University of North Dakota Faculty/Staff Newsletter

Center for Innovation hires ‘angel fund’ field agent

Elisabeth Knapp

Elisabeth Knapp

Angels evoke many images—most commonly winged beings draped in white raiment. But at the Center for Innovation, angels usually come in the form of investors who help young entrepreneurs turn good ideas into viable businesses.

To help would-be entrepreneurs connect with angel investors, the Center created the position of angel fund field agent. The Center recently hired Elisabeth Knapp to that position.

Knapp, a Saint Paul, Minn., native, graduated from North Dakota State University in 2009 with a degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management. After graduating from NDSU, she wanted to stay in North Dakota because she was drawn to the hospitable people and the opportunities with the growing economy.

Knapp worked in the hospitality industry in Medora, worked with the Southern Valley Angel Funds for several months and now she is employed with the Center for Innovation as a field agent for a number of angel funds across North Dakota and Minnesota.

“I didn’t set out to work with any investment funds or entrepreneurs, but because I met Bruce and the staff at the Center, I couldn’t have found a better fit for me,” Knapp said.

Her position entails communicating with fund members and their portfolio companies, evaluating businesses and coordinating deal flow . The Center for Innovation enables entrepreneurs to start up their own businesses with support services like coaching, mentoring, and resources to access financing.

Knapp is the third staff in the position as Angel Fund Field Agent, working with the various angel funds in North Dakota and Minnesota. Lee Groeschl and Dan Horak, both Dakota Venture Group (DVG) alumni, previously held that position.

“Knapp did a lot of work for the Southern Valley Angel Fund, which is how her skills and experience there made her a strong candidate for this position,” said Bruce Gjovig, Center for Innovation director.

“Organized Angel Funds are relatively new in North Dakota with the first ones formed in 2006,” Gjovig said. “Angels invested independently before then, but by helping angels form funds, and invest as a group, we have been able to substantially increase angel investing in the state.”

“It is also vital that the angel funds cooperate and coordinate with each other to raise sufficient funds for deals they would like to invest in, and to share deal flow so they can develop a dynamic portfolio of companies to invest in,” Gjovig said. “Each fund should have between 10 to 20 ventures in their portfolio.”

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-- Juan Miguel Pedraza, writer/editor, University Relations, 777-6571,

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