Angel Brennan says EC, StartupTN help|
prepare entrepreneurs to seek capital
By Milt Capps Updated 5:57 p.m.
THE REGION's pipeline of investable Angel deals is becoming "more organized and more professional" as a result of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center (NEC) and Startup Tennessee, independent Angel investor Bill Brennan told VNC.
In addition, Brennan said that since he became a mentor at the NEC, he has come to believe "there are a lot more people than we know about" in Nashville who are Angels who prefer to "fly below the radar," Brennan said.
Brennan, age 50, is "open and looking" for further investment opportunities, he said. He is particularly interested in proposals involving technology and data, but has no hard rules regarding where the company stands in its lifecycle. Virtually all his investment has been in Tennessee companies, with the exception being his stake in a Michigan company that provides services to the HVAC industry, said Brennan.
Given the momentum created in the past two years by TNInvestco, the NEC, StartupTN and recent State ECD initiatives, VNC asked Brennan whether or not he felt the local venture ecosystem has gaps that still need to be filled.
After a moment's reflection, he said, "I think it's an issue for us that we have 900 [unfilled job] openings in the Tech sector" in the Nashville region, a reference to a recent tech-vacancies report by the Nashville Technology Council.
Brennan added that he's "encouraged that there've been initiatives taken" to address the talent shortage. Brennan, who's been in Nashville since 1984, then noted that in Nashville it has long been true that talent recruitment is "a little harder or takes longer than you'd like" in the Nashville region. "The fact that there are 900 identified positions kind of speaks for itself," he added.
He generally does not formally co-invest, although he sometimes introduces fellow investors to businesses in which he's investing. Asked whether he prefers to see a brief executive summary or a formal business plan from entrepreneurs approaching him, he said considers essential "a real business plan" that entrepreneurs have put together with care.
Among the most visible of Brennan's recent investments is Dataium, a Cloud-based online data-aggregation services provider to the automotive sector with offices in Nashville.
Dataium's team is in early discussions regarding its C-Round capital raise that may total $7.5 milllion. In July, VNC reported that a TNInvestco fund, XMi High Growth Development Fund, had to that point invested $1.1MM in Dataium. In September, VNC reported that Angel investor Crom Carmichael has also invested in the company.
Brennan is also an investor in NavigatorMD, the six-year-old Knoxville company that provides data analytics to help its customers manage their healthcare insurance spend. A representative smaller investment, he said, is DMB, a printing-plate manufacturer in Nashville.
His earlier successful gambits included becoming the first outside investor in Publishing Group of America, the American Profile publishing group then controlled by media entrepreneur Dan Hammond. That company was sold to Bain Capital Ventures and Shamrock Growth Capital Fund in 2007.
Brennan plans to invest further with Hammond: He told VNC he plans to invest in American Hometown Media, a spinout from Hammond American Hometown Publishing, a newspaper group formed by Hammond. As reported by VNC, AHM's flagship property is the Just A Pinch Recipe Club.
Brennan also founded and retains a stake in Mailnet Services, the now-Charlotte-based business operating as Conclusive Marketing.
Mailnet Services Inc. was spun-out of Brennan's earlier venture, Data Marketing Network Inc. (DNI); following the spin-out, Brennan and co-investor Don Leyrer became Mailnet's co-founders, Brennan said.
Mailnet was initially funded by Massey Burch and Mellon Ventures, Brennan confirmed. Mailnet, which Brennan says pioneered high-speed list-cleaning via the Internet, did at least three acquisitions in 2006. The transactions, he said, were supported by Morgan Keegan Mezzanine and Frontier Capital, the latter based in Charlotte. (DNI was sold after 25 years in business; at the sale, it was believed to be one of the largest direct-mail and fulfillment companies in the Southeast.)
Brennan, his wife and their three children reside in Brentwood. He is a native of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, a small community 20 miles northwest of Detroit. The city's website touts itself as the hometown of executives with automakers and other Fortune 500 companies.
Brennan earned a bachelor's in business at East Tennessee State University, in 1983; and, he later earned an associate's degree in industrial engineering at Nashville State Community College (formerly Nashville State Technical College). VNC