Angel Investing

Sometimes I keep thinking what are the other interesting things I could do in life, to be a bit more helpful to people and nature, and to have more fun along the way. Recently I started exploring angel investing and startup advising. I'm a complete beginner in that area, but I think it would be nice to document my journey, so it could be useful for someone else in the future, and also to get more actionable feedback and ideas from you!

How I see it

This is how I see it. Basically it would be cool to:

  • Know and follow 100 active startups in London, Europe, globally in the domain of my interest.
  • Maybe know personally 50 of them, e.g. go grab coffee, connect on some meetups, etc.
  • Try actively helping 5 of them, by investing some money into them, by advising them (investing time), providing maybe some technical expertise, or connecting with friends who could help, etc.

The numbers could differ, it's just the basic idea I have. Below you can see my thoughts on why doing that, and also how to approach that (e.g. which skills to develop, etc).

Motivation

I think a lot of people say this is all about money, but I see it a bit differently. Maybe I'm a bit naive, by here's what attracts me the most:

  • Helping the world - I think a big part of angel investing and startup advising is about giving back to society. I.e. if you could help your friends to succeed (by connecting them with other cool people, by giving tech advise, etc), it would be great, the world would definitely benefit from that! So it's about making this world a better place.

    Also if you didn't invest money, and just trying to advise, probably they wouldn't take you seriously, I guess you have to show commitment by investing first.

    I think it's cool to do things with your own hands, but it doesn't scale that much, so it would be cool to contribute at a larger scale somehow. What other ways to share your experience, learnings at scale?
  • Connections - to succeed in that venture you would have to know a lot of different people. Diverse connections are just vital for life!

    Knowing a lot of people is just hard to underestimate. So many amazing people changed my life for the better in so many ways! Knowing more and more enthusiastic people makes me super excited about the future!

    From the practical standpoint, if you need great people to hire for your startup, or for the startup you advise, you would already know a lot of relevant people.
  • Knowledge - be on the edge of your domain of interest - if you follow 100 of top startups, then you know all the competitors, know what's going on in the world, you also understand your domain much better.

    I.e. you will definitely know what works, what doesn't based on other's experience. You can avoid similar mistakes yourself when developing your own startup, or when advising other startups.

    Basically you see a much bigger picture, and this is awesome!
  • Money - finally it also comes to money. I think you don't have to put all the eggs into one bucket. If you're doing entrepreneurship, or building stuff with your own hands in big tech, etc., it's all great, but why not to leverage other ways of income as well.

    The more resources you have, the more things you can do. Money could save you some time to tackle bigger challenges if you use them wisely.

Limiting Factors

I started thinking what would be the limiting factors to design a perfect system around that. What are the main bottlenecks?

  • Discover new people - basically how to meet that many people?

    I think I would need to establish new streams of input people, or improve the old ones. I guess it could be done by going to conferences, events, searching on LinkedIn, through sites like Angellist, etc

    Maybe I should boost my online presence, so people could find me themselves..
  • Networking throughput - how to keep in touch with that massive amount of people, and keep connections meaningful, so this does not end up as a bunch of "dead souls" on LinkedIn?

    I think tracking everything in a CRM, or personal knowledge management tools (e.g Roam, Obsidian, Notion) would be very important at that stage.

    Maybe organising dinners, or events would be a way to go as well?
  • Have money to invest - that could be a big limitation as well.
  • Have time to advise and do everything listed here - one of the biggest challenges.
  • Knowledge - you need to know very well what you’re advising on. I think it would be very important to list skills that needed at this point, and think how to improve them.
  • Trust - people need to trust you, you need a proven track of investments, etc.
  • Conflict of interest with Alphabet - as I work at X, I need to pass all the  approvals to avoid a conflict of interest and legal implications. That could be another challenge.

Basically if at least one of these things above screwed up, the whole venture is doomed. Do you see any other caveats?

Skills

I’m very new to this area, need to develop the right skills.

  • Think what skills I already have (e.g. like connecting right people or technical stuff).
  • What other skills are the most important and have to be prioritised?

I think the main limitation I have, I probably need to be an actual founder (or maybe even a serial entrepreneur, which I'm definitely not).

I want to test the following hypothesis: what if I could be already useful in this area without being a serial entrepreneur? Or at least I could prepare for that, and learn more...

Domain

This is very vague chapter. I don't have a clear boundaries here, from one domain I could like certain things, but not necessary like the entire domain, so it's hard to describe it precisely. Sometimes you learn more about something, and that becomes super interesting. I think I can advise on:

  • General software engineering.
  • System design, ML infrastructure, old-style computer vision, frontend/backend/mobile stacks, high performance computing, data processing pipelines, all sorts of databases - which stack to choose, how to scale the project, engineering practises etc.
  • Connecting with the right people maybe.
  • Maybe some sort of team structure, how to organise work and different processes, prioritise right goals.

Areas of interest - excited about applying tech for these areas, but of course not necessary an expert in them (I put random words that came to my mind first):

  • Ecology / biodiversity / agriculture - excited about using tech for these areas, and currently working on that myself at Google X (could be a conflict of interest if investing here).
  • In general climate tech, sustainability, wildlife biology, conservation.
  • Biotech/healthtech/medtech/longevity.
  • Health monitoring (Thriva, LetsGetChecked, Oura, InsideTracker - style).
  • Drug discovery / cancer research - would be cool to explore.
  • Tuberculosis classification by cough audio - that's a cool application of AI in health tech, I've seen startup like that, looking for others similar ones.
  • Space exploration / drones (e.g. cargo) / robotics - super exciting.
  • Geospatial data, satellite imagery processing, etc.
  • Education / sharing knowledge scale - I think this is extremely important.
  • Distributed systems, streaming databases, functional programming, dependant types (Idris) - not sure how to describe these things with one word, but if someone developing a new cool “infrastructure/language” solution like ksqlDB, idris, rescript, materialize, would be happy to know them and help.

If you know something similar to that, hit me up!

Next Steps

A few weeks ago I did my first angel investment, yay! (still in process) Happy to share more details about it later on!

I guess maybe it would be good to join other small angel investor syndicates, or create my own with friends. How do you think, is it better to be a part of an angel syndicate, or a solo angel investor?

I'm just starting this venture, and don't have any insides to share. So, I would be extremely happy to hear your ideas and experience with that!