Goodbye to Luis Villalobos, Our Organizations’ Mentor!

Luis Villalobos receiving the Hans Severiens Award
Luis Villalobos receiving the Hans Severiens Award

Luis Villalobos was a great mentor to me, the 12 Angels and lots of other people!He was a pioneer in angel investing, an advocate for entrepreneurs and an architect of organizations.Here is my story about Luis Villalobos…

In 2004, I was in a long term drug and alcohol treatment program.At 42 it was difficult to imagine starting my professional career over. The last 3 years of drug abuse had destroyed my professional reputation.My financial life was chaotic.My personal life was a mess.I had a young 2 and a half year old daughter and a wife who was a well respected professional in the drug and alcohol treatment industry.

For the last 20 years, I was in technology.I was an entrepreneur having founded 3 tech companies.At 42, I was wondering while laying in my twin bed at the drug treatment center, what do can I do?Am I too old or too poor to start another company?Should I get a job in technology?Should I get a get well job at Starbucks and focus on meetings and my recovery?

Career decisions are daunting while living in converted retirement home with 150 other unemployed addicts.Being around so many unemployed people robs one of hope. What can I put on my resume, I have been serving meals to 150 addicts at lunch time for the last 6 months?  I guess they would call that job a resume killer!

Somewhere along my path in treatment, I took the Myers Briggs personality assessment which helps identify temperament and aids in career decisions. My results, ENTP, the classic personality type of the entrepreneur.I was fascinated by the Myers Briggs and its accurate appraisal of my temperament.


In early recovery from drug addiction a person is on an emotional roller coaster of fear, hope, despair and purpose. I was searching for my calling, what can I do?Who am I, I am a recovering heroin addict and an entrepreneur.Those two activities have dominated my life.Where can I find meaning in my career, do I want to go back into technology?


It hit me one day, maybe entrepreneurship can help people with addictions.Maybe I can take my passion for entrepreneurship and apply it to helping people with addictive disorders.I was aware of social entrepreneurs who apply their entrepreneurial talents to social problems.I thought I am going to do that!


The next question is how?I started to brainstorm:


1.Creating businesses in treatment centers. Is anyone doing that?What are the benefits of having a business inside a treatment center?

a.You can generate money to help the treatment center pay for the services they provide.

b.You can provide job experience and funds to the residents in the treatment center.

c.You can make the transition out of the treatment easier and reduce the chances of relapse.

2.Successful entrepreneurs Create jobs and opportunities.

a.Entrepreneurs in recovery are more likely to provide opportunities to other addicts, because they understand what it is like to be an addict in early recovery.

b.Entrepreneurs can create personal income when traditional employment may be unavailable.

I can go on and on with all the benefits entrepreneurship can have to the recovery process but I need to get back to my personal tribute to Luis Villalobos…


So after my little entrepreneurial brainstorm I thought of the 12 Angels, an angel investment group that would stimulate entrepreneurship in the recovery community.I then went on line and found the Angel Capital Association and signed up as one of their groups.They had a program where new angel groups were assigned a mentor, enter Luis Villalobos.


I had a meeting with Luis Villalobos a graduate of MIT and Harvard Business School.He was the founder of the Tech Coast Angels, the largest angel group in the nation.I couldn’t believe it!Here I was a guy living in drug rehab, who thought of a crazy idea to start an investment group that provided funds to recovering drug addicts.Now I was going to meet one of the most influential angel investors in the country, I couldn’t believe it!


My meeting with Luis Villalobos was more than I could have ever dreamed.Luis immediately saw the value in the 12 Angels, the powerful opportunity to use angel investing to help one of the largest economic issues facing our country; addiction costs the US over $340 Billion dollars per year!


Within one meeting, Luis architected the 12 Angels organization.He gave me a blueprint from which I have been trying to follow for the last 5 years.And he gave me more.He attended our organizations first presentation and mentored me to create the legal structure for the group.He helped me understand how to be an investor and a group organizer.


How do we put the 12 Angels into practice?We needed to find an investment.Luis and I discussed starting a high end drug and alcohol treatment center and over the next year Wonderland Treatment Center was born.Luis suggested I utilize the local business schools for support.I then pitched UCLA’s Anderson School of Management for assistance and we created a business plan for career mentorship using Facebook technology.Luis was a guide, an advisor, a cheerleader and a visionary.


I cannot imagine where my life would be had Luis told me the 12 Angels was a horrible idea that would never work.I cannot imagine what my relationship with my wife, daughter, friends and family would be had Luis not given me his time and his experience.Luis encouraged me to follow my dreams.Luis believed in angel investing and entrepreneurship. Luis was a mentor to me and many other people and organizations.I am very sad Luis is gone.The world has lost a very important individual.I know Luis’ made over 60 angel investments in businesses but he made his greatest investment in me.Thank you Luis Villalobos, I will never forget you!