My gut is "Probably"! Although I was pretty embarrassed to be connected with either side of Friday's showdown, the issue is important and needs to be discussed. I don't think it is valuable to go off the deep end while we are doing it, but I guess everyone has their own style.
So what does Jason get out of it? Clearly Jason is getting a lot of publicity and exposure out of this, and he is getting a lot of encouragement from the group of entrepreneurs that follow him. His own reputation and authority will go up in the entrepreneur community and his ability to influence the industry will expand. Jason is a sharp guy and he is a really good change agent. His style will probably position him somewhere between Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern, but he will cause change and that will be good.
The Angel, Steve Bell, that appeared on the show was just a member of the Keiretsu Forum and not spokesperson for the organization at all. It would have been great to see Randy Williams address the issue, but fights like this are not his style. I think that Mr. Bell's objective was to show the value of the Keiretsu Forum, but in the end it just turned into a dog fight. It was entertaining in a weird "car wreck" sort of way, but not very valuable for either party.
How could this fight help startups? I am sure that the Keiretsu Forum and every other angel groups are seriously looking at their business model. While many of the companies that the Keiretsu Forum sees are later stage and the fees are probably not that big of an issue, it would make a lot of sense for very early stage startups to be able to present for free. When you're looking at two guys in a garage with a great idea, this seems like a no brainer.
So what would I do if I was Keiretsu Forum? Jason had a good idea on the show when he said they should go out to sponsors and get them to pay the fee. A good way to deal with the issue is just to get the sponsors to provide scholarships to companies that are early stage startups. They could sponsor the meetings, donate prizes for great innovation, or even provide a limited set of free services. I am sure that law firms, accountants, recruiters, and banks would be crawling all over themselves to sponsor these companies, especially since more than 50% of them get funding.
I also think these Angel Groups are in a position to provide way more value. Most of these groups are comprised of ex-CEO and top executives. They could really help the entrepreneur with mentoring, connections, and "been there, done that" advice. They could also have entrepreneur roundtables and create communities of the CEOs, founders, and executives of startup companies. Just take a look at what Adeo Ressi is doing with The Funded and follow his lead. That kind of information resource, connected with startup capital, would be an enormous value to a startup.
I am sure it would be hard for Jason to come off his hard position, especially since he has really put himself out there on this one. I am sure it would be hard for the Keiretsu Forum to make this kind of change with a gun to their head. But those are probably the two dots, we just need to find someone to come in and connect them! I think someone that the whole industry respects needs to come in, mediate the issues, and turn this into a win for everyone.