As Part 2 of this blog, I had the opportunity to talk with Rachael Qualls, founder of the Angel Capital Group, and answer any questions about ACG’s collaboration with Think Big Partners. The Angel Capital Group, with five locations nationwide, is an angel capital organization developed out of Nashville, Tennessee, that links together its network of angel investors in order to aid entrepreneurs in finding startup and seed capital. In addition, the Angel Capital Group provides investors with a diversified capital investment process. After talking with Rachael, I learned a lot more about ACG as well as its exciting partnership with Think Big Partners in their collaborative effort to “change the world.”
TBP: Rachel, when did you start the Angel Capital Group?
QUALLS: I founded the company in January of 2007, so the company is four years old. We started out as a small network in the community north of Nashville, Tennessee.
TBP: Why did you establish the Angel Capital Group?
QUALLS: When I was an investment manager, I found that the number one best way to diversify your public assets was with private equity. The problem is that access to private equity is extremely difficult. On the other side, my asset management practice just happened to be located inside of a bank branch, so I saw a lot of people coming in and trying to get loans from the bank. I knew the banks weren’t lending to them because they either didn’t have collateral or they hadn’t been in business long enough—all the things that make lending so difficult. So I saw this huge opportunity to connect investors with startup companies.
TBP: What made you land on the idea of Angel Capital Group?
QUALLS: What we learned in starting a small, local angel network was that we were really limiting ourselves. We ended up [noticing] that the one thing that most people think is synonymous with angel investing, which is that it’s only a local activity, is really the one thing that is wrong with the current model. So we wanted to take and turn it upside down on its head and say, “Wait a minute. We don’t have to only invest in our backyard. What if we, through in the Internet and a web based platform, do investments everywhere?”
TBP: How do these national efforts of Angel Capital Group work?
QUALLS: We are expanding in conjunction with Think Big Partners to launch multiple chapter networks hopefully all across the United States. Local chapters are going to have a minimum of ten angel investors as part of the network. Those angels are going to review not only local companies up for investment, but companies that are up for investment all across the United States.
TBP: How does the Angel Capital Group benefit both the investors and the entrepreneurs?
QUALLS: [Investors] get the ability to build a full portfolio of investments and support their local companies. The local companies get access to a much larger group of angel investors. With that comes a very large network of resources, contacts and help. The local community wins. The investor wins. It’s a win-win.
TBP: Can you explain the partnership between the Angel Capital Group and Think Big Partners?
QUALLS: ACG has learned that once you fund a company, that company needs help. They need to be connected with other entrepreneurs; they need resources. There are all these other needs that come out of that initial investment. That’s why we’re so excited to work with Think Big Partners—because they provide all of the services that we don’t, which makes a great partnership.
TBP: What are Think Big Partners and Angel Capital Group hoping to accomplish together?
QUALLS: The goals are going to be to use Kansas City as a beta test for what it’s like to provide an incubating environment with a strong funding arm. From there we are going to try to replicate the model in as many communities as we can. The good thing about both of our models and both of us working together is that we are not just focusing on hub cities like San Francisco, Boston or Austin; it’s really for any community looking to grow their entrepreneur base.
TBP: How many cities would the two companies like to reach together?
QUALLS: We are hoping internally for about fifteen ACG-TBP locations for next year alone.
TBP: So what’s next for Angel Capital Group?
QUALLS: We are starting a number of just-ACG locations. We are currently located in Nashville, Tennessee; Knoxville, Tennessee; Jackson, Mississippi; Memphis, Tennessee and [are] looking into opening in areas in Louisiana and Kentucky. In 10 years, we want to be the largest angel investing organization in the country. We would love to have at least 50 locations.
TBP: How do you Think Big?
QUALLS: We are here to change the world by bringing to market innovations that wouldn’t have otherwise made it due to lack of capital. Internally, we are passionate to do what we do and to give innovation and technology that will save the planet by getting it to market. It’s about bringing together all these wealthy people, and all these communities and all these entrepreneurs and connecting them and flowing money to the people who need it.
The Rachael Qualls interview was conducted and written by Allison Way, writer and videographer for Think Big Partners, Kansas City’s newest entrepreneurial resource. To read more of Allison’s work, visit the Kansas City Entrepreneurship Examiner or her articles on Helium, BrooWaha, eZine and Newsvine.