'Angels' to back local ventures

'Angels' to back local ventures

March 16th, 2011 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

A group of Chattanooga businessmen have formed a $3 million fund to invest in local entrepreneurs at an early stage in the business process.

It will be one of the first such public funds in the city, the group said, and combines old money and new.

The Chattanooga Renaissance Fund will provide cash infusions and investments to local entrepreneurs and inventors, and provide mentorship to those who need it.

The Lupton Co.'s David Belitz said the group will focus on "re-establishing the entrepreneurial community that will carry forward the area's legacy of entrepreneurism which will continue the growth and development of our city."

Belitz for 12 years has worked to manage the Lupton family trusts, where he is invested in over 70 private equity and venture capital funds, and has helped start two technology companies based out of Atlanta, according to the group's website.

Charlie Brock, one of the angel fund's six general partners and director at FourBridges Capital Advisors, was inspired by the example of investments from Amazon, Volkswagen and Wacker.

Brock himself helped start Foxmark Media, a mall advertising company, before forming a real estate and investment fund named Brock Partnerships.

"It's important that there is a place locally for early stage entrepreneurs to access capital," said Brock, who also serves on the advisory board of InnovateHere.

The CRF also includes Smart Furniture founder Stephen Culp, Roddy Bailey of Miller & Martin, venture capitalist Jack Studer and transportation executive Miller Welborn, who has served on the board of directors for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Westin Wamp, a spokesman for the group, said the CRF is styled after small West Coast angel funds.

"Whether you're a 24-year-old with a startup idea or a 56-year-old breaking away from your company to do your own thing, $50,000 to $100,000 is the difference between getting off the ground and not getting off the ground," Wamp said.