Published in Finance

New president of Grand Angels to focus on diversifying investments

BY Sunday, December 11, 2016 04:11pm

Tim Parker wasn’t actively looking for a new opportunity when he came across a LinkedIn posting that intrigued him.

Grand Angels, an angel investment network and venture capital firm, was seeking new leadership. As Parker read the posting, the job seemed like a good match for his interests, skills and professional background as an entrepreneur, consultant, R&D executive and engineer.

“I saw the posting and when I started reading about it, I said, ‘Boy, this is really in good alignment with my passions,’” Parker said. “I went ahead and sent in a resume the old-fashioned way and it went pretty quickly from there.” 

Parker was named president of Grand Angels in November, succeeding Jody Vanderwel, who led the Holland-based group for 12 years. Vanderwel remains a director on the board at Grand Angels and serves on the investment committee of Grand Angels Venture Fund II.

Parker joined Grand Angels after six years of operating T.S. Parker Global, which exports American-branded packaged foods from Michigan to Asian markets and consults with startup companies on strategy, product development and growth. Parker previously worked for 17 years at the Walker-based consumer goods maker Bissell Inc., including eight years as vice president of research and development. Before that, he worked for two years as an engineer at the former Prince Corp. in Holland.

“Tim Parker has demonstrated strong results and ability to drive global change across numerous organizations, and his background aligns with Grand Angels’ investment strategy,” Vanderwel said. “As investors, we bring with us valuable experiences that help guide the entrepreneurs with whom we work, and Tim’s experience building new products and introducing them to global markets will be an invaluable asset to our portfolio.”

Parker likewise views his consulting work with startup companies as meshing with his new role at Grand Angels, as well as with the organization’s mission.

Leading Grand Angels is “a really great opportunity to have a broad impact on a lot of different companies in Michigan (and) in different industries,” Parker said.

“I’ve really enjoyed helping companies grow and thrive, especially Michigan companies and West Michigan companies. That was kind of the whole purpose of the company I started six years ago, to help West Michigan companies to grow,” he said. “When I think about angel investing and venture capital, we’re kind of doing the same thing here. Our goal is to help the Michigan economy by helping companies thrive here.”

GROWING ANGELS

Parker handles day-to-day operations for the 45-member Grand Angels, which is one of 10 angel investment networks in Michigan that collectively invested more than $16 million into startup companies across the state in 2015.

So far this year, Grand Angels has invested $3.5 million in 11 deals, raising its total capital deployment to $23.1 million over 13 years. Nine of the deals this year were follow-on investments and two were new.

Grand Angels presently holds investments in 23 portfolio companies and focuses on life sciences, advanced manufacturing, information technology, software, and advanced agriculture and food science. 

The group’s most recent investment was in Grand Rapids-based drug developer Tetra Discovery Partners LLC, which last month closed on $5 million in new venture capital funding. Grand Angels led the investment round with the Apjohn Group in Kalamazoo and San Francisco-based venture capital firm Dolby Family Ventures. The closing elevated a Series A financing for Tetra Discovery to $7.27 million to support the development of a new drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

BROADENING THE PORTFOLIO

Grand Angels in early 2015 also formed a $7 million venture capital fund, dubbed Grand Angels Venture Fund II, to make follow-on investments in portfolio companies and new investments. Parker said Grand Angels will probably begin fundraising for a third venture fund with a similar size and investment focus by mid-2017.

Under his leadership, there’s no “radical change” ahead for Grand Angels, although Parker wants to take a more deliberate approach to make sure future venture capital funds have a diverse portfolio of industry sectors.

“I think that’s just a natural evolution based on what’s going on in the region and where our members want us to focus our investments,” he said. “We’ll make sure our mix is right based on what opportunities are available at the time.

“We’re well diversified, so it’s more making sure that we’re focusing on the strongest opportunities, continuing to do great due diligence, and that we’re positioned with the right mix for the future.”

Grand Angels also will put more focus on execution, mentoring entrepreneurs behind startup companies, “and really helping companies that we invest in deliver on their missions.”

“We’ll probably engage a little more deeply with those companies and really help them hit their goals because that’s bringing a better return for our investors,” Parker said. 

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