Start-ups pitch businesses to angel investors at the Natural State Angel Association meeting

by Nancy Peevy ([email protected]) 644 views 

Maf Sonko, founder and CEO of Lumoxchange, talks about his global money transfer company at the NSAA.

Four entrepreneurs pitched investment in their companies to about 30 angel investors and others at the Natural State Angel Association (NSAA) gathering on Thursday (Nov. 10).

The NSAA, a program organized by Startup Junkie Consulting, is an association of 300-plus accredited angel investors from Northwest Arkansas (NWA) that meets once every other month to review investment pitches from invited entrepreneurs. The investors give feedback to the presenting companies, and interested investors have the opportunity to invest capital, if desired.

The companies presenting on Thursday varied from Recycled Hydro Solutions, which innovates smart devices that save water; Criteek Communications, a user-generated video review platform; Tesseract Structural Innovations, an automotive safety equipment company developing structures that absorb significant amounts of energy during a crash; and Lumoxchange, which bills itself as “Expedia for global money transfer.”

Each company made a 10-minute presentation to the group, followed by a five-minute audience question and answer session.

“It’s like (the television show) “Shark Tank”, but with a much friendlier crowd of people, and not quite as much money in the audience as the Shark Tank investors,” said Michael Iseman, entrepreneur in residence with Startup Junkie Consulting.

Capital sought from investors ranged from $300,000 to $750,000, with companies valued at anywhere from $1.5 million to $5 million “pre-money.”

Chris Gilreath, founder and chief operating officer for Recycle Hydro Solutions, a second-time presenter at NSAA, said that the angel investment his company received in the past “helped catapult us to a whole other realm.” As evidence of their success, Gilreath said that his company will ship one of their products to “a large franchise multi-chain place. I can’t say (their name), but they make sandwiches and there’s about 44,000 of them worldwide.”

Startup Junkie Consulting’s mission, according to their website, is to “inspire, educated and support entrepreneurs and innovators through no-cost consulting, programs, events and access to capital and talent.”

Brett Amerine, chief operating officer of Startup Junkie, said that they sponsor the event to educate those interested in venture investing.

“This is a great place to come and be educated on how to do it without losing a bunch of money,” he said.

He said it also benefits the economy of NWA.

“Companies that are entrepreneurial come here and raise capital, then add jobs and then hopefully grow their revenue… and generate more tax revenue which will help our cities,” Amerine said. “And with that capital they go and bring new products, services and solutions to the community that we all need. While they’re doing that, they are diversifying the economy so that it’s not relying on one of the three big companies we have here.”

Amerine said that as a result of the NSAA meeting over the last four years, they’ve seen several million dollars invested into entrepreneurial companies. As one of the successes, Isemore cited Menguin, an online tuxedo rental company. They presented at the NSAA a few months ago, raised a round of funding needed and have seen high growth as a result.

Amerine said there is momentum in the NWA entrepreneurial community and with Startup Junkie Consulting, with backing from the Walton Family Foundation, the Small Business Administration and Winrock International.

“Momentum is the key theme right now,” Amerine said. “We’ve been partially responsible for and thankful to be a part of a ton of momentum that’s going on right now in the innovation and entrepreneurship community and momentum is just going to continue to build.”