As a woman founder who grew a business for 10 years before selling it to investors, I know firsthand the importance of finding your ‘Angel’ to take your business to the next level. Angel investors are so important in the start-up ecosystem because they are often the “first believers” and financial backers of exciting early stage companies.
Founding a start-up is a challenging and sometimes lonely journey, and we know that women entrepreneurs often face additional barriers and hurdles. It's also one thing to have a brilliant idea, but quite another to take that idea and build an MVP that is ready to take to market - this is where an Angel Investor can be an absolute game changer for you and your business.
So, what exactly is an Angel Investor?
Typically Angels are high net-worth individuals who invest in early stage start-ups and who want to use their wealth to help grow the next generation of businesses. Although some Angels are interested in just writing the cheque and then leaving you to make the magic happen, most Angels want to be extremely proactive in helping you to grow your business and will be the first person you celebrate with when you meet a significant milestone, but also the first person on speed dial when something is going wrong in your business.
In addition to being able to write cheques, Angels often also have significant experience and professional success in their chosen fields. This means they're typically very connected to potential customers, partners and employees that can add value to you and your business. Angels may also be networked with other people with money to invest, whether that be other Angels, venture capital firms or private equity, so by getting some Angels on your capital table early on, it can often open other doors that will be critical to the growth of your business.
In the early days of venture creation, it can be hard to attract the interest of a venture capital firm as they usually want to see demonstrated traction or a more developed proof of concept. However, it’s often at this pre-revenue stage that founders really need ‘seed’ capital in order to start creating traction through branding, sales and marketing activities - all of which are expensive.
It's no secret that the vast majority of money deployed by Angels historically has gone to male led businesses. However, savvy investors are becoming more aware that by increasing the diversity of their portfolio they can increase their returns over time, while also championing under-represented founders who will bring novel innovations to market.
I am often asked how start-up founders can find Angel investors. In the past, getting connected to Angels was very much based on your personal and professional connections - your ability to build and leverage ‘social capital’. For a huge range of sociocultural reasons, women have historically not been as well networked into those high-net-worth individuals compared to men. However, the good news is that it's becoming increasingly easier for all early stage founders to find their Angel.
One great way to find an Angel Investor is through syndicate groups like Aussie Angels or Southern Angels. Another is by attending ecosystem events and startup community meet ups. One of my favourite events to connect with this community is _SOUTHSTART. This festival attracts innovators and investors together and is all about connecting humans to the ideas, networks and knowledge needed to create and scale a startup, through the creation of authentic and immersive experiences. I invite all angel investors to come and join me at the ANGEL SUMMIT at this year’s _SOUTHSTART // ODYSSEY festival. Here we’ll be learning about how Angels are shaping the future alongside a host of best-practice approaches, including how to avoid unconscious bias, how to approach deal-specific due diligence and how to manage follow-on rounds after the cheque. To find out more head to www.southstart.co.
I’d also strongly encourage founders to educate themselves about the investment process. There are a lot of great programs on offer from organisations including SBE Australia and Scale Investors. Putting together a compelling investor is an art, so seek out objective feedback from experts in the industry before you start approaching investors.
Lastly, the most important tip to find your Angel is to put it out there! Once you have done the hard work to polish your pitch and hone your go to market strategy, tell the world that you're ready to take on capital to fuel your big vision. Capital chases brilliant ideas and the will to execute on them - so if you have the right purpose and passion, you may just find an Angel investor falls from heaven and onto your cap table.
Sarah Curtis-Fawley Bio:
Following a successful career in government policy and research, Sarah founded and scaled a specialty food manufacturing and hospitality company in the US, which was acquired by investors in 2019. Sarah works with Australian companies across a range of industries through her role as Growth Expert at the Australian Centre for Business Growth. Sarah believes that entrepreneurs can change the world for the better through innovation, and is passionate about supporting women founders through her role as the Director of Programs at SBE Australia.