Angel investors are in many ways vital to the success of a startup or entrepreneur's idea. They can inject much needed seed or early stage funding to catalyze growth and success for founders and entrepreneurs. Having angel backing can set you up for future venture capital funding as well.
However, finding and dealing with angel investors can prove a bit challenging. There are less than 300 angel investors actively investing in startups with only about 60,000 investments happening per year. In fact, angels fund less than a percent of all startups.
With that being said, angel investors do play a major role in startup growth. They actively seek founders and entrepreneurs with marketable products and services previously untested. This makes them a more attainable funding option than banks or small business lenders.
Angel Investors love the opportunity their investments can provide. For founders and entrepreneurs, partnering with an angel has monetary benefits, as well as serving up unprecedented knowledge and industry networking opportunities
The following serves as your roadmap to finding and dealing with angel investors to help bring your vision to life.
How to Find Your Angel
Finding an Angel Investor may be a little easier than you think. There are a number of places online and in your community to draw angel investor attention from. From online angel platforms to conferences, here are a few places to find your first angel:
- Online Angels: Are you spending countless hours on LinkedIn sending potential angel investors messages in hopes of starting a conversation about your startup? This is common, and not a horrible strategy, but there is an easier way. Online sites, like the Angel Investment Network or Gust can help you land an angel easier.
- Angel Events: You can take your angel investor search offline as well. There are plenty of angel events around the U.S. to help you make a meaningful connection with an investor as passionate about your startup or entrepreneurial endeavor as you. Startup Grind and the Angel Capital Association Summit (ACA) are all great events to start a conversation about your startup.
Dealing with Angel Investors
After you have made a few angel connections, it is time to start the conversation. One faux pa of dealing with angel investors is to cold pitch them in a conference elevator, at a coffee shop, or via long email. This is borderline stalking, and not a great way to attract attention for your startup.
There is a bit of tact involved in pitching your startup and asking for funding. Before you even start looking for an angel, have a pitch strategy ready to go, because just rambling on about your product or service, and how great it is, won't get the deal done.
A few pitch-ready ideas to have at the ready when dealing with an angel investor include:
Your unique story, because angels love a great entrepreneurial story that inspires them. Engaging an angel from the heart is the best way to get them interested.
A high-level of confidence to get the job done, since angels are entrusting you with thousands of dollars to be successful. They want to know you are the founder that will leverage their investment for the best possible ROI.
Current profits and future projections with the backing an angel investor can provide. Be sure to have an exact number in mind that you know will have an impact on your startup. An exact figure will show an angel you have done your homework.
Concise information that doesn't beat around the bush, because angel investors are busy and don't have time to listen to a two-hour pitch. A pitch should be no longer than 20 minutes, and that is pushing it.
Be Prepared for an Angel Interrogation
Maybe interrogation is a bit over-the-top, but as a founder or entrepreneur, you should be ready to field the borage of questions an angel will ask. Questioning can be about marketing plans, financial information, and even questions about you and your team.
Financial questions include:
How much capital do you need, and how long do you expect it to last?
What are your financial projections and growth rate for the next three to five years?
What are the major costs involved with bringing your product or service to market?
Is there any potential unforeseen expenses involving production?
What are the projected gross margins with this investment?
Startup team questions include:
Who are the main founders, partners, and team members?
How many employees are there (HQ and outsourced)?
What is the combined experience of the team (tech, industries, etc.)?
Are their team growth needs in the coming two years?
Why are you a good founder?
What additional skills are needed to grow the team?
Marketing questions include:
What is the marketing and PR strategy?
Is there a social media strategy in place?
What are the analytics of these strategies?
What is the cost of the customer acquisition?
How will you boost marketing and PR with the investment?
What is the current customer lifetime value?
Don't be offended by the direct nature of these types of questions. An angel investor is exposed to a variety of risks when investing in a startup. They are simply trying to mitigate these risks as quickly as possible to move the potential partnership forward in an expedited, powerful way.
What Does an Angel Investor Want?
Landing an angel investor provides you with a stellar opportunity to fund your startup to success. However, angel funding isn't free. When partnering with an angel, it is important to know that the investment has a few strings attached.
For example, an angel investor may want equity in the company. This could be a high percentage, or a meager one, depending on the agreement you have with your angel.
Giving up equity in your startup means that you are no longer the sole decision maker. Some angels are hands-off investors, but some want to be involved in some way to ensure they are going to get a satisfactory ROI.
Having an involved angel isn't necessarily a bad thing. They have the industry knowledge and the connections that can facilitate growth much faster than if you are making decisions alone. The negotiation stage is important, so be sure to know that angel investments are certainly not free.
Find Your Angel Today
Finding and dealing with angel investors is an exciting moment for any founder or entrepreneur. Just be sure to do it the right way. From being pitch ready to knowing what angels will ask, have a strategy in place to land your first angel with ease. Have you had success in getting angel investor funding? Tell us your secrets!
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.