Investing is a team sport
‘Start-up Spotlight’ by Invested Investor, published in partnership with Angel News.
In our latest interview we talk to Bridget Connell, an Invested Investor who started investing four years ago and has completed five deals since. Bridget previously worked in technology, so she supports tech startups and mentors female investors and entrepreneurs through the syndicate Angel Academe. Bridget is a strong believer in the importance of due diligence when working on a project; she stays close to each company she works with and supports them by drawing other investors close as well. She talks here about her desire to see more diversity in the investment world and is a strong champion for ‘Women in Investments’.
Bridget is the Founder of executive coaching consultancy Thinking Partnerships and is a board advisor and mentor to a number of startups.
1. How did you become an investor?
I went to an open evening run by Angel Academe (www.angelacademe.com) which was aimed at introducing women to what Angel investing is and how to get involved. What attracted me initially to accept the invitation was the focus on investing in tech start-up businesses. I had been mentoring tech start-up businesses for a while but hadn't found an opportunity to start investing. One of the speakers that evening shared her experience of how she started Angel investing. Her example was very clear and inspiring. Her first investment was in a business that created an app to match personal trainers locally with people looking to improve their fitness. She invested £10k initially and used her marketing background and network of contacts to support and mentor the founder. I am a firm believer in the importance of role models. You can't be what you can't see. Hearing her story made investing in start-ups seem accessible. Her story inspired me and I now make sure I make time to share my story of getting started and my experience if it helps demystify investing and encourages others to get started.
2. Why do you invest
Firstly, because I am particularly interested in technology based businesses and what emerging technology can and will do for us. Regularly looking at new tech business opportunities allows me a small insight into the incredible rate of change. Just imagine how technology will impact out lives in 30 years’ time.
I started working in mobile telecoms when mobile phones were used only to make voice calls and to send a text message. I have first-hand experience of what it is like to work in a sector that enjoyed rapid growth, where the market became saturated as everyone had a mobile phone and where emerging technology and new ideas transformed the simple mobile phone to become an essential tool that allows you to shop online, access your bank, book a flight, keep in touch etc.
Secondly, because I do want a financial return and want to be actively involved in how that happens.
Thirdly, because I want to support female founders to scale. Harvard research shows that female founders find it harder to secure investment then male founders. I spent my entire career working in tech and as I became more and more senior I had less and less female peers. I want to use some of my available capital to support other women doing great things in tech.
3. What do you invest in and at what stage?
I have a specific investment lens. I like to invest in UK based tech businesses where one of the cofounders is a woman. I have invested in both B2C and B2B businesses.
I like to invest usually when a business has already had an initial Angel round and where existing angels are following on.
And the final piece of the jigsaw is the team. I don’t have a traditional finance background. I don’t think I need one. I run an exec coaching consultancy business www.thinkingpartnerships.com. My investment decisions are based on people. I am looking for a founding team, I believe I have the capacity to scale the business. I look to see who the founders have engaged as advisors. The credibility of the advisors tells me a lot about a founder.
4. What are the challenges you faced when you become an investor?
Sweet shop, initially it can feel like being in a sweet shop as there are so many interesting businesses pitching, but I think it is important to take it slowly at the start.
Access to a credible deal flow, I recommend joining a good syndicate that attracts quality entrepreneurs and that provides access to start-up pitches that have been screened.
Time, I like to spend time looking at a business before I invest, and this means making time to do due diligence. If you are doing several deals a year, this can be very time consuming.
Cash flow, remembering that your initial investment in a business and is the start of a long- term relationship, but also the start of frequent requests for more money as part of additional funding rounds. The larger your portfolio, the more follow on requests you need to accommodate, as well as budgeting to invest in new deals.
Your impact as a small or single investor, my experience is, that as a small scale, single investor, a start-up will be very engaged and communicative until receiving investment and then ignore you. Investing as part of a syndicate means, you are part of a larger investment sum and have more influence. Investing as part of a syndicate works well for me, I really appreciate having other investors to talk to about a deal particularly when it comes to reviewing requests for follow on investment.
5. How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I make time to sail and to cycle. I am the Commodore of a small sailing club which involves arranging an annual sail up the creek to a pub for lunch and a small summer regatta where competition for the booby prize is as fierce as for the winner's shield.
I also like to cycle, you find me responding to this whilst cycling the Karakoram Highway from Pakistan into China and onto Kyrgyzstan cycling the western boundary of the Himalayas.
6. If you could offer an early investor one piece of business advice, what would it be?
Investing for me is a team sport. I recommend joining a syndicate. Find one that has a deal flow that interests you, a culture of investing that works for you, and a network of super smart investors you can learn from.
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