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For entrepreneur, 'angels' are answer to his prayers

by Carolyn Duffy Marsan
Publication: IndyStar.Com

December 11, 2006

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Marty Doucette, co-founder and chief technology officer of Indianapolis consulting firm PCi, has his eyes on a big prize: millions of dollars in federal contracts that require project management skills he has honed during the past 12 years.

To get his new venture off the ground, Doucette is seeking funding from IrishAngels, a support group for entrepreneurs sponsored by the University of Notre Dame. His co-founder and brother Ron graduated from Notre Dame in 1962.

Doucette's consulting firm has contracts with NASA, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. His expertise is in earned value management, a project management technique for tracking performance that is required on many federal government contracts.

"We want to be first to market with an application service that can provide contractors who have never done this before with everything they need to ramp up to this new form of cost and schedule management," he said. "But we need investors."

Doucette presented his idea to IrishAngels, making it to the final round of its business plan competition in the spring.

Doucette's consulting firm, which employs four people and earns $400,000 a year, is seeking a $1.5 million investment from members of the group.

"With an investment from IrishAngels, our projections are pretty conservative that we can grow this business to $36 million in four years,'' Doucette said.

Groups like IrishAngels are an increasingly common way for entrepreneurs to get seed money. Angel investors provide initial capital and expertise to startups but don't usually get involved in managing the business.

IrishAngels consists of Notre Dame alumni and parents who support the university's Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies -- founded by Gary Gigot, a partner with Frazier Technology Ventures, who also sits on the Notre Dame Business School Advisory Council.

Members mentor students and act as judges for the university's annual business plan competition. Individual IrishAngels may invest in startups that do well in the competition.

The goal of IrishAngels is to provide real-world feedback to complement business theories taught in the classroom.

"Our mission is educational: to get student and alumni entrepreneurs marketplace insight," said Theresa Sedlack, who oversees IrishAngels as venturing programs manager at the Gigot Center.

Members of IrishAngels volunteer five to 30 hours a year to mentor teams participating in the competition.

IrishAngels is the only university-led angel group in Indiana.

"We're aware of 250 angel groups in the United States," said Marianne Hudson, director of angel initiatives at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. "IrishAngels is one of the first groups to be instigated by a university."

Hudson said tying investing to a university helps build a strong personal connection between entrepreneur and investor. Nationwide, 18 universities have or are starting angel groups.

IrishAngels is a national group, but 10 percent of its members live in Indiana.

IrishAngels also was critical to the success of Aprimo, an Indianapolis marketing software company founded by Bill Godfrey, who completed Notre Dame's Executive MBA program in 2000.

"IrishAngel Gary Gigot invested in Aprimo at an early stage, and he has been a member of our board of directors for the past seven years," said Bill Godfrey, Aprimo's chief executive. "Gary has provided mentoring and guidance in shaping Aprimo's business strategy and value proposition for marketing organizations."

Aprimo, which launched in 1999, now has 250 employees worldwide and 150 customers, including American Express, Home Depot, Merck and Target. A privately held company, Aprimo doesn't disclose revenues.

IrishAngel members benefit by getting the opportunity to invest in promising startups.

Michael Mountford, chief executive of National Programming Service, an Indianapolis satellite TV service provider, joined IrishAngels in 2005. He graduated from Notre Dame with a marketing degree in 1977.

"I've learned a lot," he said. "I've had great interactions with the students. It's really exciting to see such enthusiasm and creativity on display."

Through IrishAngels, Mountford invested in Wound Care Technologies, an Eden Prairie, Minn., biomedical startup. Mountford also contributes to an IrishAngels fund that provides seed money to help entrepreneurs develop business plans.

"IrishAngels is a wonderful thing," Mountford said. "I wish groups like this had been around when I started my own business for the first time back in 1983."

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