Amos Angelovici is a producer.
But instead of producing movies in Hollywood, he produces startups in Mid-Missouri.
“Beng a startup producer is similar to the film-making producer: you need to identify potential, find location, find fundraising,” Angelovici says. “Sometimes you have all the ingredients, but sometimes you need to find the right ingredients and bring them together.”
Angelovici, 45, came to Columbia last September from East Lansing, Mich., after his wife, Ruthie, got a position at the University of Missouri as an assistant professor of biological sciences.
The serial entrepreneur in Angelovici immediately started looking for innovation and startup opportunities, which he found at the Missouri Innovation Center. After meeting with President and CEO Bill Turpin and Vice President Quinten Messbarger, he saw an opportunity to use his expertise to boost Columbia’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Chris Fender, director of the MU Office of Technology Management and Industry Relations, found out about Angelovici from Turpin and hired him in January.
“We recently created a position of an entrepreneur in residence, about a year and half ago,” Fender says. “We weren’t necessarily recruiting for the position, but (Angelovici) had a good skill set, with expertise in entrepreneurship, engineering and IT.”
Originally from Israel, Angelovici earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1988 from the Israel Institute of Technology, where he met Raz Gerstel, who became his friend and a business partner for many years. Together they created their first company, Metador, which built websites based on the data-related engines for the internet.
“Back then it was pretty innovative,” Gerstel said.
Those were the early days of internet. Metador was the first company to put a newspaper online in Israel, and it was also the first to create a restaurant portal in Israel.
But that was only the beginning of his entrepreneurship career. Since then Angelovici helped create, co-found and consult for more than 25 companies, both large and small: Anything from flower powder that allows customers to change the color of the roses based on their preferences, to the wireless water-management system that helps regulate consumption and monitors pipes for leaks.
In 2003, Angelovici and Gerstel created KITS, a software-consulting company, which was sold around 2007 to Avantech, a bigger company.
“We were very young, and eventually we got muscled out of the market by bigger players who came in with a lot of money,” Angelovici says. “We got bought eventually.”
Angelovici and Gerstel stayed there for about two years after the sale. But after his experience with KITS, Angelovici realized that he wanted to start mentoring and consulting startups. In May 2009 he founded Amoraz, a consulting firm for technology-based companies.
Two years ago, Angelovici and Gerstel became business partners once again and co-founded Babator, a startup that makes video recommendations based on a user’s preferences. It’s similar to what YouTube and Facebook do, but aimed at private companies that post their videos on their websites.
When they founded Babator, Angelovici had already moved to Michigan, while Gerstel still lived in Israel.
“In our case, it helps to be friends and business partners, but I understand that in other cases it could hurt. We had grown to really trust each other,” Gerstel said. “As a business partner, the way it worked between us over the years (was), even though we both can make mistakes, we trust that everything we do is for the good of the company.”
Angelovici helped build Babator’s business strategy and connected with potential customers and business partners in the United States.
Angelovici is also actively involved in building Columbia’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.
“Every startup is not something you create alone; it takes a village,” Angelovici said. “One of the things I saw when I first came here is that there is a lot of potential in Columbia to create things, but there isn’t a collaborative ecosystem that I am used to if I was in New York, Tel Aviv or San Francisco.”
Angelovici regularly attends 1 Million Cups, a national program developed by The Kauffman Foundation designed to connect entrepreneurs over coffee. Every Wednesday at least one entrepreneur pitches his or her startup idea to the community at a 1 Million Cups meeting.
But he also saw an opening to create something that would get community members involved in the startup culture for more than once a week.
To that end, he created a series of workshops called Grassroots Entrepreneurs.
“What happens if I don’t want to start a business but I still want to get involved in startups and I want to be a part of that ecosystem?” Angelovici said. “My only choice is to go to 1 Million Slices or 1 Million Cups and sit there and listen to the pitch by a startup of how wonderful they are and how their product is the best to be ever invented, which is great for 50 minutes, but it doesn’t get me involved in the ecosystem.”
Sponsored by the MU Office of Technology Management and Industry Relations, Grassroots Entrepreneurs meets about once a month. Each workshop features three entrepreneurs who share the problems they are facing with their startups and look to the Columbia community to help them find solutions. At Grassroots, Angelovici tries to bring anyone interested in the startup culture with different areas of expertise and different experiences. People are broken into legal teams, tech teams, marketing teams, finance teams, and business and operations teams.
Additionally, Angelovici is one of 26 mentors at the Mizzou Venture Mentoring Service. The program was created in October to help Mizzou-affiliated entrepreneurs create successful companies.
“He is a serial entrepreneur who has valuable experience that he can share with entrepreneurs,” said Gloria O’Brien, co-director of Mizzou VMS. “We are very fortunate to have Amos as a Mizzou VMS Mentor.”
Kim Harrison and Olivia Vann co-founded a 2BuyAg app that is set to launch early September. The app is intended to create a marketplace that would connect local farmers and customers. Harrison and Vann presented at Grassroots Entrepreneurs in June. Angelovici has been mentoring them through the process.
“It is nice to have someone who wants you to succeed,” says co-founder Harrison. “He asks a lot of good questions and is very dedicated to success. Very intense personality, very focused.”