I’ve never wanted this blog to be out linking around or posting others content, but from time-to-time I find that the written words of others do a better job than I could, or provide strong validation of a point I have made in a previous post.

The article below details how angel investors are going later stage and how companies are looking at angels as an alternative to traditional venture/private equity for expansion stage funding amounts up to $10 million.  The article also points out that angel funding was actually up in 1H08, despite the turbulent economic backdrop.

Interesting times.

/bryan

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CHICAGO (Reuters.com) — Fiberstar Inc., a small company that converts orange juice pulp into a line of food ingredients and other products, is no longer a start-up. Founded a decade ago, it now has a customer base of loyal multinationals and annual revenue in excess of $5 million.

At this point, the company might seem an unlikely candidate for funding from angels, the private investors who back start-up ventures with typical commitments of less than $1 million.

But that’s exactly who Minneapolis-based Fiberstar, which in the past has relied exclusively on angel investors for private equity, is going after to help raise up to $10 million for working capital and new production facilities to keep up with increasing global demand.

“Our goal is to continue to raise funding from angel investors and angel groups,” says Dale Lindquist, Fiberstar’s president and chief executive. “We’ve respected the investment that they’ve made and as management we’re trying to protect it.”

“It’s very unusual for a company to go as far as we have working solely with angels,” he adds.

It’s becoming less unusual, says Jeffrey Sohl, director of the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire. Investing in more established companies is just one of several signs that angel investors are seeking a higher degree of comfort as they look for safer bets in a volatile economic climate, he says.

“The angels are doing post-seed – more later-stage work than they normally would,” says Sohl, noting that venture capital groups, which frequently fund private companies higher up in the development food chain, have also boosted their investment thresholds in recent months.

In a highly unpredictable economy, when credit markets are tight and traditional sources of capital such as bank debt have dried up or become increasingly difficult to obtain, angel investors are taking on more prominence as a source of alternative financing.

Total angel funding during the first half of 2008 has been surprisingly steady, rising 2.1 percent to $12.4 billion, compared to the same period in 2007, according to first half data released by the center earlier this month.

Sohl points out that the numbers also show that angels, who typically take preferred stock or other equity in exchange for their investment, are exhibiting increasingly cautious behavior.

The total number of deals funded in the first six months – some 23,100 according to data collected by the center – has fallen 3.8 percent. Meanwhile, the average size of each deal is up 8 percent, and along with it, the number of investors behind it. The center notes that the total number of angels participating in the first half grew 2.l percent to some 143,000, investing either individually or as part of angel groups. Fiberstar, the food and beverage company, has 152 angel investors.

“What this is telling us is that the angels are spreading out their risk a little more,” says Sohl.

Marianne Hudson, executive director for the Lenexa, Kansas-based Angel Capital Association, notes that she saw this trend begin to take hold last year. Her organization, comprised of more than 170 angel groups, saw average deal size in 2007 rise 10 percent to $266,000. At the same time, Hudson, whose members self-report their investing results annually, saw the average number of investors per deal rise to 55 from 44.

And while Hudson expects that trend to continue in the current economy, she sees another important signal of skittishness among her member groups: the increased use of loosely formed syndicates to jointly fund deals.

“We are seeing more and more angel investor groups co-invest with each other,” she says. “The angels are minimizing their risk.”

Angels will clearly remain an active source of capital as the economy worsens, say these and other experts on alternative sources of financing. Data show an increased appetite for sectors such as software, health care, manufacturing, green technology and other energy-related concerns.

But for start-ups and later-stage private companies alike, the latest numbers signal what will also likely be a very competitive field for a limited supply of investment capital.

“There’s more demand for us – we can pick and choose,” says Knox Massey, executive director of the Atlanta Technology Angels. “Somebody out there is not going to get funded.”

By Deborah L. Cohen
(Deborah Cohen covers small business for Reuters.com. She can be reached at smallbusinessbigissues@yahoo.com)

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