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Alumni and Friends Making an Impact

Flyer Angels Find New Wings

A pandemic-induced lull in investing grounded UD’s Flyer Angels, a seven-figure fund investing in high-tech startups. That was until Isabella Abreu and Missy Oei stepped in as managing directors. Now the pair are reinvesting in the group, helping it take off.

Flyer Angels is one of only a handful of programs nationwide to engage undergraduates with angel investing. Started 14 years ago after a $1 million gift from Ron McDaniel ’69, members research and make decisions on investments, learning about the entrepreneurial process as investors. According to Associate Professor and Director of the University’s L. William Crotty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership David Marshall, angel investors provide a critical source of capital for early-stage companies.

Abreu and Oei (pronounced oo-WEE) built on the previous structure, sought new funds, identified a vision and sustainable goals, and recruited a team, all while familiarizing themselves with angel investing in the span of one year.

“When I found out about the program and that Missy was interested in getting involved, too, we got to work and got it going,” Abreu said. “We had to figure out what should stay, what should change, and how to make it relevant. Being able to do that together, feed off of each other, it worked well.”

Oei and Abreu said they are motivated to keep their investments local, seek economic and social impact, and help students plug into the venture capital world.

Oei and Abreu said they are motivated to keep their investments local, seek economic and social impact, and help students plug into the venture capital world. Support, wisdom and encouragement from alumni and University administrators help create that experience.

“One of our pillars is to mimic what it's like to work at a venture capital firm so we can eventually create a pipeline,” Oei said. “Getting into venture capital right out of undergrad is not easy to do, and we want to break that barrier.”

With Flyer Angels, though, it’s possible.

Liz Todia ’17 works as a principal at the venture capital firm Mutual Capital Partners. She landed an internship at the company as an undergrad after sharing the knowledge and experience she gained as a student in Flyer Angels.

“Flyer Angels had a direct impact on my career, no question about it,” said Todia, who sits on Flyer Angels’ investment review committee and has shared a number of her connections. “I’m a huge believer that real-world, hands-on experience is the single best teacher, and in venture capital, it is truly the only way to learn how to do it.”

After hours upon hours of research and reviewing pitches, the new Flyer Angels team is looking forward to making their first investment. According to Marshall, they have listened to more than 30 pitches in the past six months.

“In general, professional investors in early-stage ventures will often hear from hundreds of entrepreneurs before deciding to invest — that’s tough to replicate for a student team that’s only around for one academic year, and schedules only line up to meet one day a week,” Marshall said. “So, it’s impressive what they’ve already been able to accomplish in terms of sourcing and researching many new companies. They have learned a great deal through this process, and I am confident that they will make an impactful investment very soon.”

While the seniors may not be around to see the results of their labor, they said every moment of work has been worth it.

“Not only have I found a passion that can be so impactful to other communities, it can be about creating space and inclusivity, too,” Abreu said. “Coming from Puerto Rico, I never would have thought I would be doing this or finance — I didn’t see representation in finance at all. But I found my space in Flyer Angels, and I’m glad to offer that inviting space to other students, too.”

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