When it comes to angel investing, Wiegertje Groenveld – brainstormer, angel investor, business developer and advisor/mentor at GGP Consultancy – knows what works. She’s seen hundreds of ideas and entrepreneurs, all chasing the funds, networks and advice that an angel investor brings to an early-stage startup. And she’s happy to spell out exactly what she wants from an investable startup: check out her advice below.
Have a real solution to a real problem. Your idea should have impact for all stakeholders. It should try to make the world better and more beautiful – but especially better. For example, one of our companies is brewer Vet & Lazy. Beer isn’t new, of course. But this beer is produced in an entirely circular process – nothing goes unused. Even the CO2 that is produced goes to a grower of algae. And that’s something very different to other beer companies. Another of our companies, Closure, is an online service that terminates online and offline contracts after people have passed away. That’s a problem that needed solving.
Take advice. A venture capitalist will help you, but they will also continuously focus on making more money. Financial growth is always necessary, but the focus of angel investors in comparison with VCs is broader. An angel investor wants to help you grow your company. Yes, we invest money – but we also invest our knowledge, experience and network in you. While you’re the one behind the wheel, we’re next to you in the navigator’s seat. We might suggest a new direction, but it’s up to you whether you take it or not.
We invest in you, not just your idea. I want to see passion. A spark. A need to produce something beautiful or solve a problem. I want to see fire at your heels: the money won’t last forever. And I want to see you work hard, focus on your business – and have some skin in the game.
Keep your pitch short. I’d say ten slides is best, maximum 15 – but not three, either! You can’t put your idea across effectively in three slides, but you can in ten. Keep it simple – tell us your problem, your solution and your “why”. Then the “how” and the “what” will follow. Practise your pitch: do it as often as you can, to whoever you can, so you know if your idea comes across or not.
Capital is not just money. Yes, money is important, but knowledge capital, networks and experience are crucial, and there’s always an element of luck and chance. Finding the right people can be the most difficult part of making your startup succeed. So go to places where you will find people to help you – incubators, accelerators and shared workspaces.
Embrace agility. I’ve frequently seen people – especially technical people – focus too much on fine-tuning their product and service. But the most exquisite service in the world is useless if nobody is using it. Likewise, I’ve seen products that are good enough but can pivot to become brilliant. I’m a big fan of the lean, agile model. Try it out, see what the market says, then adapt and readjust.
Diverse thinking is key. I try to get startups with monoculture teams to open up to people with different backgrounds and cultures. We also invest as a family – me, my husband, my son and my daughter. My son is 26 and my daughter is 20, so if you pitch things to them, they will always ask new questions that I might not think of. Everyone has their own way of thinking, and they can always help you move forward – while still holding to your why, how and what, and your mission and vision.