As it continues to fund young companies, the First Angel Network has developed an investment niche for the biomedical space and is showing an eagerness for repeat investments.
FAN, as it is known, has been investing in Atlantic Canadian startups for 12 years, making it the dean of active investment groups. Its portfolio has included a couple of exits and a few failures. The group has sometimes been controversial, and a group of FAN investors is now suing the developer of King’s Wharf in Dartmouth.
Through it all, the co-founding team of Ross Finlay and Brian Lowe has been arranging quarterly investments for their network of angels, as they have been for the past 48 quarters. The landscape has changed since FAN started, and the group concentrates more these days on life sciences companies or IT companies that have medical applications. Recent investments like Chinova Bioworks, Covina Biomedical and Spring Loaded bear this out.
“It seems like our members gravitate toward those types of deals,” said Lowe in an interview last week. “Our members like to invest in biotechnology and medical devices. They seem to understand the sector well.”
A look at the companies FAN has invested in shows the concentration in life sciences:
Spring Loaded Technology, Dartmouth — Spring Loaded has recently launched the Levitation knee brace, which not only stabilizes the joint but also adds power to it.
Chinova Bioworks, Fredericton — Chinova is using the multi-purpose compound chitosan in an anti-microbial agent, which it uses in a natural preservative in such foods as juices.
Iron Apple International, Halifax — Iron Apple International provides food safety solutions to transportation companies throughout North America.
Covina Biomedical, Halifax — Covina is commercializing a non-toxic bone cement that can be injected into the vertebrae of osteoporosis patients who have suffered a fracture. The company has said it raised $350,000 from FAN as part of a round with a target of $1 million.
WellTrack, Fredericton — WellTrack is a product that helps organizations — especially universities — improve the mental health of their members, especially those suffering from stress, anxiety and depression.
NB Biomatrix, Saint John — NB Biomatrix has developed Naqua-Pure, a liquid that uses nanotechnology to remove heavy metals and other pollutants from waste water.
What’s interesting about the Spring Loaded funding is that it is the second time the knee-brace-maker has tapped FAN for funding. The company received funding from FAN and Innovacorp two years ago, then from Build Ventures last year and returned to FAN earlier this year.
“FAN has been a long-term supporter of Spring Loaded,” said CEO Chris Cowper Smith in an email. “They are well organized and offer an efficient process for raising capital through their network. We had excellent uptake from FAN on our current offering and we look forward to working with them going forward.”
Lowe and Finlay said the organization is interested in providing follow-on funding from its more successful portfolio companies. It has done return investment for Spring Loaded and Halifax-based Metamaterial Technologies Inc., which recently announced an $8.3-million funding round that included contributions from FAN. Some of these companies are also raising money through the Wilmington Investor Network, a North Carolina group with whom FAN sometimes co-invests.
Finlay noted that research by the Angel Research Institute of the United States shows that follow-on funding accounts for more than half the angel investment in the U.S.
“We’ve been wondering if we should try to focus more on not chasing the shiny new object but on supporting the companies that are already in our portfolio,” he said. “We think that’s a good use of our capital.”