BlueWater Angels holds 10th anniversary dinner on campus

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SVSU and BlueWater Angels (BWA) co-hosted BWA’s 10th anniversary celebration on Friday, Nov. 30, in the Curtiss Hall Banquet rooms from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
BWA’s founders were in attendance, along with current and potential investors and startups that BWA helped to find investors for. The company helps to connect “small, early-stage startup companies” with investors, according to BWA President and Chairman Kenneth Kousky. David Bell, the SVSU associate director of entrepreneurship, experiential learning and con- tinuing education and associate director of the Dow Entrepreneurship Institute, said SVSU andBWA have a “great working relationship.”
The event began with the chance to mingle before opening introductions. Before dinner, founders of BWA who have been with the company since its beginning and are also still active with BWA were recognized.

Several startup companies that have found success because of investments through BWA also spoke, including BWA’s first successful startup, Advanced Battery Concepts (ABC).

“My wife and I started this company in our garage,” said Edward Shaffer of Advanced Battery Concepts. “I had the confidence to proceed with this endeavor because there was the BlueWater Angels out there.”

Shaffer referenced Michigan’s rich history of entrepreneurs who made the state successful and his hopes for more entrepreneurs like himself to succeed in the state again.

“(BWA) is just incredibly important for our region,” he said. “I’m hoping that the work that BlueWater Angels has started in our state will lead to, a hundred years from now, another crop of great businesses.”

Other successful startups also shared their stories, including Life Magnetics, Johnson Portables, ProNai, Gemphire and RetroSense Therapeutics.

Kousky saw the event as a way to celebrate BWA’s successes and accomplishments in helping fund startups around Michigan.

“For the most part, those companies (we work with) are prohibited by law from doing general solicitation without registering their offering, which costs tens of thousands of dollars for legal audits,” he said. “… That’s why Angel investments gets involved, to work around the restraints.”

Kousky believes the event also cleared up misconceptions people may have about BWA.

“One of the misunderstandings is that Angels is just another form of investing in the stock markets,” he said. “It’s really far from stock market investing. This is about trying to help community companies that we know, so it’s local investment.”

Bell hoped the event showcased the support that is available for small businesses around Michigan.

“The level of support for the evening should be inspirational to anyone who wants to see entrepreneurship grow and flourish in the Great Lakes Bay Region,” he said. “Seeing more entrepreneurial success stories right here in mid-Michigan is a worthy goal.”

Bell hopes that those who attended the event learned about support for startups in the region. “Hopefully, seeing and hearing about some of the region’s new business success stories and recognitions for significant advances that the region’s support system has already provided for startups will energize further growth of entrepreneurial ventures here,” he said.

Kousky is optimistic that attendees left the event motivated to help startups in the area.

“The call is really to get involved, get engaged and reach out and support (startups), whether you’re coaching, mentoring startups (or helping to fund them),” he said. “They’re really a missing ingredient that is vital for our futures.”