BusinessmanDevilShadowThe group of investors known as the Maine Angels has invested north of $10 million in early-stage companies since it formed in 2003. To date, no investor in the group has ever received a return on those investments — or what’s known in venture-capital lingo as a successful “exit.”

However, that long-sought-after milestone may be on the horizon.

One of the Maine Angels’ portfolio companies recently went public, meaning two members of the Maine Angels who were early investors in the company could be in a position to sell their shares and cash in on the bets they made on the startup.

The company is Corbus Pharmaceuticals, which was founded in April 2009 and is based in Norwood, Massachusetts. It was known as JB Therapeutics when John Goodrich and a second Maine Angels member who requested his name not be in the paper invested a combined $125,000 in the company in two rounds in 2012 and 2014.

The company, which is focused on the development and commercialization of treatments for diseases such as cystic fibrosis, filed its paperwork to go public on Sept. 3 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. It went public on Oct. 24 and is traded on the OTCQB, a marketplace for over-the-counter stocks, under the symbol CRBP. A single unit of stock was worth $3 on Nov. 7.

Though the company is now publicly traded, restrictions built into the process mean Goodrich and the second member of Maine Angels won’t be able to sell their stock in the company until Jan. 1. Goodrich declined to speak about his plans prior to the Jan. 1 date. According to the company’s SEC filings, Goodrich owns 124,257 shares out of more than 25 million outstanding shares. The other Maine investor owns roughly 174,000.

Jenene Thomas, a spokeswoman for Corbus, said the company is expected to reach several important “value-driving” milestones in 2015, which means investors who sold their stock on Jan. 1, 2015, would not be realizing the ultimate potential return on their investment.

“From my perspective looking at this company, they are doing all the right things for a successful investment opportunity,” she said.

Angel investing is an important element in Maine’s startup community as it provides funding to early-stage companies that in most cases have yet to begin creating revenue. It’s in that pre-revenue stage where many entrepreneurs falter because they’ve often exhausted credit cards and tapped out families and friends and traditional banks are typically wary of providing a commercial loan. It’s in that stage — commonly referred to as the Valley of Death — that angel investors, like those who make up the Maine Angels, can provide an important infusion of capital that allows a startup to reach commercialization.

The Maine Angels began in 2003 and for a while invested in only Maine startups. Notable Maine startups in the group’s portfolio include Pika Energy in Westbrook, which is producing residential-scale wind turbines, and Ocean Renewable Power Co. in Portland, which has put a tidal energy turbines into the Cobbscook Bay in Washington County. However, as the group has forged closer ties to other angel investment groups in New England, they have extended their gaze beyond Maine’s borders.

“We’ve worked hard over last three years to build strong relationships with other angel groups throughout New England and this is a direct result because this is a deal that was led by some Massachusetts angel groups and we were able to participate,” said Don Gooding. the Maine Angels’ vice chair. “We’re finding the flip side as well that Massachusetts angel groups are interested in the companies we’re leading investments on here in Maine. It’s certainly a validation that we need to continue to strengthen those relationships across New England.”

While Corbus is not based in Maine, it doesn’t mean this potential exit won’t benefit Maine. Once investors get their investment back, it means they have more cash to invest in other promising startups, Gooding said.

“Liquidity is a wonderful thing,” he said.


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