Maverick Angels sounds like it might be a biker club, or maybe a rogue religious sect.


In fact, Maverick Angels is a different kind of investor group that claims to boast "an entrepreneurial approach to angel investing."


They mainly target startups that are in need of money and guidance, many of which are Internet-based or technology-driven companies that are looking for high-quality, early-stage investment. What makes them different from other funds is that, as opposed to typical investors, they don't require a stake in the company as a condition of the investment.


"Maverick Angels group is a labor of love," says founder and president John Dilts.


Dilts likens the Mavericks to a country club with members who can participate at their own will on their own terms. "What we do is as much about entertainment for members as it is for investment," he says. "That's why a lot of our founding members choose to join our group."


Dilts started Maverick in March after having spent five years with the Keiretsu Forum, which distributed $53 million to more than 75 firms, mainly from the high-tech sector.


At its most recent meeting, Maverick Angels members assembled at the Friar's Club in Beverly Hills and listened to pitches from five startups. No one was roasted and they weren't telling jokes; the companies' reps were hoping to get some smiles and cash from potential investors.


Among those pitching were a company that has developed software to circumvent doctors' notoriously horrible handwriting, another that has developed a nano-technology microscope and another with an application to streamline business management.


Dilts claims the goal of Maverick Angels has nothing to do with money.


"We really believe that entrepreneurs have the most promise to solve the problems of society," Dilts says. "What drives us is the belief that we have something unique." Dilts admits he personally invests in some of the firms occasionally, but maintains that isn't his driving force.


"He's one of those rare individuals who really likes putting people together in situations," said Bruce Culver, who worked with Dilts at Keiretsu.


Dilts says Maverick only makes enough money from these pitch sessions to maintain an office and a few phone lines. Maverick Angels charges its members $3,000 annually. Sponsors, on the other hand, pay $15,000 per year. Among them are Terpin Communications Group, Sheppard Mullin, California Coast Venture Forum, EPO, Green2Gold, Fiduciary Trust International, Larta Institute, Cresa Partners and Artiste.


Presenters, which usually number about four or five per meeting, are supposed to pony up about $2,000, but that fee is often waived.


"There is a certain rush that comes from finding that diamond in the rough and seeing it bloom and expand and succeed," Dilts says. "Enough of us have had a taste of that and we keep coming back for more."


Techno-Toys
Entertainment Earth, a North Hollywood toy manufacturer, is marketing eerily lifelike robotic dolls that talk, walk, punch, sweat, sleep, swing and scream, among other things.


Technologically enlivened likenesses of Muhammad Ali, Babe Ruth, Donald Trump and movie characters such as Darth Vader, Spiderman, the Blues Brothers and characters from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films are for sale on their Web site, entertainmentearth.com.


The toymaker also caters to an older demographic with dolls fashioned in the likeness of Elvis and Sigmund Freud.


Strike Up the Broadband
Covad Communication Group is building a next-generation telecom network in greater Los Angeles. The network which will bring high-speed data and next-generation voice services to millions of businesses and residences in Los Angeles will be the nation's largest when it is completed late this year.


Staff reporter Dan Cox can be reached at dcox@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 230.

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