Garaizar Aims to Elevate Houston Angels’ Profile and Outreach

Juliana Garaizar joined the Houston Angel Network as managing director just as the group was seeking to revamp its operations and take a more prominent role in the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The first challenge Garaizar confronted was the fact that the angel network, founded in 2001, had historically been a bit insular, even demure about its accomplishments. “We should have been on the investment map of the U.S. but we were not because we were not reporting,” she says. “I made sure I got all the statistics for the investments that had happened in 2012, and it was a big surprise: we had invested $6.7 million.”

In the six months since she came aboard, Garaizar has sought to elevate the network’s profile through partnerships with accelerators and consortia in life sciences, energy, and technology. “We want to try to be a catalyst,” she says. “There is a lot of energy, a lot of new initiatives. We want to make sure we put them all together and that they work together.”

Garaizar started out as a project manager for Citigroup’s Asia technology office and for Spain’s trade commission. But Big Finance was getting too technical, she says, so she decided to get an MBA from the London Business School. It was during a study abroad quarter at the University of California at Berkeley that Garaizar got the startup bug. “I was in Silicon Valley and I really loved it,” she says.

Back in Europe, Garaizar was able to delve more deeply into the startup world during stints as the manager of the Sophia Business Angels network and the Antipolis Innovation Campus, a business incubator, which are both based in France.

The experience and rolodex that Spanish-born Garaizar built up in her globe-trotting past make her a good fit for a city like Houston, whose economy, thanks to the energy and life sciences industries, has numerous international influences. And if the Houston Angel Network had tended toward insularity in the past, Garaizar is quickly putting an end to that.

Xconomy: What drew you to the Houston Angel Network and what are your goals?

Juliana Garaizar: My husband got offered a position at Shell Oil, so we decided to move here. I got [to Houston] 7 ½ months pregnant. I helped with one of the companies that we invested in back in France to set up an office here. They did very well here, and decided they needed more funding to expand to Canada and Latin America, and they contacted [the Houston Angel Network] to fundraise. I then realized they (HAN) were recruiting and so I decided to apply. Last year, they went through a very big strategy session, and they made a lot of changes at HAN, creating a strategic framework.

There are three main strategic lines, the first of which is getting more awareness about HAN. We’ve been around for a while but I think we’ve been a very quiet group. Some people said they were even a little elite. You had to be a very specific type of company to be able to get to them; you had to be basically investment ready. Also, we were charging our entrepreneurs fees, fees to apply, to present, and also when they were successful—we would charge … Next Page »

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