The San Diego Angel Conference, a University of San Diego Knauss School of Business and Brink Small Business Development Center program that activates accredited angel investors and engages promising early-stage companies that drive innovation, is looking for applicants for its fifth annual event, set for spring 2023.
The conference continues to provide top-tier mentorship, education and resources to startups on the rise. It also provides connections to early-stage companies seeking angel funding, attracting both first-time and experienced angel investors interested in building their investment portfolios.
In four years, SDAC has awarded $4.1 million to 14 startups.
Many of its portfolio companies and applicants have gone on to secure larger funding rounds totaling more than $190 million. With about 100 early-stage companies participating and vying for a share of an investment fund of at least $200,000 each year, SDAC has become one of the largest angel investor programs in the country.
“Angel investors are looking for products that solve real problems and entrepreneurs with tenacity and a tolerance for risk,” said Mysty Rusk, executive director of the Free Enterprise Institute at USD and founder of SDAC.
“SDAC works to activate accredited investors and fund potentially disruptive early-stage companies,” Rusk added. “USD has enabled an enduring network of entrepreneurs, partners, sponsors and investors with San Diego Angel Conference and is leading the way in values-driven free enterprise.”
While businesses from the U.S., Mexico and Canada are all encouraged to apply, since its beginnings, SDAC has encouraged and championed local startups like CARI Health of San Diego — last year’s top awardee.
CARI Health Top Applicant in 2022
Founded in 2015 by Patrik Schmidle, CARI Health received $350,000 in funding as part of the 2022 conference to continue its biochemical scientific studies and electrical engineering development in the creation and production of a remote medication monitoring device geared toward treating opioid addiction.
The product is moving along at a faster speed since the SDAC funding, after previously being awarded national grants from government institutions for the device that will allow clinicians to view medication levels in real-time and customize dosages for patients.
“We’ve taken a few detours along the way but we’ve landed in a spot where we have developed technology that can really help people,” Schmidle said.
Schmidle is a native of Germany who attended high school in Wyoming as an exchange student, played college football and graduated with a political science degree from Weber State in Ogden, Utah, and earned a master’s in international relations at USD.
After years as an executive in a variety of industries and decades of global experience with B2B technology markets in startups, privately held companies and publicly traded companies, Schmidle launched CARI Health (originally CARI Therapeutics) after watching a family member struggle with a substance use disorder.
The SDAC funding provided the foundation of CARI Health’s seed round, Schmidle said, and that with it, he was able to hire talent, advance the product and leverage the money to secure additional Special Purpose Vehicle funding for another $500,000.
He also said the process allowed his company to build a valuable network of mentors, investors and peers.
“We were also able to syndicate the deal to other angel funds, so it’s resulted in $2.3 million in funding that we raised,” Schmidle said. “And we hadn’t raised any private funding before that. We were grant funded before through the NSF (National Science Foundation) for phase one and the NIH (National Institutes of Health) for phase one and two.”
He said that in 2023, the company’s plan is to get its protype ready, test its device with humans, demonstrate its safety, then seek regulatory clearance from the Food and Drug Administration.
Accredited Investors Oversee SDAC Investment Fund
SDAC provides valuable insights and hands-on education through separate entrepreneur and angel investor tracks. Its investment fund is managed by accredited investors who collectively decide which companies will receive funding each year.
Sponsors of the conference include USD, vteams, Mintz, San Diego State University, First Republic Bank, Coeptus Law, Clearpoint Agency and UC San Diego.
Last year’s runner-up ReJoule of Signal Hill, Calif., was awarded $234,000, for its work in developing effective second-life battery testing while Hera Biotech of San Antonio, Texas, was awarded $150,000, for its efforts to commercialize a non-surgical test for endometriosis.
“Something that struck me also was that for every company, whether they won or not, the conference was a catalyst to go on to lots of success,” Schmidle said. “That’s a key thing about this conference. I’ve seen that in companies that were (awarded) earlier than us, some of them have raised a lot of funding and generated a lot of revenue. That’s very inspiring for us and makes us want to follow suit.”
According to its officials, SDAC is open to early-stage companies that have the potential for a 10X return on investment within five years and a management team capable of executing the plan. The application deadline for entrepreneurs is Jan. 19, and can be accessed at thesdangels.com/apply
SDAC investors begin reviewing deals in February; the one-day conference and pitch competition is April 22.
New and experienced angel investors can access information on joining the fund and participating in investor education, networking and more at thesdangels.com/angel-investor.
CEO: Patrik Schmidle
HEADQUARTERS: San Diego
BUSINESS: Sensor enabled digital health company
SOCIAL IMPACT: Schmidle says that the opioid crisis is a trillion-dollar crisis and that health parity and health equity in the population is disproportionate to persons of color.
NOTABLE: Company is a resident of EvoNexus, which has a 1% admittance rate.