Most of you know that HB 597, the Angel Investor Tax Credit, passed through the state legislature and is awaiting Governor Jindal’s signature. The Angel Credits, designed to incentivize investment in Louisiana startups and help overcome the access to capital barrier, will have an enormous impact on startup ecosystem in Louisiana.
The credits would authorize tax rebates equal to 35% of the amount of the investment in a qualified Louisiana entrepreneurial business, for investments of up to $1 million per year, per business.
We interviewed Terry Jones, the Executor Director of the Regional Innovation Organization and the driving force by Save Our Startups, the group behind grassroots efforts to pass the angel bill. Terry joined us to give our readers more insight into the potential impact and benefits of the credit.
[SBN] What impact will the angel bill have on startups in Louisiana?
[Terry] In my position as the Executive Director of the Regional Innovation Organization for the nine parish Capital Region I experience firsthand, alongside our entrepreneurs, the difficulty they are having raising capital, the fuel that allows them to develop their ideas and pursue the high paying jobs and accelerated job growth we are seeking to create for our Louisiana economy.
Investors, and angels in particular, have many choices in deciding where to invest their capital. Investing in innovation and entrepreneurs is where we need them allocating a portion of their funds or we will find ourselves falling further behind in developing an innovation economy. The tax credit is a significant opportunity to help incentivize that investment. Investing in the early stages of a company comes with risk and it takes time for a startup to yield results. The Angel Tax Credit, upon the Governor’s signature, will help provide the much needed capital. Study upon study from noted organizations such as The Kaufmann Foundation reveal that entrepreneurship and innovation are the growth engines for our country and will be so for our state as well if we take steps that significantly enhance innovation opportunities, such as passing the Angel Bill.
[SBN] What led you to start Saveourstartups? What kind of traction did you get?
[Terry] We have a large entrepreneurial community across the state and getting their voices heard by the legislature is important, but difficult. Showing up for committee hearings takes considerable time and frequently it takes several sessions to get a bill heard, which means entrepreneurs attend, but leave empty handed. Our economic development organizations across the state, such as BRAC and GNO Inc. (legislative efforts were led by Erin Monroe Wesley and Dino Paternostro) had made strong efforts the past two years to get the legislation passed and did quite well in their effort, only to see the bill stalled at the end of each session. They were making a hard run at the legislation again this year and I felt we needed to do something different to help them, get the voices of our entrepreneurs heard.
So I sat down with two entrepreneurs, Jared Loftus and Logan Leger, and told them what I thought needed to be done. Make it simple and take only a minute for people to respond to a call to action as the Angel Bill moved through the legislative process. Give them the information they needed to quickly let their Legislator and the Governor know they support the Angel Bill. Logan let us use his Launchrock account and Jared set up a quick landing page and handed off to me to start running the site and campaign. saveourstartups was born. It was launched at the May SeNSE Pitch Night where the author of the Angel Bill, Representative Michael Jackson, presented the bill to the audience. We asked people on the spot to sign up at the website via their phone. It was a great start and it grew from there. The email list grew and other regions not only joined in but so did other organizations, such as Bob Miller and the Opportunity Machine, began blasting out the calls to action as well. This was truly a statewide, grassroots effort. Through reporting metrics we could tell the emails were being passed around by nearly three times the number that were on our email list. Other states were even following our efforts, 17 at last count.
Our entrepreneurial community spoke every time we asked them to, spoke with a loud and united voice. We are awaiting the results of our latest and final call to action, the request of Governor Jindal that he support our entrepreneurial communities across the state and sign the legislation into law. He and Secretary Moret put forth and saw through to passage extension and enhancement of several key economic incentives this session. We applaud their work and most certainly hope they recognize the tremendous need and positive impact the Angel Tax Credit will have and that the Governor signs our bill.
[SBN] What is your role with RIO and whats RIOs mission?
[Terry]I have the best job around. Working with our awesome entrepreneurial community, helping to advance innovation, and the creation and successful growth of startups and the entrepreneurial ecosystem in our capital region. RIO was launched in February of 2011 to serve as a best-in-class entrepreneurial acceleration engine to significantly advance economic development assets and capabilities within the Capital Region with the goal of cultivating a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. RIO’s launch was the culmination of a regional public/private effort by elected officials, the business sector, the region’s three Research Parks (incubators), State Universities, the region’s economic development groups – lead by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, and other significant innovation entities such as the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. RIO’s primary funding comes from the Research Park Corporation – the parent company of The Louisiana Technology Park. These unified leaders recognized the necessity of quickly bringing to fruition a regional strategy for promoting the development of early stage, high growth companies in economy-sustaining industries. As part of its strategy RIO has five primary areas of focus, they are:
1) Enhance collaboration among our innovation asset;
2) Provide business services to high growth startups;
3) Promote innovation assets and entrepreneurial efforts within the region and nationally;
4) Create events and networks that will foster innovation and entrepreneurism;
5) Improve access to capital for startups.