Startups Turn To Cowtown Angels, Not ‘Shark Tank’

By Steve Kaskovich
Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

FORT WORTH

‘Tis the season for angels. But in the Fort Worth business community, angel investors are making year-round appearances.

For the past two years, a group of local investors called the Cowtown Angels has been meeting regularly, hearing pitches from up-and-coming entrepreneurs in need of seed money for their fledgling ventures.

Think of it as Fort Worth’s version of Shark Tank, the popular ABC show starring Mark Cuban, but with less conflict and self importance, and more collaboration.

So far, the group of finance professionals, retired executives, entrepreneurs and members of wealthy families has pumped more than $6 million into about a dozen promising companies, including a local company that developed sprayer technology used to disinfect apartments of Ebola victims in Dallas and another developing an eye treatment to help adults avoid reading glasses.

The angel investor group was the brainchild of Darlene Boudreaux, executive director of Tech Fort Worth, the business incubator located at the old James E. Guinn school south of downtown. Tech Fort Worth provides startups with a variety of services such as counseling on business plans, marketing and legal issues as well as offering office space.

A successful entrepreneur herself who built up and sold the Grand Prairie drug manufacturer PharmaFab, Boudreaux saw a need to connect entrepreneurs with local investors. She first launched the North Texas Angel Network out of Tech Fort Worth, but it mostly attracted investors from Dallas and eventually split off on its own.

Boudreaux then decided she needed to attract Fort Worth investors to support local startups, and the Cowtown Angels group was born. It’s part of a growing network of such groups throughout Texas, which typically fill funding needs for startups after they’ve exhausted capital raised from family and friends.

Currently, the group has about 30 members, who meet monthly at UT Arlington’s Fort Worth Center, in the old Santa Fe freight building on the edge of downtown. Investors hear short presentations from a handful of companies before deciding whether to invest.

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