By Nancy Dahlberg, ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com
AGP, the homegrown Miami-based angel network, is headed into its third year with a surge in investment activity and new leadership at the top.
Nico Berardi, who has led the relaunch of AGP (Accelerated Growth Partners) since 2014, is headed to Harvard Business School this month. Taking his place at the helm will be Raul Moas (pictured here), who for the last four years was executive director of the nonprofit Roots of Hope, an international network focused on youth empowerment in Cuba.
To ensure a smooth transition, Berardi and Moas have been working together for about five weeks. Berardi will also be visiting frequently and continue his involvement in AGP as a member of its board.
Moas said he wants to continue to help make AGP "the go-to angel network in South Florida" for the most promising startups in his hometown. Before Roots of Hope, Moas worked at Ernst & Young as a CPA in its international tax practice.
Berardi, who also came from the nonprofit world as a leader in Techo, said about 50 candidates applied for the leadership job at AGP. Autonomy and the ability and desire to learn were traits AGP looked for in a leader, Berardi said.
It has been two years since its 2014 relaunch [AGP existed as a much smaller and less active angel group for a few years], which was supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Since then, the angel network has made 21 investments in 17 South Florida companies, totaling about $4.6 million.
Recent AGP investments have included media company Whereby.us, publisher of The New Tropic, Papatel, a fintech company focused on alternatives to remittances, and a follow-on investment for Nearpod, an education technology company.
Currently, AGP has about 80 active investors. "We got off to a very quick start. In the first two years we proved out AGP as an MVP [minimal viable product], and now with the transition we want to focus on building the 2.0," said Berardi (pictured here).
Going forward, Moas and Berardi said AGP will be focused on leveraging the AGP network to help the companies post-investment and on more community engagement, with resources like angel office hours.
"We’ve proved there is a critical mass of really good companies and a critical mass of value-add angels and that we can have a process that is efficient and entrepreneur-friendly. That is what sets us apart – we’re quick efficient and we give out good term sheets. ... The goal is to keep on onboarding investors that will write more checks and larger checks," said Berardi, noting the average check size right now is about $250,000. Angel education efforts, such as AGP's seminars it has been producing with Kellogg School of Management and other partners, are helping.
While growing the base of angels and securing follow-on investments are challenges, Berardi said AGP is seeing more quality deals. He said the arrival of programs like startupbootcamp and 500 Startups' Growth Marketing program and new funds such as Las Olas Ventures are good signs of a maturing ecosystem. "But it's a long game. ... Slowly but surely we are getting there; the right things are happening," Berardi said.
Moas added, "I would love to see AGP continue to be a thought leader in the space. We want to be the go-to angel group in South Florida for the most promising startups in the area. We want to make sure we are accessible, that our members are reachable, and to be more engaged in the community. We’ve proven the concept, we know we are onto something and now it is about fine-tuning and growing."
South Florida startups can contact AGP at agpmiami.com.
Read more: Q&A with Nico Berardi
Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg