Speak to most angel investors or early stage VC’s and most will tell you they love your business idea or concept, but to come back once you have created your product and have some traction or proof of concept. I can’t help but agree with their logic. They, and rightly so, want to see how far you can get on your own in order to judge how much further you could go with their investment. They will also say that they want to see a strong team behind the venture because they will tell you, and rightly so again, that a successful venture is 1% innovation, 99% perspiration. In other words, it’s not about ideas; it’s about making ideas happen.
But what about all those people with great ideas, and given the opportunity, would be able to offer that 99% perspiration to make an idea happen? For whatever reason, whether financial, lack of some skills, bad luck or inability to put a team together, they are not able to make their idea happen. Should we neglect or write them off? No we should not. Why? Because I was one of them for near a decade.
Yes, for near a decade, without access to the right support or mentor to guide me, I struggled to make things happen. Not because I lacked the perspiration (I’ve shed plenty of that during my journey along with the odd tear or two); and not because I lacked the ability to overcome obstacles (I’ve also walked through, as opposed to climbed over, more brick walls that you can imagine). I struggled because I lacked the experience and resources to make the beeline I to where I wanted to get to. Had I had just a little support or assistance along the way from someone who had been there and done it before, I’d be 5 steps ahead of where I am today.
But today I am in a position to help those that are in the same shoes as I once was. That’s why I choose not to write people in this category off, but to go out and actively find them. In fact I have a team out there looking for entrepreneurs in this category. If we like the idea and feel, with our support, that the entrepreneur can make their idea happen, we will not only invest but also build a team around them and offer them the mentoring and advice that is so crucial to any early stage business. With 25 investments at this stage already made, we still out there looking for people with great ideas that need support to make their idea happen.
Now don’t get me wrong! I’m not a charity and this is not a charitable activity. We have expectations of the founders like any other Business Angel or VC. I guess the only difference is that we will invest much earlier, get involved and provide active support for them to make things happen. In a way we are investing in ourselves as much as the founder or entrepreneur, which reduces the overall risk of getting involved at such an early stage along with that 80% failure rate amongst start-ups.
Time will tell whether the financial risk will pay off. But putting the money aside, there is no better feeling (almost) than seeing a concept stage venture being successful in the marketplace; for me it’s almost like an addiction! I therefore look extremely forward to doing the same, only more aggressively, during 2016!