Don Ross

Don Ross Recaps the HealthTech Conference 2014, October 15, 2014
Written by Anne DeGheest // 15 October 2014 // Video, Interview
Why is the ACA Making a Big Deal about the SEC Ruling on General Solicitation?
Written by Don Ross // 25 July 2013 //

David Verrill, Chair of the Angel Capital Association, wrote a great blog today on the latest SEC rules. He also has an op ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal. In summary:


  1. Under the rules, typical startup fundraising activities--business plan competitions, accelerator DEMO days, pitch events, even posting on Gust--will be considered general solicitation. 
  2. The good--general solicitation is now okay. Previously, there were dire consequences for startups that fell under general solicitation rules.
  3. The bad--when companies engage in general solicitation, their Angle investors are subject to new rules. Self-certification of accredited investor status is no longer accepted. The Angel investor must provide tax returns or account statements to the startup company, or obtain regular certification from a third party such as a lawyer, accountant, or investment advisor--perhaps as often as every 90 days. 
  4. Angel investors will not deliver their personal financial statements to startup companies. They will simply stop investing. The time and cost burden of third parties is another big incentive to stop investing. Since when do Angel investors use "investment advisors" in invest in startups? The fundamental principle of Angel investing is that each Angel investor makes their own independent decision.  
  5. For companies that do not engage in general solicitation, the prior self-certification rules apply. Unfortunately, the general solicitation definition in the new rules is so broad that it will apply to nearly all startups.
If the rule is not amended, Angel investments will be harder to obtain. Either Angels will stop investing, or the environment will become so locked down that few will see the startup investment opportunity.


By the way--how important is Angel investing to the economy? Consider these stats for 2012:

  1. Angels invested nearly $23 billion in more than 67,000 startup companies (20 times more companies than those funded by VCs)
  2. This represents more than 90% of the outside capital these companies used to get started
  3. By comparison, venture capitalists invested $27 billion, with little going to true startups
  4. The startup companies that angels funded last year created nearly 275,000 jobs

David Verrill says it best: "Angels are the lifeblood of startup companies in the US. Angels invest on every Main Street in the US, not just Wall Street. Angels are primary job creators in our economy. Angels provide expertise, mentorship and a whole host of other benefits besides their money. Angels tend to plow profits back into the startup ecosystem. Angels invest their own money, not those of a pension fund. There is almost no fraud in the angel world."

His full blog is available here: 

Crowdfunding Gaps in Capital
Written by Don Ross // 25 July 2013 //

Sramana Mitra wrote a thoughtful Harvard Business Review blog on crowdfunding.  She identifies three business segments for crowdfunding.

  1. First, few businesses are appropriate for venture funding, which requires a large addressable market and high growth potential. Niche business can be great businesses, but horrible venture investments. While these businesses do not have the growth potential required for successful venture investing, they can generate significant cash flow and pay dividends. For many reasons, VCs cannot fund dividend businesses. Crowdfunders can.  
  2. I find the second business segment less convincing—crowdfunding for early ideas. There is a reason that this round is called FFF (friends, family, and FOOLS). Friends and family invest because they know you (there is little else to evaluate) and are betting on you as a person. The Fools don’t even know you.
  3. The third segment—working capital in smaller amounts, is an interesting idea. This has roots in microlending, which has been a success.  

The crowdfunding community has been touting funding successes. Many reports talk about the massive amounts of cash that could be invested in startups.  There are two points worth remembering. First, there is a good reason that most accredited investors are not Angel investors—it’s inherently risky. Second, a funding event does not equate to success. Success is an exit and ROI to investors and entrepreneurs. Ask any VC.

Full article here:

Communications Reliability - A Patient Perspective
Written by Don Ross // 25 July 2013 //

As we move into a brave new world of connectedness and mHealth, it’s worth remembering the basics—just make a phone call!

What fresh (phone) hell is this?*

by Barb Darrow

Unlike most of my colleagues at GigaOM, I’m no gadget freak. I have a perfectly adequate, not-new iPhone 4 (no Siri for me) and I actually still miss my Blackberry Curve but don’t tell Om. People like me — and there are a lot of us — don’t need the latest and greatest. But here’s what we do need: To be able to make and take phone calls.

And too often that just doesn’t happen. How many dropped calls have you suffered lately? You get my point. But this week, the problem of dropped or aborted calls took on new significance. I was off most of the week dealing with a family health emergency with my mom and here’s what’s happened, telephonically speaking.

First, four calls to the on-call doctor on Saturday — the service promises a 30-minute turnaround time —  went unanswered FOR TWO DAYS.  When the doctor did call — on Monday morning — he said none of those pages ever got to his cell phone. I believe him, not that it matters: In effect, an appalling communications breakdown is no better than a negligent on-call doc.

Second, my mom’s surgeon was unable to reach my cell late Monday night when he was supposed to brief me on his plan of action. I didn’t actually believe him but at that point, the die was cast and I got the briefing as mom was wheeled into the OR.

But then, as minutes, then hours ticked by, and it was long past the time I should have received a call from recovery, I wondered. Using a hospital phone, I called my cell and sure enough got a fast busy.  Turns out the hospital phone system — from Verizon it turns out — did not recognize my 13-year-old “new” area code. The IT department had to program in the area code to fix the problem. It took a few minutes, but jeez, isn’t this the kind of thing that shouldn’t happen anymore?

Given the good result — successful surgery — it all came out ok, but I can’t help but wonder that, with all these super smart phones and 4G networks and blah blah blah, how it is that so much basic stuff — the ability to complete calls — just goes wrong.

Another example: The last time I called Triple A from the same cell phone, I had to wait (and wait) for them to route me through the system. They assumed, based on my cell number that I was in the Boston area, when I was 1000 miles away. Shouldn’t they just have “known” where I was based on the phone’s GPS data? Probably yes, but they didn’t.

A similar issue can occur when you enter your cell phone number on customer service calls. Many companies, including Comcast in my experience, don’t get that people keep their cell numbers when they move. So they send you to a service person based on where they **think** you are located based on that cell phone number. It makes for a very unsatisfying customer experience.

Zillions of silly free mobile apps are fine and dandy but I’d rather have a device and network that actually does what they’re supposed to: Make phone calls.

*with apologies to Dorothy Parker.

Q1 2013 Halo Report on Angel Investing
Written by Don Ross // 18 July 2013 //
The Angel Resource Institute (ARI), Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and CB Insights released the Q1 2013 Halo Report today, a national survey of angel group investment activity, which finds round sizes are trending up to a median of $680K per deal, pre-money valuations remain stable at $2.5 million and most angel investment happens in angel groups’ home states. 
Statistics of note:
-- Angel investments are spread more evenly nationwide than VC investments
- Median premoney valuation = $2.5 million
- 75% of Angel deals are syndicated. When Angels co-invest, the median round size is $1.5 million.
- Healthcare is the 2nd strongest investment sector (behind Internet but ahead of mobile/telecom).
See more at:


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