How Angels Without Tech Experience Can Vet Tech Companies



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Q:  My partner at Roaring Fork, Lee Lemon, is based out of Fort Wayne, IN where he is helping promote a startup community.  There are many potential angel investors Lee knows in the area (some quite significant), but most of their experience comes from manufacturing, real estate, and some medical.  They want to invest in tech, but feel they just don’t have the expertise to vet opportunities in that sector. How can the tech community help these angels?

One of the powerful things about startup communities that embrace the philosophy of “give before you get” is how easily n0n-tech angel investors can  engage with tech related entrepreneurs. If the tech-related entrepreneurs recognize that they will help expand the startup community by helping the angel investors understand what and how they should invest in, magic can happen.

Here’s the way it works. You’ve got a bunch of wealthy business people who made money in non-tech businesses. They are excited about investing in tech-related companies, but they have no idea how to evaluate things. Several of the local tech entrepreneurs, who have both experience and resources to invest, can start leading the charge on a few tech-related angel investments. They hold their hands up to help evaluate the companies for the non-tech angels, and commit to investing their own money, even if it’s a modest amount ($5k or $10k per deal is fine), in the companies they choose.

More importantly, the tech-related entrepreneurs now turned angels do not take anything additional – either equity, fees, or an expectation of any quid pro quo – from the non-tech angels. This is the key – the tech entrepreneurs have to build trust and community with the non-tech angels. So they should be completely aligned financially, and playing a long-term game of getting more non-tech angels into the mix. This is give before you get at its core – you are “giving your time, energy, and credibility” with an effort to increase the size of the angel community, which will increase the startup community, which will pay off in the future in many ways.

 How Angels Without Tech Experience Can Vet Tech Companies

Introduction: The Startup of Start-up Communities; The Power of Clones in Russia—& Beyond



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Tom Nastas a 25 year VC veteran in US, int’l and emerging markets wrote a series for Startup Rev on the ‘spark’ which sparked the startup of Russia and how the development of start-up communities in emerging markets are shaped much more by the cultures of risk vs. what we investors and entrepreneurs face in the USA.  An interesting read, below are the individual posts and content for each one.

What are the elements of a start-up community?  What can you do to startup a start-up community in your city, or help it do more—faster?

Venture investor Brad Feld (Foundry Group, Boulder, Colorado, co-founder of Tech Stars, blogger Feld Thoughts) writes about these subjects in his other blog StartUp Communities with his new book titled ‘Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City.

If you don’t know Brad, he was and remains the protagonist and instigator that transformed Boulder from a sleepy Rocky Mountain hippie town into one of the most vibrant entrepreneurial tech start-up communities in the United States.  It is his individual contributions to this success that makes Brad’s advice sought by investors, government policy makers and entrepreneurs from around the world.

Recently Brad accepted my offer—I contribute a post on the startup of Russia to StartUp Communities.  As I started writing, one subject led to another, with the result too much for one individual post.  Over the next few weeks I’ll upload the content as a series of posts for you:  the investor, the entrepreneur, the Government policy maker, staff of international development finance institutions.

In this series I answer five questions:

1.)   What is the ‘spark’ that ignited the start-up of Russia?

2.)   How does the ‘start-up’ of startup communities differ—emerging markets vs. developed countries?

3.)   Why is the US entrepreneurial model of experimentation, trial and error and pivoting a death sentence for entrepreneurs in the emerging markets?

4.)   How does the culture of risk and failure in emerging markets impact investor DNA—what they finance and what they won’t?

5.)   What is Clonentrepreneurship, where is it spreading from and to, and why is it a model for more—innovation, startups, and venture investment?

There is much happening in Russian cities like St Petersburg and Novosibirsk as two regional hubs of innovation and entrepreneurship.  Even so, I’m confining my discussion to Moscow since what we are seeing in the Russia capital is being replicated in other cities in the Russia Federation, only to a lesser degree.

Here’s a preview of the topics in each post.

PART I: THE START-UP OF RUSSIA

  • First—Three Definitions
  • The Russia Tech Scene
  • Growth in Russia
  • What Changed for Growth to Emerge
  • The Spark that Ignited the Start-up of Russia

 

PART II: THE CULTURES OF RISK

  • The Cultural Divide:  What Investors ‘Buy’
  • What Investors Fear
  • The Culture of Venture Capital:  Friend or Foe?

 

PART III: THE POWER OF CLONES

  • Growth and Innovation in the Supply Chain
  • Sidestep the Obstacles that Impede Scaling Up
  • The Controversy of Clonentrepreneurship: Cloning the Idea or Hatching a Start Up?
  • The Spread of Clonentrepreneurship

 

PART IV:  THE QUEST FOR GROWTH

  • Clonentrepreneurship or Alternative Paths to the Start-up of Start-up Communities?
  • Change the Culture to Make Amazing Things Happen

 

PART V:  SCALING UP INVESTMENT—FINANCE THE STARTUP OF START-UP COMMUNITIES

In this final post to the series I answer the question:  “What are the small but meaningful steps you can take to impact the culture to change the culture for more investment, entrepreneurship and innovation?”

  • For Entrepreneurs—What are You Selling to Investors?
  • For Investors—Let’s Be Realistic
  • For Governments/Development Finance Institutions—Atypical Leadership Needed
  •   Concluding Remarks
  • My Next Blog Series—Mobilize Local Capital to Finance Your Dreams
  • Links: Evolution of Runet (Russia Internet) & the Russia Tech Scene

 

I hope that these subjects will help you to ‘Scale Up,’ more entrepreneurship, more investment and more tech start-ups in your country, with Russia as one experience to learn from.

How might this happen you ask?

Frequently a mismatch exists in the business models that entrepreneurs launch in the emerging markets and what local investors finance.  Struggling to raise money, entrepreneurs label capital as risk adverse with investors blind to potential, seeking guarantees and sure things.  Investors respond that entrepreneurs of venture stage companies fail to transform potential into paying customers fast enough and in the volumes needed for the business to scale.  Add in their need to generate a rate of financial return required for their own survival, and it’s logical why local investors in the emerging world finance expansion stage companies.

This conflict spills into the public stage with Governments called to action.  They conceive and invest taxpayer money to catalyze an early stage tech venture capital industry to fill market voids.

What happens next is perplexing to the creators of these investment schemes.

These new funds have a mandate to invest in venture stage tech companies, but they behave differently in execution. They invest in tech, but at the growth stage of company development, not at the startup stage.

But what if seed and early stage business models exist with the revenue growth characteristics of expansion-stage companies?  If such business models do exist, what are they? Can they impact the DNA of local investors to risk and catalyze investment at the earliest stages of company formation?  And can they spark the start-up of a startup community? While such business models seem to be an illusion and counterintuitive to the natural evolution of market development, I explain in this series that such models do in fact exist in Russia—& beyond.

Subjects I discuss in Part I:

1.)   First—Three Definitions
2.)   The Russia Tech Scene
3.)   Growth in Russia
4.)   What Changed for Growth to Emerge
5.)   The Spark that Ignited the Start-up of Russia

Reactions & opinions welcome in the comments box or send directly to me atTom@IVIpe.com.

Be well and be lucky.

 Introduction: The Startup of Start up Communities; The Power of Clones in Russia—& Beyond