Monday, December 22, 2008
What's the Keiretsu Forum All About Anyway?
On Friday I went to the monthly Kieretsu Forum gathering in Palo Alto. So what is Keiretsu? It's the world's largest angel investor forum, with over 750 accredited members in 17 chapters on 3 continents. In other words, it's a group of high worth, well connected people, looking to invest in startups. What's it take to become a member?
A Keiretsu Forum member is:
* An active accredited private equity investor (definition here),
* A trusted, honest and respected member of our business community,
* A contributor of time, wisdom and experience to our funded companies and soon
to be funded companies,
* Someone who enjoys building relationships with other members and companies we
The Forum was founded by Randy Williams, a Cal guy, back in 2000, as a way to provide structure to private equity investing.
The Forum is pretty straightforward and slightly different than I expected. You arrive, sign-in, and mingle for about half an hour before the meeting starts. There are three tables set up in horseshoe-like fashion, with a screen in front of the open end of the setup. The tables are occupied by the Forum members. Behind the table directly across from the screen are rows of seats, about 8 rows of 10 seats each, where the rest of us sat.
Randy begins with an introduction to some of the members - or at least the members who were in from out of town. There were several people from Ireland, Scotland, Russia, Austria, Germany, and China, who were all prompted for a greeting in their native language. The intro's were very mellow - and you could tell this wasn't some uptight group of people.
Each group had ten minutes to present at which point there was a 10 minute Q&A, which we were allowed to participate in. There were five companies that presented. And it was during the Q&A that you really understood the Forum. Not only did they ask the right questions - not only about revenue forecasts and company growth projections, but also about network security and the broader technology implementation. While informal, it certainly highlighted their understanding of investments.
The biggest gain for participating companies, besides the obvious investment potential, was the contacts that came out of the meeting. At the end of the pitch/Q&A, Randy asked members if they had any contacts who could help these companies. Undoubtedly, someone in the room knew someone who could help and offered the introduction. It was quite a family.
If you'd like to be considered for participation as a presenter, you can do so here.