Niagara students packed St. Vincent’s Hall Amphitheatre on October 22, 2018, to hear Dr. Francis Waller ’65 discuss what investors look for in a startup business. After graduating from Niagara with a B.S. in Chemistry, Waller went on to receive his Ph.D. in organic chemistry. He then worked as an industrial chemist with Air Products from 1988-2005 and also taught Polymer Science as an adjunct professor at Lehigh University.
In 2014, he joined the Lehigh Valley Angel Investors (LVAI) group. The purpose of the organization is to provide resources and a community of entrepreneurs to connect with. LVAI was founded in 2011 and is affiliated with the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania. They currently have about 50 accredited investors and Dr. Waller currently serves as the Chair of the Steering Committee, which provides governance to the LVAI group and coordinates pre-screening activities.
In 2015, he joined the Lehigh Valley Entrepreneurship Council (LVEC), which is made up of stakeholders of the entrepreneurship community, including universities, colleges and incubators. The mission of the LVEC is to improve the entrepreneurial environment of the Lehigh Valley through meeting unmet needs, communicating initiatives and connecting local resources.
He provided his perspective of interviewing, vetting and evaluating innovative ideas brought forth by entrepreneurs and he provided some very valuable guidance for the students in the audience. He discussed the timeline for bringing an invention to market, how many fail and the funding that can lead to successfully bringing an invention to market. More importantly, he provided his perspective with regard to how to develop and then present a pitch for funding for an entrepreneur. He also clearly indicated that the entrepreneurial spirit is not related to age or academic degree. This point was illustrated when he provided an example of a young entrepreneur who received funding from their investing group and she was only 21 years old.
At the end of the discussion, Dr. Waller graciously answered many questions from the students, both business students as well as students majoring in the Sciences. Clearly, the students had listened intently to his discussion and were very interested in what he had to say. In the words of Dr. Waller, entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted but for those who venture into these activities, perseverance and integrity are key.
Dr. Timothy Ireland, provost and vice president of academic affairs, attended the presentation and offered his appreciation, “Dr. Waller is an excellent example of a Niagara alumnus. His success as a scientist, his commitment to helping others, and his ongoing interest in the student experience at Niagara makes him a welcomed visitor to our campus community. A packed house of students, faculty, and administrators learned from Dr. Waller about angel investors and how the process of financing entrepreneurs works – it was valuable information for all students at NU of any major.”