I never thought of long-time business friends like Bob Catell, Russ Artzt, Mike Faltischek, Larry Waldman, Andrew Hazen and Yacov Shamash as being angels.

But, they have truly earned their wings — angel wings — while keeping their feet firmly planted here on Long Island. Now that I’ve joined them on the board of the Long Island Angel Network, I too have had the unique experience of being introduced to promising early-stage businesses that need investors, as well as professional guidance in marketing, finance, legal, accounting and public relations.

The Angel Network is a grassroots effort founded to find start-up investors for some of the best and brightest ideas developed right here on Long Island. Some of these ideas are born in our high-quality universities; others got their starts in garages and basements. But they all show what’s possible when inspiration, expertise and entrepreneurship meet.

While all investors would love to find the next Google, most are also driven by the desire to honor their own success by giving back to fledgling businesses to help them fly on their own. We all know it’s difficult to attract, start or keep businesses here because of the high cost of labor, housing and some difficult transportation issues, but the Angel Network can help overcome those obstacles for start-ups.

For board members it is truly agonizing to select from among the presentations we screen monthly which ones that will be showcased at our quarterly meetings.  So many of the decisions are hard calls.  Will the requested investment make a critical difference?  Will the CEO have the stamina and sales ability to bring his company to the finish line? Will the apparent promise of a product really pay off?

Our Angel Network recently announced that start-up Solar Cool Technologies has received an over $800,000 investment. The Network’s support will allow Solar Cool Technologies to open a headquarters at the new Advanced Energy Research & Technology Center (AERTC) at Stony Brook University and begin production on Long Island of the Solar-Cooler®, the world’s first portable solar powered refrigerating cooler, which is expected to be commercially available in 2012.

In addition to possible investments, highly successful Angels from our board have stepped in to offer their own advice, a contribution that for new ventures can be even more valuable than an outright investment. Being an angel has been hard work at times, but to see a company take off and fly on its own has made the experience downright heavenly.