It was a great pleasure to hear Glenn Turner talk about his principles for angel investing at the July Pitch Evening. It was apparent how everyone at the pitch evening was engrossed in Glenn’s talk.
From my notes, I will try to summarise his talk outlining some of his principles and key points.
It takes ten years to build a business, and angel investors invest at the start of the business, just after the family, friends and fools. It can take years before a company is embedded in the market. It takes a long time.
The Hockey Stick
As an Angel investor, every forecast you’re presented with is a triumph of naivete and inexperience. Everyone has a hockey stick forecast, but not everyone gets to play hockey and certainly not to the timeline they predict. Have disbelief around hockey stick forecasts.
Ask yourself: How long is the funding going to last? Is it only just enough to get them to the start of the hockey stick? If they don’t get to the start they are certainly going to run out of funds.
It’s always important to challenge the valuation. Are they proposing to have an ESOP? Do the terms outline future dilution? It’s good to get these terms right at the beginning. VC and corporate investors are more hardnosed in this area.
You can have a product. It doesn’t have to be the best product to own the market. But when it’s a start-up, you need to know the market and demonstrate early engagement. Where is the actual pent-up demand?
Don’t take any notice of founders presenting forecasts of 2% or 3% or 4% market share which equals X amount of sales, it’s rubbish. What is valid here are letters of intent or orders from companies that want the product or service.
If an early-stage startup comes to you and says they’ve been working with a company and they love our product, that company is not ready to buy if there is no order. If there isn’t any engagement with the market, I say forget it, I’m personally not in. Letters of intent, orders and contracts are the only way to show pent-up demand.
What’s it going to cost to get into the market? How much does it cost to onboard a customer? How much does it cost to onboard a customer compared to the potential revenue margin or revenue? New-age digital marketing metrics are gold. You cannot make assumptions about your market. You must know the market.
What’s the problem and whose problem are you solving? This is essential, and it must be validated. Validating the value proposition is great to see.
Universities and Deep Tech
Lots of ideas come out of universities but be wary when they’re developed with little reference to industry that they are solving a problem. Beware of the solution to a problem that does not exist.
Solving a problem with deep science is years away from the market. For example, in medical therapies you’re at least ten years away from the market with lots of deep science to be solved, tested and validated before there is even a product.
Teams of people are better than a one-man band from a key person perspective and can be a bit vulnerable too unless there is a clear leader. Failure in the past is good because the lessons learnt help. Evidence of bootstrapping is fundamental as evidence of a desire to continue.
Economies of Multiplicity
The world is getting faster and faster. COVID-19 has shown that cycle times, even for things like medical trials can be shortened. Economies of multiplicity are faster than economies of scale.
Multiplicity, instead of building one big plant to make whatever, build ten smaller plants in different spots. You then get rid of the tyranny of logistics for many products.
Competitors can and will emerge. Sometimes with your technology in markets, you have no protection. Quite frankly, even with registered IP protection, most start-ups don’t have anywhere near enough money to defend it anyway. Speed to market and continuity of innovation are paramount.
On behalf of the Hunter Angels, I would like to thank Glenn for his very informative and insightful talk.