Highway To Heaven

Press The Flesh

There are any number of formal networking events organized for the express purpose of putting angel investors in direct contact with capital-hungry entrepreneurs. For example, MIT Enterprise Forums, which are held in some 14 cities across the United States and five additional international cities, take the form of a business-plan presentation--followed by a critique of both the plan and presentation--to professional investors, who are often institutional venture capitalists. But there's plenty of time before and after the program to network, see and be seen, pass out cards, and find leads.

Other formats include panel discussions, breakfast workshops, cocktail receptions and brown-bag seminars. Sponsors range from chambers of commerce and professional consulting organizations to universities and state economic development organizations. There are also venture fairs, which give entrepreneurs direct contact with angels in a "walk the midway"-type arrangement. You need to be careful with fairs, however. Many such events are organized to put companies in front of institutional venture capitalists. If you don't qualify for that kind of investment--and very few small businesses do--you'll find trying to get a slot to be a frustrating and generally unproductive use of your time.

To find your venue, call the nearest chamber of commerce and ask if they have a venture group. If you need to locate a chamber near you, call the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC, at (202)659-6000 or visit its Web site at http://www.uschamber.org. If you want to find out if there's an MIT Enterprise Forum scheduled for a city near you, call the MIT Enterprise Forum headquarters at (617)253-0015 or visit its Web site at http://web.mit.edu/entforum/

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This article was originally published in the June 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Highway To Heaven.

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