I never really planned to start angel investing. In fact, I fell into it entirely by accident back in 2015.
I was meeting with Sarah LaFleur, the founder of MM.LaFleur, for an entirely different reason. But she started telling me about her business, and she mentioned she had a little money left in a round she was closing. I was so impressed by her vision, her company, and her personality that a thought instantly came over me.
I asked her, "Can I invest the last amount?"
Since then, I've invested in four other startups with female founders. And the odd thing is, the actual products themselves--as impressive as they are--are not what got me to invest.
The founders were the catalysts for my decisions.
A great startup needs to have a great product, marketing, and branding--that's a given. But when you're trying to attract investors to your early-stage venture, the founder is the most important aspect going into their decision.
Here's how to be the type of founder angel investors can't ignore:
Be an advocate by embodying your company.
If you aren't a passionate advocate of your company, nobody will want to invest in it. That's because your original idea is going to morph over time. At some point, your company will pivot. The constant in the equation is you and your passion for the business.
Most entrepreneurs exude energy, and everyone has their unique way of doing it.
But I think true energy comes from having confidence in what you're talking about and knowing exactly what you're pitching--understanding the business, the market, the metrics. Feeling confident you have the answers to whatever questions get thrown at you.
Having that level of confidence goes hand-in-hand with energy and passion. It also means the founder is going be able to inspire and hire the right team.
As you meet people and pitch your idea, remember: the founder is the company, and the company is the founder. There is no difference between the two. Your energy and excitement about what you're creating are crucial to bringing others on board.
Build your network because warm relationships are better than cold contacts.
There's not one person on earth who'd rather call a stranger than a friend when they need a favor. At its core, attracting funding is really no different than asking for help to move a couch. Tapping into your network instead of cold calling someone is always more effective.
My advice to young entrepreneurs is always the same--every relationship matters.
Someone you met in an entry-level job can open doors for you years down the road. On the other hand, bridges you've burned can come back to haunt you.
Investors won't just hand anyone a check. They will go back and talk to all the people you've worked with over your career. They're going to learn everything about you, good and bad.
Unfortunately, most people tend to think in a very linear manner. They're concerned with whether or not they like someone in a given moment. They forget that life is a long ride, and everybody knows everybody, especially in Silicon Valley.
All the interactions you have matter, because taken as a whole, they make up your network. And being conscious of your attitude toward your network may help determine your future funding.
Be prepared, and be respectful of people's time.
When you do connect with someone, be a force. Be smart, quick, enthusiastic.
Everyone is busy and that goes double for any potential angel investor you meet. If someone only has 30 minutes, you have to respect that, and then be concise and tight with your messaging. Be aware of your audience and what they actually need to hear from you.
In these types of meetings, less really is more.
Meika Hollender, the CEO of Sustain Natural, embodied this perfectly in her interactions with me. She came up to me at an investor event and told me point blank, "I'd love for you to invest. I'm a huge fan of what you're doing." She then followed up, and lo and behold, I invested in her company.
I met her that night, saw her pitch, talked to her for 15 minutes, and was asked to invest. She didn't waste my time, and she had the confidence and enthusiasm that every investor is looking for from a founder.
Whether or not your startup gets funded will eventually come down to you as the founder. If you can embrace that reality, you'll have a much better chance of convincing people to support your company.