The future of UK angel investing

Thirty-five angels shaping the ecosystem

Great angel investors are the lifeblood of any entrepreneurial community. Through personal connections, reputation or hustle, they get to meet startup founders at the earliest stages of their journey, investing money, time and knowledge into their success.

  • “If you could summarise all the lessons of the Angel Investing School in one sentence, what sentence would that be?”
    My good friend Matt Pennycard said it best: Write the cheque, write it off and go to work.”
  • “What would you tell someone starting to angel invest today, based on your experience?”
    Work on honing your intuition. At the stage of a company’s life cycle at which angels invest, there is often very little concrete data on the company’s traction and ability to succeed. You are believing in a founder — his/her business acumen, ability to execute, drive and integrity. I see it as an investment in that person.”
  • “What are you most focused on when making an investment decision and how do you assess a company’s product?”
    By far the most important thing I look for is personal exceptionalism in the founders. Having said that, for many products the user experience and workflow integration is also a critical consideration. Being completely blind myself, assessing this in a predominantly visual world is prima facie challenging. But of course, this forces the founder to explain the user experience verbally. And if they cannot do that elegantly and compellingly then either the experience is muddled or the founder is muddled, both of which are a red flag.”
  • “What would you tell someone starting to angel invest today, based on your experience at the Angel Academe?
    “Find your tribe and set aside some money for investing. A good investor network will bring you pre-qualified deal flow as well as like-minded people with complementary skills and experience to discuss and evaluate deals. You’ll need to invest in several businesses and be prepared to follow-on in order to maximise your chances of financial return.”
  • “What did setting up 10x10 teach you?
    “That the most important ingredient of community, people, and trust is care. The last question I ask whenever I interview people is ‘what do you care about deeply?’. The ability to care deeply will enable you to unlock levels of trust, commitment, and reward from the work that’s required to win. The last thing that I’ll add is that the only thing that matters is the work; just do the work.”
  • “What’s the one biggest thing you’ve learned about recruiting during your time building The Forsyth Group?
    “One of the best things you can do in a recruitment process is having extreme clarity around such process: how many steps is it going to take, what do these steps look like and when can you expect to have a final answer? Sounds simple, but doing this well can be difficult in our busy & unpredictable business lives. Yet, it can have incredible impact. No matter the position you’re hiring for, you will leave a bad impression by not getting back to people quickly (or at all): the word will get out there, whether you like it or not. You protect your reputation not only by looking after people inside your company, but also those who come to you from the outside.”
  • “What do you give a lot of importance to when assessing a founding team?”
    If you’re not a solo founder (e.g. Koru Kids), I always think that balance of skills in a team is very important. I don’t like it when a consumer business has 3 engineers as founders or a deep tech one has 3 business people. I generally prefer it when there’s technical skills in a founding team because 40% of the stuff you’ll be doing (in the startup world) is tech stuff, so it makes sense if at least one founder can cover that area — preferably a CTO-type person.”
  • “What would you tell someone starting to angel invest today, based on your experience?”
    There is no better intellectual activity than angel investing → Do it with others who are experienced so you can learn from them → Invest in people since businesses often pivot and you want to invest in founders who are proactive and resilient through this pivot → Find your value-add so you can actively engage and support founders: it is about more than the cheque → Get to know your founders as people, talk to them about things beyond the business: treat it like a marriage 💍 → SEIS/EIS should be secondary to the investment decision. Not primary.”
  • “You told me you like huge markets relatively unaffected by the internet — how do you go about uncovering these?”
    “I am almost always led by the founders. When I think about a few recent angel investments — Disperse (computer vision for construction sites), Hopin (online conferences), PostEra (medicinal chemistry as a service) — in each case I came to see the opportunity through the intensity of the founder’s point of view. Great founders remind me of artists — naturally drawn to the avant-garde of their field.”
  • “What important truth did you uncover during your time at Cornerstone Partners?
    Black founders are over mentored and underfunded. Up until a week ago, with the launch of the 10x10 fund, we were the only black angel group here in the U.K. and this put incredible pressure on us because we would see so many amazing founders but couldn’t invest in them all. We need more funds in the U.K. dedicated to investing in this group and we need more funds to keep doing the good work that we are doing.”
  • “What would you tell someone starting to angel invest today, based on your experience?”
    “If you meet a world class founder w/ a great product, market focus, talented team & top tier co-investors, don’t focus too stringently on ownership % & valuation. In my opinion, a 40% probability of a 2–5x return is better than a 5% probability 10–20x. Moreover, illiquidity in venture is being addressed & secondary sales are more common. Being able to sieve out & engage w/ top founders by providing clear value add helps differentiate yourself & cement allocation in competitive rounds.”
  • “Having scaled Songkick and raised $ from the likes of YC, Index and Sequoia, what are the biggest things you’ve learned on fundraising & building great products?”
    On fundraising: Telling a coherent and inspiring story is so important. What’s your big dream for how the world should be different? That’s why most of us are in this business. On product: Customer discovery, crisply defining the problem, and rapid experimentation are key. Also, a market with severely consolidated incumbents will crush the best product and your dreams.”
  • “What’s your biggest belief about the future of Education?”
    “I believe that people are going to increasingly take ownership of their lifelong learning journey. Starting with parents having a say in their children’s education, to young people and professionals taking the driving seat when it comes to learning, reskilling & upskilling.”
  • “What is your least popular but deeply held opinion on tech?”
    Our children and grandchildren will hail Mark Zuckerberg as the hero of our generation. But, like our parents’ generation’s views on Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, our views may be more mixed. Libra, and future Facebook crypto entities (Coinbase? 👀), will take entities like the Fed, UN, and ICC out of their current paralysis into a future underpinned by the crypto trias politica.”

First cheque investor @Stride_VC with @fdestin & @HarryStebbings | x-@_TheFamily | I hate coriander 🌱