In our weekly Insights from Angel Investors series we get into the minds of the top angel investors to help you learn how to activate your network, where to start, and rookie errors to avoid.
Growing up with older siblings and a twin sister, who were all into tech, Nkechi always had an interest in venture capital and technology. Her older brother had been working in VC for a few years and she was naturally intrigued about what he was doing, and so she gravitated towards VC.
She started doing tech internships in her sophomore year at college as well as starting her own blog, just when the tech industry was becoming mainstream. Nkechi would interview early stage founders who she believed were building something interesting and share her findings via her blog. From there, she began to build an audience and network for herself.
Unexpectedly, she became an unofficial scout for many VCs. Nkechi would connect with founders, collect their pitch decks and then pass them along to the VCs she was connected with. Soon, she realized that her passion lied within early stage venture, and eventually landed her first VC gig at fintech-focused fund called Anthemis.
Now as a VC turn Operator, Nkechi writes small checks on the side, mostly into pre-seed and seed stage companies
My first introduction to angel investing was through crowdfunding. I used platforms like Republic and Wefunder to make $100 investments. A few years ago, crowdfunding wasn’t considered a form of angel investing as is today. But for me, that was the first time I’d ever put my own capital into something with that level of risk. The first investment I made on that platform was into a company called Beacons.
I put a small amount money into the company and a few months later, they had announced their seed round was being led by Andreessen Horowitz. That was a sign that maybe this was something I could be doing in the long run.
My first ‘direct’ angel investment was into a company called Firstbase. Firstbase is basically an all-in-one business OS for early stage founders & companies. When I first invested, Firstbase had only one product, which was an incorporation tool for companies. Since then they’ve launched a several different products/features, all geared towards serving early stage companies.
This was one of the earliest investments I've ever made and since then they've done extremely well. It's always good to look back at some of those early investments and to know that they're paying off.
That's a really good question, and I've never spoken about this publicly before, but I would say, like, close to 90% of the companies that I talk to and or invest in are me doing a lot of outbound work. It's not like I don't accept warm intros from other investors, but I already know what I like and the type of founders I tend to look at.
For me, when it comes to outbound and inbound, I'm not afraid of receiving or going after what I think is interesting. I think most investors don’t do that. They tend to rely on their networks, and I believe what ends up happening is that they miss out on the really good deals that aren’t so obvious.
Let’s start off with the things I don’t invest in. I don't particularly like investing in hardware or CPG - or anything that can be really hard to build at scale and/or that I don’t understand. As an investor, it’s important to understand what you’re putting your money into. So if don’t understand what a company/product is doing...I’m not sure how I can be helpful.
Yes, I’m would say I’m generalist with a focus on the ‘cloud stack’ (i.e SaaS, PaaS, APIs, etc.)
It's definitely changed over time. In the beginning, I was a bit hesitant and I didn’t know what my ‘value-add’ was. Since I’ve grown in my career, I’ve just tried to stick to my guns and do what I do best, which is connecting people. There’s a bit of network effect in the sense that the founders I partner with are able to leverage my network as it continues to grow.
It's a company called Nuon. Basically what they're doing is enabling any B2B SaaS vendor to deploy & run their application into their customer’s cloud account. We’re starting to see this new hybrid approach to cloud architecture where a SaaS application is split into code and data. The SaaS vendor writes, updates, and maintains the code. And the customer manages the data in their own cloud infrastructure. In other words, Nuon gives customers the control and ownership of self-hosted, while giving the vendor control over the product experience.
Figma. I think they did a great job unbundling Adobe XD and redefining what collaboration looks like for the future of work.
No. I don’t believe in claiming ‘wins’ via markups. There are tons companies that have reached Series B+ or unicorn status that I don’t believe are great businesses. The feedback loop in venture is so long that it sounds crazy for me to be like ‘I missed out on this company’ that’s doing less than $10m ARR.
I've been really impressed with CRV. I think they do a really good job of sourcing really great companies, and I've thoroughly enjoyed conversations with folks over there.
My friend Josh Schlisserman runs his own fund called Picks ad Shovels, which invests in companies building the infrastructure behind a lot of the software companies we see today. He’s really great a sourcing very interesting companies and founders.
I really like looking for companies that are democratizing access to the financial markets - PIN for instance. What I really like about what you guys are doing is that you're allowing multiple people to invest and participate in the private markets in ways that maybe they didn't have access to before.With many other platforms, you still need to be accredited, but with PIN, you can get involved investing via your community. I've always thought that was just a brilliant idea. And I want to see more companies like PIN out there.
Just do it. I know it sounds really cliché, but there are so many different avenues that you can go down. You can go down the crowdfunding route, you can go down the syndicate route, you can go down the PIN route, you can invest in funds. Just do it in some capacity.Make a list of companies that you've met with and reach out to founders and then put it out there publicly that this is a company you would invest in if you had money. If you do that consistently you will build an angel portfolio for yourself.
No so much a specific phrase but more like the idea that VC money is the right money for you as a founder. I think VC is such a unique model that comes with a specific agenda that doesn’t fit every founder. Most founders aren’t trying to build a billion dollar business. And for VC’s that’s the magic number if not more. So if fall into that bucket where that’s not your goal, VC’s are not the best route for you.
Connect with Nkechi over here.