9 Years of Angel

In April of 2007, we started Hyde Park Angels. It actually came together sooner than that, but it took a while for the legal. We made our first investment in a company called Shuffletech. It was run by one of the people associated with the startup of HPA. Shuffletech failed.

Our next series of investments were in UICO, YCharts, and GradeBeam.

UICO is still operating and doing very well. They have an office in Chicago, and one in Silicon Valley. You see their touchscreen products everywhere. I am amazed that you can use them with gloves. The world is finally catching up to their technology. Ycharts is doing well too. If you are in finance and paying for an expensive bundled service, Ycharts can deliver the same or more insight at a much cheaper price. Ycharts is based in Chicago. GradeBeam was acquired by Textura. Textura needed GradeBeam’s technological energy to propel them to an IPO.

Once Excelerate Labs happened in 2009, we started getting a lot more active. Part of that was the end of the financial crisis. Part of that was the fact we continued to add members. Part of it was the improvement of the local Chicago entrepreneurial ecosystem.

So far, HPA has made 41 investments. I have been a seed investor in over 20 firms in and out of the group. It’s created a lot of jobs in Chicago and points beyond. HPA is rated as one of the top angel groups in the US. The group has done a particularly good job of following on initial investments. There isn’t a lot of one and done. Investments have been in industries that the Midwest is good at. Agriculture, Finance, Health Care, HR, and Business to Business services. We have had some failures, and some exits. We have had some companies acquired where no one made any money. Unfortunately in the angel investing business, you take your lumps sooner than you mine your gold. The return curve is quite lumpy and skewed.

No angel is forced to invest in any company. We don’t vote. We collaborate. But, every individual controls their own capital. That can make it tough sometimes, but there is value to independence and choice. The organization has changed a lot since it’s inception. It’s gotten a lot bigger. That brings different challenges. I don’t agree with some of them, but also know I am only one person. HPA is just like any startup that we invest in.

HPA has been the beneficiary of kind acts from many many people. It’s gotten support from Chicago Booth, and from some people in the broader community. I want to thank them for that. HPA wouldn’t be where it is without it.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to be at the annual meeting today and I will miss it. I am the only founder that is still a member. My partner Kenny Estes and I are doing some mentoring with the Polsky Center and then have a meeting that I simply cannot skip. I enjoy seeing all the people. I regret not being able to meet the newer people that are joining the group. I also will miss not seeing the CEO’s that we invested in. They are amazing people. The group mostly collaborates online, and as one of our portfolio companies Dabble proves, nothing beats being physically present.

Go over to HPA’s website and check out the portfolio. You will see some really interesting companies. You might be able to become a customer of one of them. You might be able to introduce them to a customer. A lot of folks talk the talk about building an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Midwest, but we have a lot of people out there actively doing it. It’s making a difference. You can be a part of it too.

  • Seph

    Speaking for one of those 41 portfolio companies, Regroup Therapy, I can say that we are truly honored to count HPA as an investor. Our experience has been nothing but positive, and it comes as no surprise to read above that HPA is rated as one of the top angel groups in the US. Thank you for your role in building such a quality organization.