Dingman Center’s Capital Access
Actively Funding Start-up Companies
The Dingman Center of Entrepreneurship at the Robert H. School of Business,
University of Maryland, College Park, is a top-tier entrepreneurial institute
that offers unique programs designed to encourage a real-world business culture
that meshes the theoretical and practical. One such program is the Capital
Access Network (CAN), which brings regional start-up companies seeking seed and
early-stage funding to the angel investing community.
Angel investors are accredited investors who have experience managing and/or
building successful companies. They typically invest between $300,000 and $1.5
million in a start-up company.
CAN is the second-largest group of angel investors in the region. The group
meets monthly at the Smith School. The program started in November 2003 and
involves more than 75 qualified angel investors and venture capitalists, six
business incubators, nearly 100 start-ups, and Virginia and Maryland economic
development organizations in creating opportunities and growth for developing
The CAN process begins with applications from Maryland, Virginia and
Washington, D.C. start-ups. The Dingman Center also has assembled a group of
early stage Venture Capitalists to assist with identifying and evaluating rising
companies for the CAN program. They coach the entrepreneurs and select two to
three companies to present at a monthly CAN breakfast. The entrepreneurs explain
their businesses to the investors and talk about where they see their business
going in the future.
In addition to deal flow from the Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and
Washington, D.C., business communities, CAN members have access to a pipeline of
proprietary technologies developed at the University of Maryland. The Dingman
Center partners with the A. James Clark School of Engineering’s Mtech program
and the Office of Technology Commercialization to identify promising tech
Joe Kessler, managing partner of Next-Stage Development Group, says, “The
Capital Access Network gets better each year. Investors enjoy a good networking
opportunity while learning about the region’s latest entrepreneurial ventures.
The CAN staff screens and coaches business prospects and presents only those
that are ready to pitch to serious investors.”
After the presentations, the CAN has an internal discussion on the
presentations. Investors question the entrepreneurs, allowing the investors to
get a better sense of the companies before them and for the entrepreneurs to get
a better idea of what to explain to prospective investors in future situations.
Elana Fine, the director of venture investments at the Dingman Center, says, “
the Capital Access Network is a unique intersection of entrepreneurs, investors,
students, local incubators, technology experts, and the local business
community. Companies receiving investments from CAN benefit because they receive
both capital and valuable advisory from experienced professionals.”
Past companies to receive investments from CAN investors include Zymtis,
mySBX, Bid 4Health, Sitscape and Me, Me, Me.
mySBX, was funded by two investors in CAN. It was recently acquired by Deltek,
a maker of software designed to help companies better manage projects. Ken Tighe,
a CAN investor, was one of the two investors in mySBX.
“I’m appreciative that the Capital Access Network for exposed me to the
deal,” says Tighe. “It worked out. I’m sure there’s some degree of luck, but you
have to make the investment to make the exits. CAN is a great opportunity to get
proactive in how you invest your money. It’s a tremendous program. The quality
of the entrepreneurs who come through here on a monthly basis is fantastic.”
The Dingman Center assists each company with follow-on support for funding
and due diligence inquiries, monitors interested parties, makes additional
introductions and offers consulting services to companies invited to join its