The talk of the venture capital and entrepreneurial towns these days is the Open Angel Forum which after its second event in Boulder, Colorado is now announcing two more events in New York and San Francisco. Brainchild of Jason Calacanis, the Open Angel Forum (OAF) is an opportunity for startups to get face-time with active big-time venture capitalists and angel investors – all for the low, low price of free.
As we mentioned back in January following the debut event in Los Angeles, the OAF was formed out of frustration over events and investors which charge startups to present their companies – the so called “pay to pitch” debate. In a true example of making the best of a bad situation, the OAF has created a place where the both the best startups with the most potential can meet the top VCs and angels who are looking to invest.
At last week’s Boulder event, six startups from over 100 applicants were chosen to meet with twenty hand-picked VCs, and all seemed to walk away from the event satisfied and thrilled by the event. In fact, all six companies – FaceFile, Grogger, TeamSnap, Odojo, Decasun and Kijubi – have all since blogged about their experiences.
“This fairness to us and others presenting plus the rule to only allow active investors makes OAF the best event we’ve attended since we started two years ago,” writes Beckie Mostello of FaceFile. “The couple of hours we just spent with the OAF Forum tonight in Boulder, Colorado was the most valuable investment-oriented experience we have yet to be involved in,” echoes Dave DuPont of TeamSnap.
The Open Angel Forum will keep its current momentum at full-speed-ahead as it rolls into San Francisco in March with a little help from local hosts Kevin Rose and Chris Sacca. The following month, Calacanis and Co. will travel to the east-coast for OAF New York, hosted by Brian Alvey and Charlie O’Donnell.
Mark Solon, an investor with Highway 12 Ventures and one of the selected VCs at last week’s event in Boulder, believes the OAF is a further example of the changing landscape in the venture capital industry. As Solon notes on Highway 12’s blog, Calacanis and OAF Boulder hosts Brad Feld and David Cohen represent a “groundswell of young investors” that are dedicating their lives to improving the entrepreneurial community across the country.
“These guys didn’t go through a ton of effort recruiting 30 qualified investors from near and far, getting sponsors for the evening, securing a meeting place, and going through about 100 applicants for personal gain,” writes Solon. “They did it because it was the right thing to do; to set an example for angel organizations everywhere that it’s about the entrepreneur.”
In an interview with Colorado Tech TV (embedded below), Calacanis expressed his satisfaction with the reception of the OAF, as well as his thoughts on the event’s impact on the evolving venture funding ecosystem.
“We’re not trying to replace other events like Open Coffee or the Tech Meetup — those are great events for networking,” said Calacanis. “[But] there is definitely a market need for a legitimate angel forum. The other forums out there were not really filled with angel investors, […] and people were paying to pitch to a room of a hundred people with maybe two or three possible investors.”
For those considering applying for the San Francisco and New York events, Boulder participant Mike Stemple of Odojo says that submitting a video application is not only a good way to stand out from the crowd, but it also helps you rehearse your pitch in a short form before the event. While he considers himself and his company extremely lucky to have been able to attend the OAF event, he encourages other startups to not count themselves out before applying.
“I believe for any given event ANYONE with a well thought out idea that solves a real world problem, can articulate it, has gotten beyond the idea stage and has actually built a company around the idea, could make it to present,” writes Stemple on his blog.
The Open Angel Forum is now accepting applications for New York and San Francisco, so don’t hesitate to get your application in early because there is bound to be hundreds. What cities would you like to see the Open Angel Forum come to next? Let us know in the comments!