Ask an Entrepreneur: Angel Investors

In this new series, we’ll pose questions from student entrepreneurs to our entrepreneurial instructors, and let you read their answering chatter. Casual, off-the-cuff, intelligent, informed responses are guaranteed. Want to ask a question? Email entrepreneurship@wharton.upenn.edu and include “Ask an Entrepreneur” in the subject line.  

Nupur Joshi WG’16 asked:

At what stage should I pursue angel investors, and what level of preparedness do I need for initial conversations?

Tyler Patrick Jeffrey
Tyler Wry, Patrick Fitzgerald, and Jeffrey Babin

Here are the entrepreneurs who are answering today’s question:

Jeffrey Babin C’85/WG’91: Associate Professor of Practice and Associate Director of Engineering Entrepreneurship at the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Lecturer in Marketing and in Entrepreneurship at the Wharton School, Venture Initiation Program Advisor

Patrick Fitzgerald: Vice President for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Lecturer at the Wharton School. 

Tyler Wry, Assistant Professor of Management at the Wharton School

Here’s what the entrepreneurs answered:

Jeffrey:

Happy to help, though this is a pretty involved topic. Here are some thoughts:

Everyone wants to see some form of customer traction/market validation. In order of preference (1-2 are GREAT, 3-6 are OK, 7 doesn’t move the needle much, #8 don’t bother):

  1. Bought product and use it
  2. Paid pre-orders
  3. Got product for free and use it
  4. Got product for free
  5. Registered for product
  6. Requested information/Clicked through to learn more based on marketing activity
  7. Responded positively to survey (n > 50 in real target segment vs. my Wharton classmates like it)
  8. “Everyone I’ve talked to loves the idea”

Angels these days are behaving more and more like VC’s (while some still just write checks, that is for VERY warm introductions and/or serial entrepreneurs).

Check out http://gust.com to create a profile. More and more angels are using this to initiate discussions and manage materials through due diligence.

You’re asking investors to invest in your concept; you need to demonstrate that you have put it all on the line, too (regardless of what you have).

Most important: learn the venture investing environment/process (game) to be able to navigate the process with agility.

Patrick:

This is a fantastic summary Jeff.
Agreed and #2 carries the day tremendously in the absence of #1.

Tyler:

Both Jeff and Patrick are giving you great advice. I would add that the time to start having conversations with potential investors is now. You want to start the process of raising money well before you actually need investment. As noted, investors want to see sales/orders, or invest in people they know well. It’s all about uncertainty vectors. One of the things that you can do to tip things in your favor is to become known to potential investors. Let them know what you’re up to, ask them for advice, report back on progress. This sort of stuff can go a long way, and you’ve done more than enough work to start having these conversations.

Jeffrey:

Know your product. Know your plan. Know your numbers. We all know they are wrong, but it is what you have done to model the venture and what you will do to de-risk it that counts.

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