June 1, 2006

Being an Angel without an Investment

Entrepreneurs searching for funding need more than money; they need guidance. Excitement about a business idea can make some entrepreneurs blind to the roadblocks and shortcomings in a plan. As an experienced investor you have the ability to guide an entrepreneur to success without investing a penny. You can be a mentor.

What makes you an ideal mentor?

  • Knowledge of the Business World

You have first-hand knowledge of what it takes to succeed in business. Freely offer this advice to those who could benefit from your knowledge. An entrepreneur may have an incredible business idea, but they may lack the business knowledge that you abundantly possess.

  • Contacts/Connections

Access to your contacts and connections can also assist an entrepreneur. In Tim Sanders book, Love is the Killer App, he explains that in business sharing your knowledge and network is critically to success. “Relationships are the nodes in our individual network that constitute the promise of our bizlife and serve as a predictor of our success.” You have the ability to provide these critical links.

  • Experience with other Entrepreneurs and Investors

You are in a unique position. You have seen what makes an entrepreneur successful and what doesn’t. The advice you provide may prove to be the tipping point in the business life of an entrepreneur. Why? Because you know what other angel investors are looking for. You have the ability to open the eyes of an entrepreneur allowing them to see like an investor. With this knowledge an entrepreneur can take a business plan from average to extraordinary.

You may be asking yourself? Why should I offer my advice to an entrepreneur who I am not sure I want to invest in? The answer: better deal flow. If you mentor ambitious entrepreneurs your access to supreme deal flow will increase. Collaborating with entrepreneurs provides opportunities to see many different types of deals allowing you to pick which investments suit your taste. You will have access to more solid connections which can lead you to the most advantageous deals. In addition, the good Karma flowing in your direction may help you in landing your next big deal.

Some of you may be hesitant to offer advice/guidance to entrepreneurs. You may think an entrepreneur will take advantage of the opportunity taking interest in the money not your advice. To avoid this, be upfront with the entrepreneur. Explain that you are willing to help them with their business plan, but at this time you are not interested in investing; you are merely trying to help them put their best foot forward. If the entrepreneur understands this from the beginning, they will not be disappointed when you choose not to fund the plan. Who knows maybe after working with the entrepreneur and helping them along, the business plan may be more appealing and you may decide to invest.

Mentors: The Secret to Your Company’s Success

Running a start-up often feels like a lonely one-man voyage, but it doesn’t have to be. There are willing mentors who can help you along the way — people who can point you in the right direction and focus your efforts. Following the guidance and advice from angel investors and successful entrepreneurs can mean the difference between success and disappointment.

Angel Investors

It is not coincidental that these investors are called angels. Because of the success many angel investors have experienced, it is easy to forget many of them were entrepreneurs just like you. Angel investors can provide you with additional contacts or connections, critique a business plan, or provide glimpses into the investment world.

However, if an angel investor is willing to provide advice this does not mean they are going to invest. We suggest you approach angel investors with the sole purpose of receiving advice and feedback rather than funding. If you approach the situation in such a way, investors will be more inclined to provide you with guidance you need. Angels who have played a role in building your company are much more likely to invest when the time is right, especially when the entrepreneur has demonstrated humility and teachability.

Successful Entrepreneurs

There are successful businessmen who have traveled the same path you are traveling. They faced the same challenges and struggled with the same issues you currently face. Many company leaders willingly discuss their road to success. Take advantage of this! Go to business lunches and events where experienced entrepreneurs will be speaking or set up a time to meet with them. Again, it is important to maintain the attitude that you are genuinely looking for advice rather than merely using them as a stepping stool to obtain funding. Follow their advice and the funding will come.

To summarize:

Benefits of having a mentor:

  • Business plan advice
  • Pitching tips
  • Contacts/connections
  • Business experience
  • Provide realistic expectations
  • Tips and hints about industry, market and competition
  • Standards for particular industry
  • Life lessons

Good luck!