In the convoluted microcosmos of Silicon Valley, it is more common to find a person who is an ‘angel investor’ than a person who owns a bike. Angel investors by definition allocate a small amount of their own investment funds to support companies that give companies a financial taxi lift. One thing few people realize is that to get into that taxi you need to be ready, and you need to know where you are going, and when do you think you will get out.
So, in financial terms to access angel investments you need to:
1. Get yourself to the taxi: you need to be able to walk on your two feet, or with the help of a device. We don’t invest unless you have an established company, a tax id, a defined product or service, a prototype or a defined set of promises, some form of market validation (sorry your friends do not count). We don’t take crawling babies without parents – but we take babies with parents and we call that pivoting. And yes, both babies and parents get out on the next stop.
2. Carry a wallet. Have some skin in the game. The best way to put this in perspective is this: if you are not going to take a risk, I’m not taking it for you.
3. Speak the language. To understand each other we need to speak the same language, and in many many cases that means that the financial language needs to be clear to you. Oh yes, and the business language, and the execution language. You don’t need these languages to apply for some jobs, but if you want the title of entrepreneur, you need the language to get hired.
4. Have direction. Knowing where you are going and how to measure you are on the right track is critical. Yes, there might be accidents but you can do a plan B on the spot if you know where you are going. It also helps if you know the route, if you’ve taken a similar route before or if you have advisors along the way that can check in. Or you can take a ride with others and everyone benefits.
5. Accept some guidance. You might know the route, the goal, and the starting point, but we are in the business of transportation. We are in this day in and day out, and know when and where there is traffic, bottlenecks, stop signs, and landing spots. We also know the best time to take off, run, and go. And we know what has changed or not since the last time you took a ride.
6. Plan your exit. Taxis need your space to carry more passengers. You will need to get out at some point. I once said that the best description of the angel investor- entrepreneur relationship was this: how can we part ways and be happy about our time together? This is one of the most exciting opportunities to create something in such a lose structure. Angel investors invite entrepreneurs to their taxis at the expense of other rides, they spend time and resources together, and they expect financial and emotional rewards. We want to feel good about taking you from here to there. Entrepreneurs must also choose who they take the ride with. You can’t go to the moon in a bike, but you can enjoy the ride in a different way, and you will NEED that taxi to take you to the shuttle’s landing, or the airport, the train station, the port.
Thinking about Angel Investing as a time-defined transportation helps you manage this funding mechanism, but if you want to fund your company, whether it is a small company or a young one, there are many other ways to do it. Don’t limit yourself thinking that angels are the only ways to fund a company. Sometimes there not, and sometimes there are not even the best way.
Having an angel invest in your company does not define your success.