Tom Douglas Serving Local, Sustainable Startups to Would-be Investors

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two high-tech businesses, two no-tech businesses, and two that fall somewhere in between. While you’d think a celebrity chef and restaurateur would attract food-related startups, only two of the six are focused there. Andrews says they favored companies with a social purpose that resonated with her and Douglas’ values—that’s the “with soul” part—though it wasn’t a requirement.

Sujal Patel, Isilon Systems co-founder and another of the “lions,” says he’s excited for the new crowd of potential investors, as well as exposure to new companies.

“There’s not one company that’s presenting that I knew about,” he says.

Make no mistake, there’s an implicit goal of matching potential investors and startups. “That’s absolutely a benefit. But more importantly are the mentorships, the strategic alliances that could be built, the inspiration that people walk away with,” Andrews says.

And Douglas and company may be laying the scaffolding for a more formalized investment group. First and foremost, they want to put on a great event and solicit feedback from attendees to plot the best way forward.

“We may or may not look at ways to actually fund some of these businesses,” Andrews says. (The Lion’s Den website mentions an “underground investment collective” that Andrews and her wife Amy Andrews are starting.) “We may look at having a fund ourselves. We may look at other ways we can bring capital into startups and use our deal flow in a creative way. It might make sense to bolt on to another organization. We just don’t know and we’re keeping that very open.”

As for the format, the audience Thursday should expect more constructive criticism and questioning from the judges, not the sort of public skewering that would-be company builders on “Shark Tank” face.

“It’s not about bringing someone in and beating them up and having them walk away with their tail between their legs,” Andrews says. “It’s about lifting them up and helping them find a way to succeed.”

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