Q&A with Angel Investor Peter Cowley

Every week the Sunday Times talk to a business angel, one of the early-stage investors who collectively inject £1.5bn a year into British start-ups. The following Sunday Times article was written by Peter Evans, Enterprise Editor, on November 5th 2017. 

Peter Cowley, 62, founded a series of technology and construction companies before switching to angel investing a decade ago.

He is chairman of Cambridge Business Angels and has invested in more than 60 start-ups. They include the internet of things developer Neul, which was sold to Chinese giant Huawei three years ago for $25m, and the equity investment platform SyndicateRoom.

What I look for
A stellar team of two or three founders. They need the ability to listen and be truthful, honest and open. The market and tech don’t matter so much. I recently rejected a project without looking at the business plan. I just couldn’t back the team.

There’s enough cash
We need more people with experience in the [angel investing] industry, rather than more cash. It’s skills we need, with people willing to put more time into it.

Lessons learnt
Build up a decent-sized portfolio and don’t invest in teams where there’s an emotional relationship.

Boyfriends and girlfriends or even siblings often don’t work out. But if I’m going to be anywhere near the board, there has to be some chemistry between the members.

Early customers can be misleading
If you’ve got a £10,000 order from Amazon, that doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t give the business validation.

Wish I saw more . . .
Women founders. Only 7% of the founders I’ve backed have been women.

I think it’s because of poor Stem [science, technology, engineering and maths] education for women. It is changing and we will see more female founders.

Wish I saw less . . .
Artificial intelligence. So many people claim they do AI and it’s rubbish. Machine learning I accept — things such as choosing your next movie on Netflix. I do not accept that these companies are AI.

Next disrupted industry
Personalised medicine — using software to perfect the dose and chemical structure of medicines before they’re given. Also, related to that, using robotics in medicines.

Written by Peter Evans, Enterprise Editor at The Sunday Times

Please find the original article here.

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