In San Antonio, an NBA Star Helps Launch City’s First Angel Network

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$1,800 annually for its membership. About 30 angel investors have joined so far, according to Burney, the executive director.

To be a member requires that you’re an accredited investor, meaning that you either have a net worth of more than $1 million, an annual income of $200,000 (or $300,000 with a spouse), or run a business in which all the owners are accredited investors. New members can sign up online, and the group has quarterly or monthly meetings to examine new potential investments. (Its first meeting is this week to consider HelpSocial, a startup that helps businesses provide customer service through social media.)

Many in the crowd were already involved in the startup world. One angel investor considering joining the network was Robert Miggins, who runs a business called Go Smart Solar, which lets potential customers see whether their rooftops might be compatible with installing solar panels.

Jason Wilson, another potential member, is the chief operations officer of WiseWear, a smart jewelry maker that can connect to smartphones via Bluetooth and can send messages to a wearer’s emergency contacts. He has a second business designing vibrant sport coats, like the one with a paisley-like design he was wearing at the party.

Others present that evening included David Doggett, an investment banker at Ehrenberg Chesler, and Pratap Khanwilkar, the vice president of product development at InCube Labs. There was even an appearance by Graham Weston, the co-founder, chairman, and former CEO of Rackspace and a driver behind much of the revitalization behind San Antonio’s downtown tech district, which includes operations like the Geekdom co-working space.

There was only one touchy moment during the evening. It came during a presentation by Jamie Rhodes, a founder of the Central Texas Angel Network in Austin. Rhodes showed a slide indicating that the average size of an angel round nationally increased to about $850,000 in 2015, up by more than $300,000 from the years before. Responding to a question about the disparity, Rhodes noted that a reporter had recently asked him whether he thought there was a bubble in the angel market—words that might make prospective angel investors feel uneasy.

His answer? Maybe on the East or West Coast, but not in “flyover country” like Texas, Rhodes said. While the region may have once been ignored, the rising tide of deal size is an indicator that there’s more activity and better deals in Texas, Rhodes contended.

Rhodes swiftly moved on from the subject, lightening the mood by noting that the reporter must not have liked what he said—she didn’t end up quoting him.

Bubble or not, there is clearly interest from investors in the Alamo City.

“The way to grow that activity level is by connecting people internally inside of SA and externally across the state,” Girdley wrote via e-mail. “Those links are how the next Rackspace or KCI (Acelity) can be backed by local people.”

As the evening was winding down, Barry joined the two-piece band with his own guitar, and quietly sang back-up in a Pearl Jam song as the chatter of the remaining guests dwindled. The famously gregarious Barry was an active host—tending the fire pit to make sure it was stoked, fixing a problem with the loudspeaker, and waiting until his guests started eating before piling up a plate of barbecue—and greeted almost every person as they entered the courtyard of his home. It’s easy to see how those traits might extend to his emerging interests in investing and entrepreneurship.

Meanwhile, a heavily used basketball hoop hung in the background, inviting every guest to imagine what it might be like to challenge the two-time champion to a game of one-on-one. No one spoke up.

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David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at [email protected] Follow @xconholley

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