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9 Ways to Grow your Angel Investment Community

During Angel Summit Europe, we held an invite-only workshop for startup community leaders from throughout Spain and across the EU region. Over the course of 90 minutes, we brainstormed ways startup communities might collaborate to grow their local angel communities. As one of the workshop facilitators, Gus Moreno, asked, “How can we increase the visibility of our success stories to potential investors on the sideline?” This question was, of course, met with much discussion around the challenges and frustrations startup ecosystems face (we’ll profile these in another post). But there were also a number of great ideas that might help solve some of the challenges facing your investment community. We hope you’ll try a few:

  • A new take on angel groups. Most angel groups have limited impact on their communities. Whether it’s groupthink or a herd mentality, these clubs tend to be quite inactive for their size: they make noise but don’t write checks. The savvy startups often raise their rounds from individual investors rather than via groups…yes, it’s that bad. So one group of community leaders called for a new take on Angel Groups — something that makes it cool to be an angel, cool to be accessible to entrepreneurs, and cool to take some risks.

  • Get corporate executives involved with your startup community. Over time, they might become angels. The general consensus was to start by bringing them into local startup events (one Startup Weekend facilitator just went to a corporation’s headquarters with some Startup Weekend t-shirts and managed to get a sit-down meeting with an executive as a result). Get the executives to invest their time and they might just get hooked. So for your next Startup Weekend or hackathon, reach out to a corporate executive and ask them to mentor, sponsor, host the event in house, or ‘give permission’ to their employees to attend and think creatively.

  • Engage a startup investment platform that covers your geographic area. Platforms like SociosInversores and StartupXplore can act as referees that help mediate between the angel investor and entrepreneur. As a community leader, you should understand these platforms and figure out ways to get them more involved with your community. Now yes, there are many of these platforms. Thankfully, Startup Angels is putting together a resource list of all them to help you navigate. We’ll let you know once it’s live.

  • Engage business leaders who work in your industry. Find the executives in traditional industry that might be able to offer insights for your company. A lot of these executives are bored…they’ve been in their career for 20 years. Hanging out with a founder might be the most exciting thing they do all year. So take them to coffee, explain your business concept to them, and ask for feedback, contacts, or honest advice. You might find they’re also willing to give you money.

  • Find a way to hold an “angel school” where aspiring investors can come and learn about startups and angel investing. Groups like Womena have done a great job at bringing together women to educate each other on startup investing. Note that they’re doing this in the Middle East, which makes them even more awesome. We need more of this. You have other actors too: 500 Startups recently held a two week program in Silicon Valley, and of course Startup Angels holds these workshops around the world.

  • Investor speed dating. It’s like normal speed dating, but instead of saying what you like to eat and why you love cats, you have two minutes to give an investor your startup pitch before you switch tables. If an investor likes you, they’ll have a chance to connect with you later after the speed dating ends.

  • Awards. Bring your startup community together to give out awards and recognition to the angel investors you respect most. Who best embodies what you think an angel should be? Figure it out — you might inspire others in your city to follow suit. Plus you should be able to get a lot of press coverage on this from your local newspapers and business journals.

  • Hack weekends, with investment dollars at stake. Have people (possibly investors?) submit problems they’re having to the hackathon. Teams can then present possible solutions and compete. If you want to host this in your community, you might want to team up with IdeaMarket as they’re doing this online.

  • Help corporations tell their investment story. Work with Corporate Venture Capital funds (CVC) to help them explain what they’re doing to the rest of their company. Often times, large companies do a terrible job of educating their employees about why they invest in startups. But this is a tremendous opportunity to bring inject cultural innovation, if done correctly. So find the managers of a local CVC and work with them to produce a series of articles and videos aimed at their internal workforce. The end result is you might capture the attention of some wealthy executives who want to become angels.

If you’re a community leader reading this, we hope you’ll try a few of these ideas. Tap another community leader or three to help you put some of these initiatives in motion. Of course, please reach out to Startup Angels if you’d like our help or advice on implementing any of these ideas or ideas of your own.

Before we leave you, we’d like to add a 10th point of advice, as it’s an issue we’ve seen in startup ecosystems around the world: smooth investor handoffs. Time and again, a new investor comes into contact with one aspect of their startup community. Maybe they attend a demo day or a Startup Weekend, or they write check to their first startup. But it ends there. The community leader or founder lets that lead run dry and this potential angel doesn’t know where to head next. This is a huge issue.

So for all our startup community leaders out there, when you meet a potential investor, pay it forward and ensure you “hand them off” to another startup community leader. Keep this investor engaged. Keep her attending more events and exploring more parts of the community. Grow their excitement and you’ll convert these aspiring angels into perennial anchors of your startup ecosystem.