From the June 2004 issue of Entrepreneur

Send Me an Angel Group

An established source of funding for startups and young companies, angel investors have a long tradition of flying solo, meeting with entrepreneurs and making investments on an individual basis. But increasingly, these wealthy investors are banding together to form angel capital groups. In fact, according to the University of New Hampshire's Center for Venture Research, some 170 angel investment groups have formed in the past several years.

Thanks to the recent formation of the Angel Capital Association, these groups now have their own organization. Sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the association will focus on increasing awareness and the availability of angel funding, and establishing standards for investment practices.

"It will give angel investors a forum to share best practices," says Marianne Hudson, director of Adult Entrepreneurship Programs at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. "As these groups get to know one another and network, they may do more co-investing. The long-term plan is that, as they share data, they will become better investors and more accessible to entrepreneurs."

Plastic Portability

Sure, accepting plastic is a tried-and-true method of boosting sales-but when you're a mobile merchant, it's not always feasible. Or is it? Snap a Creditel PowerSwipe card reader onto your cell phone (currently select Motorola models through the Nextel network only), sign up for a data service plan, and you no longer need to be tethered to a brick-and-mortar shop to accept credit cards.

"It offers convenience and security for both the customer and the vendor," says Georges Elias, CEO of Los Angeles-based Creditel. Transaction times average six to eight seconds, and the company's "secure swipe" technology protects the theft of credit card data. "The information is encrypted as the card is swiped through the reader and before the data is transmitted into the phone itself, so it's completely secure."

The hitch? In addition to the traditional merchant account bank fees that vendors pay in order to accept plastic, PowerSwipe users pay an additional $9.99 a month for a cell phone data plan, plus $199 for the device as well as ongoing Creditel charges of $8 to $12 monthly and 15 cents per transaction.

"The people PowerSwipe helps most are those with higher transaction tickets and higher transaction volumes," says Elias. "For them, the ability to take credit cards increases sales as well as average transaction amounts."


The number of companies filing for bankruptcy is estimated to decline
25%
this year.
SOURCE: PricewaterhouseCoopers

Women make up less than
10%
of high-level VCs and are leaving the field at twice the rate of their male counterparts.
SOURCE: Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

is a freelance writer in New York City specializing in business and finance.