The Capital Network – an organization offering entrepreneurial education & startup support – hosted four experts in the funding field to provide insight & expertise to the attentive entrepreneurs in attendance.
Angels on the panel included Jodi Collier, Executive Director at Launchpad Venture Group, Kathryn Roy, Angel Investor at Walnut Ventures, Jeff Arnold, Angel Investor at Boston Harbor Angels & Mass Medical Angels, and Sheila Narayan, Managing Director at Golden Seeds.
If you’re in the midst of an entrepreneurial endeavor, the Capital Network is a hugely beneficial resource in the Boston scene, doling out concrete, actionable advice to advance your undertaking. But first, here are some tidbits we learned from attending our first TCN event, straight from the experts themselves:
On Pitching & Feedback
“Find a real problem you’re trying to solve,” suggested Collier.
“Make your pitch simple enough that it’s going to resonate,” said Roy, highlighting the dangers of the Curse of Knowledge, which can over complicate and potentially worsen pitches of even the most impressive products. When you’re pitching, Collier says, it’s crucial to “be clear about who you are, why you’re here, where your vision is… Be totally honest with your investors… Clarity as well as ethical details are very, very important.” And once you’ve played your part, be sure to “listen to feedback… it makes a huge difference,” said Roy. “It’s huge! Coachability is everything,” agreed Collier. “It takes a lot of work to get your pitch down pat, but being able to move through this process carefully & methodically is crucial,” she attested.
“Entrepreneurs focus on pitch [which is of course beneficial] but often fail to think about how to answer questions. Think about all the questions that could be asked of you,” said Roy. “It’s really impressive when an entrepreneur says, ‘I’m glad you asked that question,‘ and has the answer ready,” Arnold attested.
And as Collier pointed out, “The more questions the group is asking, the more interested they are.”
On the Value of Angels
According to Roy, the angel network is where it’s at. “We know exactly who to refer you to and who to get involved,” she said. In reference to investors, Collier pointed out that amid the important assets for startup entrepreneurs, “it’s the human capital that’s debatably more important.” Angels are dedicated to (and quite literally invested in) those they fund, as Arnold attests, “I’ll drag the company across the goal line if that’s what it takes.”
And Collier mindfully reminded the audience that angels “are not competitors. We’re collaborators.” Teamwork making the dream work.
On the Roll of an Advisory Board
“For early stage companies, form an advisory board. Surround yourself with experienced folks to guide you in the business world, but also in a domain expertise,” said Narayan, encouraging startups to place an angel as board director where appropriate.
On Considering More Than Cash
Collier attested to the weight of looking beyond the money, pointing to a time when she invested in a company because they were “smart & receptive to taking on advisors, and not just focused on taking on money.” And all four angels on the panel nodded to the importance of an exit strategy – and making that plan clear during preliminary pitches.
On Finding Angels & Networking
Perhaps most reoccurringly noted throughout the lunch & learn was the value of networking. “We are everywhere,” said Collier. “It’s getting to know individuals… you have to work the network. That’s the way you’ll get in touch with people who want to take you under their wing. Boston is a great resource for the ecosystem we’re in,” she reminded. “Connect with enough people that they want to continue the conversation.”
Narayan agrees, “It’s all about getting to know various angel groups. Get out in the community, be networking.”
As the panel pointed out, there are, however, alternatives to angel funding – like bootstrapping, friends & family contributions, pitch competitions, sales, crowdfunding, debt financing, grants, equity crowdfunding, strategic partners & VC – which can also be considered when reaching out for funds. Use all your resources to fully benefit your operation – and if you’re in Boston, be sure to take advantage of the Network, “playing a central role in Boston’s innovation economy.”
Thanks for raising the bar in educational resources, TCN! We’re glad to spread the guidance as we continue our aim of pointing aspiring moguls in the best direction.