As Des Moines prepares to host the third Best of the Midwest Angel Capital Association (ACA) Conference in September, organizers are rallying to make the regional meeting stand out.
“These meetings move from place to place every year, so it’s likely we won’t be seeing this meeting again for 10 to 15 years,” said Mike Colwell, executive director of the Greater Des Moines Partnership.
The conference will be held Sept. 19-20 at the Hilton Des Moines Downtown, and registration is open to both ACA members and non-members. Registration for a separate workshop held during that time on the fundamentals of angel investing is also available. Organizers expect to see 150 angel investors or representatives at the conference.
The Greater Des Moines Partnership is taking a model established at last year’s Omaha event and aiming higher: instead of inviting five nominated startups to pitch in front of conference attendees, 10 startup leaders from across the Midwest will pitch — potentially earning investment from the conference’s main fund, the Best of the Midwest DSM LLC. Funds raised through the Best of the Midwest DSM will be pooled for equal investment in the startups that event judges approve to receive investment.
Presenting startups from the Midwest must be nominated by one current investor, Colwell said. Conference attendees will receive a list of all presenting startups at least one week before the conference, including background and term sheets.
“Over half the total time at this event … will be spent listening to startups pitch for your investment as an angel investor. A lot of angels, that’s what they want, they want to look at more deals,” Colwell said. “You may come and see 10 phenomenal companies … write a $75,000 check and take a piece of the whole town, or go cut a deal directly to invest in any one of the 10 you saw.”
The conference will also feature keynote speaker Paul Singh, live music at the Iowa Taproom (provided by local startup HomeDitty), and a luncheon session on Sept. 20 open to 100 additional members of the public, exploring Des Moines’ insurance startup ecosystem (registration for the lunch is available on the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s website).
“It’s been an amazing success beyond what any of us would have dreamed would happen when we kicked off the Global Insurance Accelerator,” Colwell said.
The regional ACA Conference is significant in growing angel investor groups across the Midwest, Colwell said.
“I think the Midwest group has the largest attendance of any of those regions at the national meeting, and it’s because, I think, a lot of people in the Midwest are still seeking the information,” Colwell said. “Those meetings mean a lot.”
“We don’t get as many deals, because we don’t have as many people and startups. That’s getting better, but it takes time,” he added.