Keiretsu Forum To Drop Fees For Early-Stage Startups

The angel network is asking chapters to waive their presentation fees for “true startups” — companies that have no revenue and less than $500,000 in capital and are trying to raise less than $500,000 from investors, said Randy Williams, Keiretsu’s founder and CEO.

Williams said the change is not a response to the recent attacks on the fees launched by investor Jason Calacanis — who has promised to start his own angel network on Monday, November 16, unless Keiretsu and several other angel groups drop their fees — but have been in the works for several months. Keiretsu also has no plans to drop fees for other entrepreneurs.

“The companies that resonate with our investors are the ones that have revenue — that’s what we can validate due diligence on, talk to customers and see if they’re growing, because our investors only make money when the company scales,” Williams said.

However, Keiretsu’s process has tended to shut out early-stage companies, he said. They often don’t get to present because investors don’t vote to hear them. So the forum is planning events where early-stage startups will be able to attend and exhibit for free.

“I think a lot of our members like to see all types of deal flow,” he said. “We want the whole ecosystem there,” not just “the entrepreneurs with millions in the bank who want expansion capital.”

Williams said Keiretsu will formally announce the events soon.

Calacanis, meanwhile, has continued his campaign against angels who charge, asking entrepreneurs today to boycott the 2009 New York Venture Summit and soliciting complaints about the Keiretsu Forum and other angel groups on his Webcast, This Week In Startups.

One angel investor, Steve Bell, went on the show Friday to defend Keiretsu and its business model, although the conversation deteriorated after Calacanis started conducting the interview with a plastic gun in his hand.

“I called Doug Leone (at Sequoia Capital) and asked ‘what’s wrong with this guy,’ I think you went off the deep end,” Bell said to Calacanis at one point. “You’ve deeply antagonized 850 people and they’re middle class — you’re the rich guy. (Calacanis has sold two companies, one to AOL for a reported $25 million). It amazes me that you can libel and slander.”

Bell has also blogged about the fees Calacanis and Mike Arrington charge for companies to attend their conference for startups, TechCrunch50, which Bell claims can run into the thousands of dollars.

The Calacanis-Bell encounter is embedded below — if you watch it, skip the first hour or so.