A portfolio company, KPI Ninja, was acquired and the Nebraska Angels was recognized by the Angel Capital Association as one of the most active angel groups for investment activity in 2021.
Members of the Nebraska Angels invest their time, energy, mentorship, and financial means towards founders, driven by their passion and enjoyment of being a part of the process. Having a strong support system is critical to the success of a startup.
A Brief History
The Nebraska Angels was founded in 2006, its creation stemming from two objectives. The first is for local founders who needed access to growth capital and didn’t know where to go. When startups are in the pre-seed and seed stages, they need to acquire capital before they are appealing to a larger fund – in short, they need angel investors who are willing to take risks.
Second, there was a need for an organization that enables founders as they embark on their journeys through support and guidance. Members of the Nebraska Angels frequently participate in local events, accelerators such as NMotion and Gener8tor, and collaborate with Invest Nebraska, the Lincoln Department of Economic Development and the Omaha Chamber. There is a growing desire and demand for companies in their early stages to seek resources, which are right here in Nebraska.
Nebraska Angels Impact on the Startup Ecosystem
In an interview with Stephanie Luebbe, the Executive Director of the Nebraska Angels, she stated how it has been exciting to watch the startup ecosystem evolve in the past five years. The tools, resources, and groups that are available to founders today help founders navigate the process from the get go. This growth is on an upward trajectory as founders become aware of budding resources that are available and accessible.
The sweet spot for the Nebraska Angels is the seed stage, where an investment typically requires a certain level of market validation derived through revenue and customer traction. This is a standard level for angel groups around the country, and the Nebraska Angels have been known to put in $100k to $1m. And, as such, the Nebraska Angels have become a mainstay for Nebraska entrepreneurs who are raising capital for their startups.
“More and more, the startups we are seeing come through our process have touched on resources in the ecosystem. This is in the form of Launch LNK Grants, NMotion accelerator participation, the Nebraska DED Prototype grant, Invest Nebraska…the list goes on. The Nebraska Angels are a component of this equation and are always seeking to do more,” said Stephanie Luebbe.
The Nebraska Angels are a critical step in companies engaging in faster growth – often leading to new jobs and new investments (in real estate, equipment, or other capital expenses). This is consistent with current economic research that shows that virtually all net new jobs in the United States come from young companies (less than five years old).
Through support from the Nebraska Angels, 900 new jobs have been created due to funding – which enables the wealth startups generate to reside in Nebraska. This is important for graduates because they are enticed to remain in Nebraska due to the availability of jobs that allow them to live comfortably. And often, startups represent a different job offering than at a large employer or a legacy company. There’s no need to have to travel to the coasts if you want a job in startups. This helps Nebraska confront brain drain – with an alternative offering for young, innovative people.
In addition, success breeds success. This means that as companies, such as KPI Ninja or Flywheel, exit – the entire system refuels on returned capital. For example, when Flywheel recently exited, founders and employees benefited financially from the acquisition. Additionally, and maybe most importantly, these founders remained in Nebraska and went on to build new companies. As Luebbe stated, “We’ve had a few portfolio companies reach exits, and many of the founders have joined the organization to reinvest in new startups as well. It has been fun to see it full cycle, but it takes time to build.”
In fact, some of the best investors in the region do much of their investing through or in collaboration with the Nebraska Angels – including NelNet, Paul G. Smith & Associates, and Invest Nebraska. The Nebraska Angels have been a transformative agent that helps bind and grow the ecosystem.
Get Involved with Nebraska Angels
In conclusion, Nebraska Angels supports local startups because they want to give back to the local community through investment. In turn, economic development in Nebraska experiences growth of resources and knowledge in the early stages of a founder’s journey, acquisitions that generate and retain wealth, and sufficient job creation for the next generation.