Kousky moved to Saginaw in 2003 to help care for his ailing

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BlueWater Angels among Michigan’s most active investor groupsPurchase price of portfolio company RetroSense could reach $560MThey want to expand operations to Southeast MichiganThe Midland-based BlueWater Angels have been one of the most active and most successful angel-investor groups in Michigan. Founded in 2008, they have had the kind of big exits from the sale of portfolio companies or initial public offerings that investors dream about.On Sept. 16, 2016, Ann Arbor-based RetroSense Therapeutics LLC, a clinical-stage biotechnology company that hopes to use gene therapy to restore vision to the blind, was sold to Allergan plc, a global pharmaceutical company, for $60 million, a figure that could go much higher as the company hits development goals.The eventual purchase price could hit as much as $560 million, if U.S. Food and Drug Administration human trials are successful and RetroSense’s lead drug is commercializedThe sale to Allergan came three months after the MIT Technology Review named RetroSense to its annual list of the 50 smartest companies in the world. Ranked 37th, it was the only Michigan-based company to make the list, ahead of such well-known tech companies as IBM (45th), Snapchat (46th) and Intel (49th).The BlueWater Angels had joined in RetroSense’s first and subsequent funding rounds.In July 2015, another of BlueWater’s portfolio companies amt-stollberg , Plymouth Township-based ProNAi Therapeutics Inc., a company spun off from Wayne State University that developed a cancer-fighting therapy, raised $158.4 million in an initial public offering, and in August 2016, Livonia-based Gemphire Therapeutics Inc., which was testing a drug to lower cholesterol, had an IPO of $30 million. Ken Kousky «We’ve had some really nice exits,» said Ken Kousky, who co-founded the BlueWater Angels in 2008 and has been its president and CEO since then. Until last year, he was also CEO of the Midland-based Mid-Michigan Innovation Center, a co-working space for startups.The BlueWater Angels have about 50 members, all accredited high-net-worth individuals. They pay annual dues of $2,500 for membership.»That’s relatively high, but we do a lot of due diligence and give better deals to our members than they find on their own. A lot of them were previously finding their own deals,» said Kousky.A serial entrepreneur, in the 1980s Kousky was senior vice president of Provo, Utah-based Novell Inc., which set up commercial computer networks, then founded St. Louis-based Wave Technologies in 1988. He took it public in 1995 and sold it to Thomson Reuters in 2000.Kousky moved to Saginaw in 2003 to help care for his ailing father and since then has been CEO of Saginaw-based IP3 Inc., which does leadership training. After a stint as entrepreneur-in-residence at Saginaw Valley State University, he co-founded the BlueWater Angels.»We look at 100 deals a year,» he said of his group. «Twenty-five of them are good deals, and of those, we fund five to 10,» he said.Kousky said the group typically invests $250,000 to $500,000 in a first funding round, and is willing to invest in follow-on rounds amt-stollberg , if warranted.»We’re big into the notion of failing fast,» he said. If failing looks like the likely outcome, better sooner rather than later. «If you’re not hitting your milestones, we’re not interested in follow-on rounds.»It often does deals in conjunction with other angel groups or venture capitalists. The Grand Angels of Grand Rapids are a favorite group to co-invest with, he said.»They’ve been great to work with. It’s nice to work with a group whose members can write checks for a couple of hundred thousand dollars,» he said.Currently, the group has 12 portfolio companies, including Midland-based Fulcrum Composites Inc. and Clare-based Advanced Battery Concepts LLC, which has developed a process for taking half of the lead by weight out of lead-acid batteries.Advanced Battery Concepts is an example of the Angels doing follow-on investments, having made its first one in the company in 2010.»About four of our companies are looking real good,» said Kousky, who said about half of the companies the group invests in eventually fail.Kousky, who serves as a mentor at Detroit’s TechTown, said he would like to expand the BlueWater Angels’ operations to Southeast Michigan, possibly in conjunction with small local groups of investors.»If we can get 50 angels in the Midland-Saginaw area, we should be able to get 500 in Southeastern Michigan,» he said.

BlueWater Angels among state’s most enviable investors

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