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Alpha Angels increases pool of investors, targets tech start-ups

Published:Friday | March 11, 2016 | 3:00 AMTameka Gordon
Yoni Epstein, chairman of Alpha Angels.
Adam Stewart, member of the Alpha Angels network.
Mark Hart, member of the Alpha Angels network.
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Montego Bay-based investor network Alpha Angels has increased the number of investors in its pool to 11 and is also looking to double the number of pitches it hears for the year.

Chairman Yoni Epstein said the group added the new members in December but declined to identify the new partners, saying "they have asked to keep themselves nameless".

Alpha Angels encourages the growth of early-stage ventures in Jamaica and the Caribbean through seed-stage investments. It is one of two angel networks in Jamaica, the other being Kingston-based First Angels Jamaica, that have emerged during a state-backed, ongoing initiative to develop a venture capital market.

"An Angel investor uses his or her personal disposable income and business experience to invest in the growth of a start-up," the company said on its website.

Epstein said Alpha Angels is now targeting 24 start-ups, up from the eight it vetted between April and December of 2015.

"We wanted to increase the amount of opportunities coming to the table from one a month," he said.

The increase comes as Alpha Angels pushes for more "deal flow," Epstein said. Now: "We have two pitches every month, so we are constantly seeing new opportunities."

From the original batch of three, the investors have only selected one, for which the funding arrangements are being finalised. The signing was to happen this week.

Epstein declined to name the venture selected for investment. Pressed on what ruled out the other two companies, the businessman, who himself owns and operates a business process outsourcing outfit, said the investors are now focused on tech start-ups with growth projections for regional expansion.

"The mechanics of the deal ruled out the other two. The one (selected) is high-tech focused with applications for the Third World and the Caribbean," he said.

"It's a piece of technology that will not only touch opportunities in Jamaica, but will also touch regional opportunities as well, and maybe even some export".

Alpha Angels is itself a nascent operation which launched with the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship and the Xcala Programme - a joint partnership between the Montevideo Institute of Business Studies and the Multilateral Investment Fund - as partners.

The investors include Caribbean Producers Jamaica Chairman Mark Hart; Rainforest Seafoods CEO Brian Jardim, and Sandals Resorts International CEO Adam Stewart.

The level of investment in selected ventures will vary according to deals struck with Alpha members.

"We don't invest as a group. Each investor pledges a number that they want to invest, which fits their appetite for investment," Epstein said.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com