Earning his wings

Bram Daelemans hopes to build on state’s angel investment success.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Success drives Bram Daelemans, the new director at the Wisconsin Angel Network (WAN), and he has his father and a competitive spirit to thank for it. After 11 years in the state, the strapping, 29-year-old Belgian now considers the U.S. home, and although his true sporting love remains soccer, he is a Green Bay Packers stockholder. “I can say, ‘my Packers, my team.’ It’s awesome!”

Daelemans, a natural-born athlete who has excelled at just about any sport he’s tried, arrived in Port Washington in 2004 as an exchange student. After graduating from Carroll College with a degree in business administration, he earned an MS in applied economics, an MBA, and a Certificate of Entrepreneurship from Marquette University.

Now he’s leading the challenge to build upon the angel investment successes of the past, where in 2014, 113 early stage Wisconsin companies received more than $346 million in investment capital, a 31% increase over 2013.

“In Belgium, I was always taught that success is a lot about seniority and the next in line. Here, the American dream is that if you work hard and perform well, anyone can get ahead.”

Daelemans, who speaks Dutch/Flemish, English, and French, moved to Madison from Milwaukee in June after working for several years with Tim Keane at Golden Angels Investors, one of the largest angel groups in the state. In his new role, he connects early-stage companies seeking funding with investors looking to cash in on the latest innovative ideas. In a recent interview, Daelemans shared a bit about the angel investment world.

IB: Who are the investors?
They have to be accredited, which means they have to be high-net-worth individuals. Interacting and working with them and learning what drives them is my favorite part of the job.

IB: What role did you play at WAN’s recent early stage symposium?
We helped coach the 28 companies on their presentations. In that first minute, you have to establish credibility and tell the investors exactly what your company does. Hopefully they’ll be interested enough to come see you afterward.

IB: What are angel investors looking for?
Good ideas but more importantly good people. If you asked them, I think most investors would say the people running the businesses are more important than the ideas. At the end of the day it comes down to execution.

IB: Which sectors are they most interested in?
Investors want five to 10 times their money back in three to five, sometimes seven years, depending on the industry. For that to happen there has to be a liquidation event, either the sale of the company or going public. If there’s a market, and also an exit market for the idea, it has potential. The software, technology, health care, and health IT sectors have been able to do that.



IB: As WAN’s director, what are your goals over the next couple of years?
To grow the amount of investor groups and find more accredited investors willing to form groups to share the risks, the burdens, and the rewards. Last year there were 376,000 active investors in the U.S., but based on the definition there could be as many as four million out there, so only about 10% of those who could be investing are [investing]. We need to figure out a way to get them more involved and get them to play in the sandbox.

IB: Anything else?
I’d like to see more syndication with investor groups so they collaborate more on investments. BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation does this. It’s called ADD, or approved due diligence, so, ‘I trust you and will trust your due diligence, and trust that it is correct, accurate, and if you’re investing and I like what I read, I’ll invest also.’

I want different groups to have ADD status amongst each other so there’s more collaboration and less competition.

IB: What’s been the most challenging part of your job thus far?
Herding the cats. Working with all the investors. There are so many but it’s also the best part of the job. I really enjoy meeting those smart and bright people and making the connections. If they end up investing, it’s rewarding to know I helped with that.

IB: To whom would you most attribute your success thus far?
My dad and Tim Keane [Golden Angels Investors]. My dad because he always pushed me to do better and aim higher. We don’t hand out participation trophies in Belgium, and that made me into the competitive person I am. I’m always hungry to be the best.

Just like in sports, I can’t play for fun because then why play at all?

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