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Educating Angels & What That Means for Entrepreneurs

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A few months back, a unique conference called "AngelConf" took place in Silicon Valley. The conference was organized for angel investors and its goal was to educate angel investors on how to invest in startups.

Key questions that the event addressed were:

  • How much are you supposed to invest?

  • What legal agreements do you need?

  • Where do you find startups to invest in?

  • How do you pick winners?

It was this last question that conference organizer Paul Graham from YCombinator agreed was the most important.

Graham's first point on this topic is that angel investors should pick startups that "make things that people want." Seems simple enough. However, Graham went on to say that angels should not invest in things that are already wildly popular. "By then it's too late for angels. VCs will already be onto them. As an angel, you have to pick startups before they've got a hit-either because they've made something great but users don't realize it yet, like Google early on, or because they're still an iteration or two away from the big hit, like Paypal when they were making software for transferring money between PDAs."

As such, angel investors need to be able to predict future market sizes (not just identify markets that are already doing well).

Graham's second point on this topic is that angel investors need to pick founders who are winners. On this point, he said the following:

"What makes a good founder? If there were a word that meant the opposite of hapless, that would be the one. Bad founders seem hapless. They may be smart, or not, but somehow events overwhelm them and they get discouraged and give up. Good founders make things happen the way they want. Which is not to say they force things to happen in a predefined way. Good founders have a healthy respect for reality. But they are relentlessly resourceful. That's the closest I can get to the opposite of hapless. You want to fund people who are relentlessly resourceful."    

Now, what this means to you as the entrepreneur is that this is how you will be judged by many angel investors. They will judge the future potential of your business concept and they will judge the potential of you and/or your management team.

With regards to the potential of your business concept, you must convince them that your market is poised for growth, and in doing so, you MUST cite multiple research and statistical points that confirm your views (I can't reiterate enough how critical great market research is).

With regards to the quality of you, the founder, and/or your management team, you need to show the investor, via past performance and ALL current interaction between you and the investor that you are a winner. You need to show them that you make things happen. Here are some examples of how can you accomplish this:

  • Tell them a current business objective and come back to them two weeks later and show them you have achieved it.

  • Find some way you can help them (e.g., introducing them to a business contact of yours that could help them) and execute on it right away.

  • Ask them about questions they have about your opportunity and/or market and come back to them within 24 hours with great research and answers to their questions.

These smaller, short-term accomplishments which show investors that you can execute and that you are clearly not 'hapless' will massively improve your chances of getting them to invest in you.


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Lisa C Box says

Great points, now I just have to find that ONE investor who sees the reward in investing in MY company. That is such a huge abstract. This article helps how to but who to is another subject. ONWARD!
Posted at 10:56 pm

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