BANGOR, Maine — A few well-off Bangor-area executives, business leaders and residents could soon have the opportunity to help fledgling companies blossom into larger-scale employers and producers in exchange for potential big returns.
The Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce is collaborating with the University of Maine, The Target Technology Incubator and Mobilize Eastern Maine to start a localized “angel investing” effort, according to John Porter, president and CEO of the chamber.
The University of Maine has been increasing its focus on research and development in recent years, resulting in commercial products that have the potential to expand into businesses that will increase employment and bring good paying jobs to the region, according to Porter.
“We need to be ready as a community to receive those opportunities,” he said.
Without offering entrepreneurs a chance to succeed locally, they might be drawn to markets such as Portland, Boston or California instead.
Angel investors take an important — and risky — role in pushing companies toward growth. Entrepreneurs pitch their product and a well conceived business plan to potential backers in hopes the angel investors support them. The investors hope the plan will blossom into something successful that will bring them a good return on their investment.
Backers typically will diversify, financially supporting multiple business efforts knowing that, odds are, some will fail, others will break even and a select few could take off, according to Frederick Oldenburg, a retired physician and local investor who said he wants to see more people get on board with the effort.
Oldenburg, who has been integral in the effort to get a Bangor angels group off the ground, joined the Chamber’s Business Action Committee in 2012. He was introduced to angel investing when his brother-in-law started a group in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2003. In Cleveland, the state matched each dollar invested in the companies. Oldenburg said he doesn’t expect Maine to do the same, but the idea still has potential here.
Oldenburg liked the idea and wanted to see it catch on in Maine. He became a member of the Maine Angels, a statewide organization that sparked the idea for Bangor’s group, and plans to be an investor in Bangor’s version. Maine Angels invested about $3.3 million in 20 companies across New England in 2013. During its decade of existence, the group’s backers have invested nearly $9.7 million in 42 companies.
Institutions such as UMaine, Jackson Lab and Eastern Maine Medical Center could be drivers for startups in the region, he said.
“It’s really important that you have a lot of intellectual capital” among the investors who take part, Oldenburg said. “Not only to evaluate, but to, in many cases, improve these companies.”
He said he hopes a range of investors will participate in the effort to provide a breadth of knowledge in fields ranging from engineering to medicine. Only individuals who meet the Securities and Exchange Commission’s income or net worth guidelines for accredited investors can qualify to invest as part of an angel group.
Investors won’t just lay their money on the table and hope for the best, according to Porter. The localized focus of the group allows backers to keep in close contact with the companies they’ve put their money into or visit to get progress updates. The businesses have the advantage of being able to seek funding from someone nearby, reducing the need for trips to investors further south, even if the funding might be in the tens of thousands of dollars rather than the hundreds of thousands they might get from investors in larger markets like Boston.
Businesses will need to demonstrate they have “means for showing the business can grow into something substantial,” Porter said.
Porter said about 10 potential investors showed up to a meeting in August. The next meeting of the angel investing group is scheduled for Oct. 22, which will feature presentations from area businesses about their products and business plans. Any investors or businesses interested in participating should contact the Chamber by email at email@example.com.
Porter said he anticipates 12 to 15 potential investors at this month’s meeting, and hopes that the group will grow to include to at least 20 investors.
BDN Business Editor Whit Richardson contributed to this report.