Sunday, March 11, 2012

Why the Entrepreneurial Community Should Support the School Levies

I wrote earlier about the fact that new businesses account for most of the new jobs in our economy (“Where do jobs come from? June 20, 2011).  In that piece I argued that to create new jobs in the Treasure Valley, we needed to create an ecosystem that supported entrepreneurs.  Every since then I have been writing about one component of a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem-early stage capital provided by angel investors.

Today I want to talk about another component of this ecosystem—intellectual capital.  We now live in the knowledge economy where much of the goods and services created by our  businesses, especially our new businesses, are dependent upon a well-educated workforce that can supply the necessary skills and knowledge.

All eleven of the businesses supported by the Boise Angel Fund depend upon access to an educated workforce to provide the brainpower they need to produce and market their cutting edge products and services.  They need, for example, engineers and marketeers; accountants, financiers and intellectual property attorneys; computer software writers and food chemists. None of them need unskilled or semi-skilled workers. 

We obtain these knowledge workers from two sources.  Some are produced by our education system locally.  Others are recruited to move here.  First lets address our own production.

We are not producing enough knowledge workers for our economy. For example, KTVB reported in November that Treasure Valley employers had openings for hundreds of computer programmers that they could not fill (“Demand for software engineers in the Treasure Valley outweighs workforce,” KTVB, November 15, 2011).

There is no quick or easy fix for this problem.  We will solve it only by providing a high quality, challenging education system, from kindergarten through Ph.D programs.

Our state, like most, has had to reduce the resources it can provide to the entire educational system.  Our educators have done a terrific job at holding the system together in the face of declining resources, but the system is fraying. 

Our colleges and universities have made up part of the shortfall through tuition increases, contributions and research grants.  But the K-12 schools have no such options.

They must either reduce services or ask the taxpayers to pay more.  Both the Meridian and Boise School Districts will ask the voters to raise their taxes to provide additional resources on March 13. 

It’s clear to me that the consequences of our failing to provide additional resources to the schools will be a lower quality education for these young people which will result ultimately result in fewer workers with the skills needed to match the demands of our employers.  And without the skilled employee base, our entrepreneurs will not be successful in creating new businesses.

 A note about importing workers.  Yes, we know many people move here for our quality of life.  But they bring families with them and high on their list of requirements in determining to move is the quality of the public education system.

So, my argument to the entrepreneurs who create our exciting new businesses and the angels who finance them, as well as to those who believe a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem is important to our valley, is to support our local school districts by voting to increase their resources. 

Dr. Kevin Learned is a counselor at the Idaho Small Business Development Center ( at Boise State University where he specializes in counseling with entrepreneurs seeking equity capital. He is a member of the Boise Angel Fund, and is a principal in Loon Creek Capital (, which assists angels in forming angel funds.  He can be reached by email to or by phone at 208-426-3875. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

New Angel Fund Under Development

I am delighted to report that a new angel fund, to be known as the Treasure Valley Angel Fund is in formation and seeking investors.  The purpose of the Fund is to support economic development efforts by providing capital and advice to local entrepreneurs while providing an opportunity for the investors to make a return on their investment.

The CORE, an economic development group based in Meridian and focused on creating a CORE competency in the state in Health and Research sponsored the initiation of the fund. Leadership of the Core worked extensively with the Department of Finance to develop offering parameters that ensure that sales of interests in the Fund are properly qualified under the Idaho Uniform Securities Act.

Over the past few years both the Boise Angel Fund and Highway 12 have been potential sources of early stage capital for local entrepreneurs.   However, Highway 12 is no longer accepting applications for new investments and the Boise Angel Fund is nearly out of capital.  So a new source of capital interested in supporting valley entrepreneurs will be a welcome addition to the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The Fund will be a “member-managed” LLC.  That means the investors (called “members”) in the fund will make the investment decisions. Once capitalized, the Fund members will appoint a screening committee to consider initial applications from entrepreneurs.  When the screening committee recommends an investment, a due diligence committee will be formed to thoroughly investigate the entrepreneur and his or her business plan, and if warranted, to negotiate the terms of a possible investment.  The recommended investment will then be brought to all the members for a vote.

Whether or not the Fund members agree to make an investment, members will be encouraged to help the entrepreneur by providing advice, access to their contacts, and such other assistance as may be appropriate.  Individual Fund members will be  free to make an investment in the company whether or not the Fund members decide to make an investment of Fund capital.

Before the Fund can make any investments, it must first raise capital to invest.  The Treasure Valley Fund is raising between $750,000 and $2 million.  Units of $50,000 each are being offered to qualified Idaho residents.

The offering to form the new fund is subject to a number of restrictions, the most important of which are:

1.  Only accredited investors (who generally must have a net worth greater than $1 million, excluding the equity in the investor’s primary resident or income greater than $200,000 per year) can participate in the Fund.
2.  Investors must be residents of the State of Idaho
3.  Any investment must not exceed 10% of the net worth of the investor excluding the value of the equity in the investor’s principle residence, furnishings and automobiles. 

Of course, such an investment is very risky and no one should invest in the Fund unless they can afford to lose their entire investment.

If you meet the above criteria and would like to know more, additional information and a copy of the Fund’s Confidential Placement Memorandum can be requested through the Fund’s web site at

I hope to chronicle the formation of the Treasure Valley Angel Fund over the coming months so that others interested in forming such capital pools might learn from the experience of the Fund.

Dr. Kevin Learned is a counselor at the Idaho Small Business Development Center ( at Boise State University where he specializes in counseling with entrepreneurs seeking equity capital. He is a member of the Boise Angel Fund, and is a principal in Loon Creek Capital (, which assists angels in forming angel funds. Loon Creek Capital provides consulting services to the Treasure Valley Angel Fund. He can be reached by email to or by phone at 208-426-3875.