Atento Capital, a venture capital firm based in Tulsa, Okla., has launched the angel investing program 412 Angels. Its goal is to help educate new investors and support early-stage startups in the U.S. Highway 412 corridor connecting Tulsa and Northwest Arkansas.
Atento Capital is partnering on the effort with the Northwest Arkansas Council, the George Kaiser Family Foundation in Tulsa and the Walton Family Foundation in Bentonville. Collectively, they want to increase the number of angel investors contributing to startups in the region.
A typical angel investor is a high-net-worth individual who invests their assets in seed and early-stage startups.
“By helping more local leaders become angel investors, we will only deepen our region’s ability to support, launch, and scale early-stage startups,” Atento Capital managing partner Michael Basch said. “It is our hope that this network can serve as an introduction to our tech scene and ultimately help new investors advise local startups, help traditionally underinvested founders attract new funding, or even found companies of their own.
“With a robust angel network, top-tier educational programs, and established local companies like Walmart, J.B. Hunt, Tyson Foods and BOK Financial, which are eager to partner with new startups, our region has all of the ingredients to develop a thriving tech ecosystem.”
According to research by Bentonville think tank Heartland Forward, angel investments currently represent 90% of outside equity raised by startups after friends and family. Not surprisingly, there are more angel investors on the coasts.
Northwest Arkansas Council president and CEO Nelson Peacock said innovative startup companies and entrepreneurs would be attracted to a “sophisticated network” of angel investors in the heartland, which would bolster the economies of both regions.