'Nebraska Angels' have new leader

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Posted: Saturday, May 18, 2013 12:00 am

The Nebraska Angels, a 6-year-old, 47-member consortium of individual angel investors, has hired former investment firm controller and financial analyst Laura Classen as its executive director.

“With Laura's experience as a controller, financial analyst and executive administrator, she brings a great background in helping run and manage a group like the Nebraska Angels,” said Bart Dillashaw, the group's president and a partner at the Koley Jessen law firm. “When you add in her experience as a small business consultant and her clear passion for growing companies in Nebraska, it makes a powerful combination.”

Classen, 26, came on board with the Angels in April, eight months after she created Raven Enterprises, a small business and startup consulting company. She'll continue to work with her current clients, but her main focus is her new role, she said, noting that she won't be soliciting new clients.

Between Raven and her two-year stint at Nebraska Heavy Industries, a Lincoln-based investment firm, Classen has been on both sides of the table, a characteristic she believes brings a unique perspective to her new employer.

“I hope that these experiences enable me to be the intersection between entrepreneurs and angels,” Classen said. She's the only full-time team member of the organization, a post held the past two years by Randy Nitz, though she has two interns who help manage day-to-day operations and “many Angels,” she said, who volunteer their time.

To learn more about Classen and her new role with the group that's behind a half-dozen investments in software startups, we conducted an email interview with her:

Q. What will your day-to-day role with the Angels look like?

A. The day-to-day role of the executive director is certainly an adventure. I have a number of projects happening simultaneously, including meeting with entrepreneurs to learn about their businesses and ideas, assisting them when possible to achieve their goals, and making connections for them. I also maintain all administrative operations, coordinate the entrepreneur's presentations at the monthly Angels meeting, work with the Angels to conduct due diligence on potential investments, and facilitate the closing of the investment. In addition, I like to keep close contact with the nationwide network of Angel groups, enabling the Nebraska Angels to offer even more connections, experts and resources to startups.

Q. Do you have goals or objectives for your first year?

A. I hope to be the connection between the entrepreneurial community and the Angel network, providing valuable industry connections, strategic ideas, presentation/pitch feedback and of course, the possibility of funding through the Nebraska Angels.

Q. What's the next step now that you've started the position?

A. The next step as the executive director is to be more accessible to entrepreneurs. I will be holding office hours in Omaha and Lincoln at least once a week to encourage people to visit in person. I want to hear about their business, ideas, direction, and I want to answer any questions about working with the Angels. The times and locations will be posted on Facebook/Twitter when finalized.

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