Creating an Opportunity to Keep our Bright Minds at Home

December 4, 2015

By: 12/4/2015 – Editorial


The Issue:  UNA and the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center have done the region a largely unrecognized favor by partnering with a group of angel investors and raising their own fund to participate. It will help local startups, but also could help provide jobs for others.

The creation of the Mane Capital Fund is an important landmark for the Shoals.

A community that prides itself on creativity, our best and brightest have through the years had to look outside our region for funding when trying to scale up their entrepreneurial startups.

Aside from those with biotech aims, that might no longer be the case.

The Mane Capital Fund is a micro-venture fund established here by the Angel Capital Group, a collection of angels — wealthy investors who provide capital for new businesses in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity — who established partnerships in nine states.

One Shoals entrepreneur who has been making news in 2015 is Robbie Hillis, who created a water-saving device that has drawn interest from investors on multiple continents. His Ark Labs is a tech-connected water monitoring device that, among other things, can detect leaks or running taps, and alert a home or business owner via computer or cellphone. The owner can then turn off the water, using his tech device, until the problem can be investigated.

It’s a creation that strikes a chord in water-starved nations and the U.S. West Coast, especially, but can be of service to any homeowner and, perhaps more significantly, to big businesses, universities, government agencies, etc.

So the potential for such a device is huge, as recognized by judges in pitch contests and investor groups that have rewarded Hillis and his partners with cash flow, training, ultra-high-speed Internet capabilities and other assets.

Though Ark Labs has access to the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center’s resources, those resources have paled in comparison to some provided by Chattanooga, which recruited Ark Labs with its city-wide gigabyte-per-second Internet access and other entrepreneurial infrastructure.

The Mane Capital Fund is the result of hard work by leaders at the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center and the University of North Alabama business school, who raised $1 million of their own for investments, hopefully in local startups but also in those it favors in other Angel Capital Group ventures.

But this is more than a means to prop up the select few who have entrepreneurial ideas. Angel investments created 264,000 new jobs in the U.S. last year — a significant contributor to job growth.

Angel investing is a staple in modern America with more than 73,000 startups last year receiving funding from these groups of more than 316,000 individuals in 2014, according to the Kansas City-based Kauffman Foundation on entrepreneurialism.

We congratulate UNA and the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center for creating an opportunity for our own bright minds to fund their dreams right in their backyards.


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