The traditional image of an angel investor is a former founder, with a multimillion-dollar exit behind them, or a wealthy individual with a large personal fortune who can afford to embrace risk as an independent.
But there is room in investing for smaller-scale crowd funders, investment squads, and individuals to back companies they love as micro-angels. People who have enough cash flow to back ideas with a four-figure check and become a thriving part of a startup's journey.
This is particularly relevant for marginalized founders, founders of color, and queer/trans entrepreneurs-- people like me. I've been growing my own startup and creative studio since 2019, and my passion for entrepreneurship has grown alongside it. I've built that studio without outside investment; I've had no choice.
We face massive hurdles to gaining traditional funding that can prevent us from using the standard route to build and scale a business; we don't have connections to venture capital funds. But we might have a much stronger network of individuals able to invest as micro angels.
There are thousands of investors who put in small $1,000 checks; it's not a new concept, and you can see it happening in every single startup ecosystem, whether it's in Sydney, Australia or Silicon Valley.
My own journey into startup investing has been difficult, to say the least. I don't come from a finance background. I don't come from privilege. I don't come from money. I'm one of the only transgender angel investors in the world, and I've built that my own way.
I haven't let a lack of access to mainstream capital stand in my way. My job isn't to put the biggest check into any round. My job is to find founders I love, founders I believe in, provide the funding I have access to, and back that up.
As a Microangel, I Invest Mostly $1,000 to $5,000 Checks.
With that, comes my network, my communication expertise, guidance, and my investor relations work.
What I bring to the table is extremely valuable, and I know it. Once I've written a check, I'm incredibly involved. Not dragging founders' attention away from their work, but actively being a part of that work. I work with founders on their communications and PR and offer the full weight of my own consulting firm. I guide their messaging and take part in the real-world growth and success of their vision.
It goes well beyond throwing money at a startup and pretending that it's lost money; it's about recognizing that the chance of the investment paying off is slim to none, but that my personal belief in the company's mission is meaningful and it requires blood, sweat and-- if not tears-- time.
Why Become a Microangel?
We exist in an ecosystem that prides itself on seeing opportunities yet consistently fails to respond to statistical and systematic inequalities within its ranks. That's my somewhat indignant way of saying: only 10 percent of all startup investment goes to women, and an estimated 1 percent goes to founders who are black, while 37 percent of queer founders have not felt comfortable disclosing their identities to their investors and the ones who have, have raised over 10 percent less funding, and the statistics around transgender people in the startup ecosystem very simply do not exist.
That data shows that there are vast numbers of us who are outsiders.
And when you have that data it becomes impossible to ignore the cold reality that we are not backing and we are not funding and we are not supporting folks who don't look, act and talk like the Silicon Valley cliche; a white dude in a hoodie. When you have that data, you have to recognize the potential risks of missing out on the next brilliant idea, simply because we aren't listening to folks who are far enough removed from the bubble of homogeneity to recognize a path to it.
We are done waiting for the gatekeepers. We are done waiting for permission.
Permission isn't coming. Permission isn't happening. Nobody, as it turns out, is going to pull up and announce that they will actively and tangibly back a transgender woman in tech. But that isn't my approach, and it isn't my style to wait for that to happen. I've never played that game, and I don't intend to start now. I don't look at being transgender as being a liability, a flaw, an obstacle, a hurdle or a challenge. I see it as my competitive edge, the one thing that shapes my creativity and my perspective in ways that differentiate me in a sea of similar faces. Being trans, and being an outsider means I don't have the blind spots that other folks in the ecosystem work with. I can see untapped opportunities, because I am an untapped opportunity.
I have begun working with promising founders -- founders who also lack the insider background of their peers -- who are creating technology products and platforms that I believe in. I have begun working with teams raising millions, communicating what they do, and helping to design their pitch and find their investors.
Want to be a Microangel?
Start as small as you want. Start as small as you can.
Set a goal of putting in a $1,000 investment into a startup idea that you love, within the next 12 months. One path to do that is through an equity crowdfunding campaign, via platforms like Birchal, Equitise or VentureCrowd.
You don't have to be a giant of finance to make this happen, and you can become a part of companies that will shape the future.