Manu Nair believes a new venture in Jonesboro may create the next Phil Knight, as well as help turn great ideas into a startup company, like Nike or Google.
Nair, along with Jonesboro chamber officials, announced the creation of the Accelerate Jonesboro Angel Fund during a presentation Monday (May 16) at the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“The goal is to create jobs and startups,” said Nair, who owns website designer ACE ONE Technologies in Jonesboro.
The Angel Fund, which will begin in August 2016, is making an initial investment of $50,000 for seed capital, officials said during the meeting.
Nair said prospective entrepreneurs first must turn in a business plan and funding application, pay a $500 administrative fee and submit a two-page executive summary of what their business would do. In order to participate, the company has to be based in Northeast Arkansas and be organized as a C-Corp legal entity either in Delaware or Arkansas.
The business is first invited to go before a screening committee. The business owner is given 15 minutes to pitch their idea to the committee, followed by a 15 to 20 minute question and answer session. From there, the committee can vote to send the business to the Due Diligence Committee.
That committee will hear the presentation within a week. If approved, the committee must finish work on the project within two months or the project is shelved and must start over. If approved a final time, the business owner may go before the Angel Investors Group.
“The DDC team presents its findings immediately after the entrepreneur’s presentations, followed by questions and answers,” officials said in a media release. “The DDC team sets a minimum investment raise required to break escrow and achieve first close, and this is included as part of the term sheet and final recommendation deck. Angels then will have 24 hours to finalize the deal.”
Nair said the program will be conducted on an annual basis. Officials are hopeful to get at least 15 ideas the first year. From there, the ideas will be culled down to three to five ideas from entrepreneurs.
“Our goal is to build one,” Nair said of the program.
Heather Clark, deputy director of the ASU Delta Center, said recent studies have shown a lack of coordination involving programs for entrepreneurs in Northeast Arkansas as well as a lack of opportunities for rural entrepreneurs. The center is working on a program to leverage $500,000 in initial funding, as well as $1.1 million in private, grant and public funding to help entrepreneurs, Clark said, noting the program will help businesses with marketing and feasibility studies among other things.
The program at ASU will open Sept. 12, Clark said.
A chamber official said the Angel Fund program will help broaden the entrepreneurial base in Northeast Arkansas.
“There is no excuse now,” said Cari White, chamber vice president. “We need your help in getting the message out.”
Robert Bahn, lead business consultant for the ASU Small Business and Technology Development Center, said the program will help.
“It is major to making the invention process go full circle,” said Bahn, who also works with a local inventors club.