angels provided feedback followed by additional Q & A from the audience. This was a great opportunity for angels to learn about cutting edge companies and also to hear sector-specific perspectives from leading angel investors.
You will find the executive summaries of the innovation showcase startups here:
In other rooms, courses for both fresh and experienced angels were running in 3 categories:
Angel Investing Overview (Angel Resource Institute Seminar)
8:00 am – 4:15 pm
Are you new to angel investing or looking to “tune-up” your investment skills? Or are you interested in finding an education program that will help recruit business angels to your angel organization or economic development initiative? This program is for both of you. This full-day seminar provides an overview of the angel investing process, including the details of finding, evaluating, and structuring deals and developing angel-entrepreneur relationships that lead to success. The highly interactive program provides attendees with practical information on best practices in angel investing through a balance of expert presentations, panel discussions, and small group case studies.
Early Exits (Angel Resource Institute Seminar)
8:00 am – 12:00 pm
Early Exits presents a strategy for startup investors and entrepreneurs to build new ventures, prove business models and exit companies in two to three years without the need for multi-million dollar investments. This workshop is based on the book by Basil Peters, Early Exits.
Valuation of Early-Stage Companies (Angel Resource Institute Seminar)
12:30 pm – 4:15 pm
Back by popular demand, this workshop presents several key methodologies that experienced angel investors have found as fundamental approaches to properly valuing early stage companies. Methods taught include Risk Factor Summation, Venture Capital and Scorecard. The seminar also presents the importance of portfolio strategies and the role of portfolio returns in the valuation process.
Busses left the hotel for the international dinner hosted by the Canadian Embassy at 6:45 pm. Dinner was excellent and we left the Embassy around 10:00 pm and returned to the hotel after a short sightseeing tour. Here is the dinner menu:
27 March, Thursday
Today is the day of tons of panels. I was a panel speaker at the following session, which was attended by over 100 participants:
2:15 – 3:00 pm
Investing in the Right Teams
- Parker MacDonell, Ohio TechAngels
- Baybars Altuntas, EBAN and Business Angels Association of Turkey
- Tom Walker, Tech Columbus
Angel investors often default to “picking the jockey and not the horse” when making decisions about where to invest. The issue is more complex than a simple binary choice; hear a panel of successful angels compare their strategies for evaluating ABC teams and making decisions.
Tom and I tried to answer the questions Parker posed in the panel:
- When you consider an angel investment, how important is the background and personality of the CEO?
- What process do you favour for learning more about the founder and the key team members?
- What percentage of your typical diligence effort do you spend on getting to know and evaluating the team?
- What kind of third party validation of the team do you seek, if any?
- Tell us about a deal in which you were surprised because the CEO or a key member turned out to be different than what your diligence indicated?
- What process have you used for managing issues and opportunities with the team post-investment?
- Do you have plans to try any new processes or methodologies for either pre- or post-investment management of team evaluation or coaching?
I recommend you read the document from the website below if you are interested in understanding the importance of the team in a success story.
Go to: www.casestudycenter.org
Search: Entrepreneurship Reconsidered: The Team as Hero, by Robert B.Reich, Harvard Business Review
Other Tracks and Their Sessions
- New Angels – Important Tips for Starting Your Journey
- Investing in the Next Google – At Your Local University
- A Look at Exit Alternatives – Recent Marketplace Innovations that Give Shareholders Pre-IPO Liquidity
Public Policy/ New Early-Stage Landscape
- Changing Early-Stage Landscape – Issues and Actions for Angels
- The New SEC Regs: Practical Interpretation and Guidance for Angel Group Management Activities
- Brave New World or Same Old Story – the Opportunities and Challenges of Syndicating through Accredited Platforms
Investment Best Practices
- Best Practices in Due Diligence
- The Latest in Term Sheets and Deal Terms
- Investing in the Right Teams
Angel Group Vitality
- What is the Future of Angel Groups?
- Attracting New (and Young) Investors to Groups
- Too Much, Too Little, Too Tired (Dealing with Investor Fatigue)
Investing in Industry Sectors
- Cleantech Investing as Part of Your Portfolio
- Investing in IT
- After Obamacare – Opportunities and Challenges for Healthcare Investing
Lunch with keynote apeaker: Michael Chasen, Founder of Blackboard and CEO of Social Radar, told his story from angel backing to IPO. He founded the educational tech company Blackboard with some angel backing, took it through venture capital and through an IPO. After co-founding Blackboard, Michael led the company as CEO for 15 years and successfully sold it to Providence Equity Partners for $1.7 billion in 2011. He was the youngest CEO of a publicly traded company for several years before leaving to start his next entrepreneurial venture, Social Radar. His stage presence: perfect! His story: perfect! His success: perfect!
Congratulations to the person who suggested calling on him to be the keynote speaker!
In the afternoon sessions, l participated in a round table focused on the relationships between family offices and angel investors. Because l had been on a panel in Berlin in a family offices event, l tried to understand how approaches in US differed. It was a beginner level workshop suitable for starters wanting to discover a new area.
You can visit the following link for the detailed agenda of the second day:
You can visit the following link for the speakers’ biodata statements:
In the late afternoon was the Awards Ceremony. Awards went to following successful role models:
Jean Hammond, 2014 Hans Severiens Award Winner
Individual who advances the field of angel investing
EyeVerify, 2014 Luis Villalobos Award Winner
ACA member portfolio company honored for innovation and ingenuity
More information about the winners is available at:
1776 is a platform for reinventing the world by connecting the hottest startups with the resources they need in order to excel. 1776 serves as a global hub for startups tackling major challenges in education, energy, health care, government, and other critical industries. 1776 startups receive mentorship, corporate connections, access to capital, media attention, and a pipeline of top talent—the raw materials critical for innovators to succeed.
Following the reception we moved to a nice restaurant for dinner with friends. We were a group of about 20 altogether and it was a good night to debate just about everything. After the dinner, Paulo, Hasan and I decided to walk around the White House to see what it looked like at night before returning to the hotel.
28 March, Friday
|The 2014 ACA Summit provided additional opportunities for networking and interactive discussions through five concurrent sessions arranged by topic “tracks”, with many of the sessions offering lively debates.
Track sessions of Friday included:
New Early-Stage Landscape/ Public Policy
Exit Best Practices
Angels and the Ecosystem
Investing in Industry Sectors
l attended a session on Education Technology: What’s Next? moderated by Jean Hammond of Golden Seeds and delivered by Bill Hughes of Pearson and the CEO of 1776 DC. Having made my wealth in the education industry, I felt it was important for me to have an idea about the future of educational technology.
Here is the presentation of Jean Hammond, a good brief for the global education market:
The following documents might be useful for you:
Closing remarks came from Jonathan Ortmans, Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW). He joined the ACA Summit straight off the plane from chairing the 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Moscow, which gathers 3000 leaders annually from the entrepreneurial ecosystems of 140 nations.
We chatted about a possible collaboration between GEW and Global Business Angels Week before his speech at the Washington Hilton. You can find his remarks about the global angel investment market at:
Just before leaving the hotel, l met with David Rose, the founder of New York Angels. He has invested in over 80 startups and is also the founder of Gust – the global matchmaker of entrepreneurs with angel investors only. He presented me with an autographed advance copy of his new book, Angel Investing, which will be on the market in May, and having read this cover to cover, l predict it will be one of the classics of the angel investment world. l finished reading the book in a short time because:
- It flows easily.
- Because David has invested in so many startups, he transferred his real experiences by giving real case studies, which support his theories and make the reader ‘live’ the book.
- The order of chapters is meaningful. From start to end, you are able to follow what an angel investor is.
The book starts with a reference in the first paragraph to Sharks of Sharks Tank in the US, a TV show of angel investors, and since l am a shark of the Turkish version of Sharks Tank, l decided to read the whole story. It was good to see David’s comment about how different sharks in the studio make the post-money valuation of startups compared to what angel investors do in the real life.
After the closing speeches, we took a taxi from the hotel with my friends from Portugal, Paulo, Francisco, and Ricardo and our friends from Venezuela and Brazil and went to visit the Capitol building. It was a very nice tour. Because my flight was at 7:15 pm, l had to get back to the hotel to take my baggage, so l left my friends at the Capitol and returned to the hotel.
The United States Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress, the legislature of the US federal government. Located in Washington, DC, it sits atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall. Though it has never been the geographic of the federal district, the Capitol is the origin by which the quadrants of the District are divided and the city was planned.
Officially, both the east and west sides of the Capitol are referred to as fronts. Historically, however, only the east front of the building was intended for the arrival of visitors and dignitaries. Like the federal buildings for the executive and judicial branches, it is built in the distinctive neoclassical style and has a white exterior.
I hailed a taxi and the driver took me first to the hotel then on to the airport. On the way l had to stop to buy Apple Slims for a friend who is trying to produce similar products in Turkey. That was his request. It was a bit odd to carry Apple Slims to Turkey but this is entrepreneurship!
The taxi driver was from Somalia and a fan of Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister. He gave me his telephone number for my future visits to Washington, DC. We chatted about Africa and Turkey until we arrived at the airport. He is a genuinely good man and if you do visit Washington, DC, you can call him and give my name to him:
Mr Mohammed: (703) 839 00 83
Thanks to Marianne
The ACA Summit was perfect this year. Thanks to Marianne and her team, everything flowed smoothly and I had once again a highly beneficial 3 days in Washington, DC. Hope to see you next year in Minnesota for the ACA 2015 Congress! Again in the nice March weather …
I’d like to present you the first 3 chapters of my bestselling book if you want to learn how l met with President Obama in 2010. I’d like to thank to Leyla Ones, the secret hero of this story – my way to White House, and extend my best wishes to her and sons who are in Germany now….
You can have an idea about the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship at:
Participants of the Summit:
An interview with me – White House
An interview with me – America.gov
Listen to my interview – podcast
Watch my interview on CNN International, Washington
White House – promotion in Arabic – Al Jazeera
Global media news
Turkey – US to deepen ties with entrepreneurs
White House Spokesman Hummer’s statement about my meeting with President Obama
US Ambassador’s view about Altuntas – Wikileaks