Angel investor Laura Harnett explains how completing The Effective Angel Investor e-learning course has given her the tools to succeed on her journey

Author

UK Business Angels Association

16 December 2019

Laura HarnettFor those coming to angel investing for the first time, it can seem like a daunting proposition with lots to learn before you can get to grips with the industry. Early-stage investment is high-risk so it’s important to know what you’re doing, and understand the potential pit falls, before you make your first investment. That’s why we created and launched e-learning programme The Effective Angel Investor, bringing together 22 leading angel investors with combined market experience of over 50 years.

Laura Harnett is an angel investor who has completed the course and found it very helpful at the beginning of her journey. With a background in strategy consultancy for consumer and retail businesses, Laura began to dabble in angel investing as a hobby but soon realised it was something she felt passionate about.

“It was just a bit of a hobby and I would meet small businesses at various incubators. A few of them that I really liked, I would then continue to meet and chat to and I’d never really considered it to be something that I could do as part of a job where I could advise, work with and invest in start-ups.”

After hearing about the UKBAA e-learning course, Laura signed up to build on the foundations she’d already started on with her experience of angel investing. One of Laura’s core reasons for enrolling in the e-learning course was to demystify the world of angel investing. She explains:

“I had a good sound understanding of business because of what I did as a consultant; I knew what made a good business. However, I didn’t necessarily know what made a good small scale-up business. I also didn’t know the kind of steps you go through when you invest in a business. It was more the process rather than anything else. What are the steps? How do you do it? What was the tax relief? How does the business qualify for it? It was the real foundations of what it is to be a business angel and what to look out for that I found super useful. There’s some good podcasts and books out there as well but the first thing I ever did was the UKBAA course. That gave me my foundation.”

The e-learning course is divided up into modules and that approach is one that really worked for Laura. Talking about the format she shares:

“I loved the format because it was really easy to do bit-by-bit and there was loads of practical advice. Sarah Turner, from Angel Academe, was interviewed and at the end of the course it recommends that you contact an angel syndicate. It felt like the most obvious one for me was Angel Academe. Through that, I started going along to the events and made my first investment.”

“It definitely demystifies the process taking it from what can seem quite an elite mysterious thing to something that is actually accessible to many more people. It teaches you how to have angel investing as part of a balanced portfolio and how to manage your risk.”

Through doing the course, and becoming part of Angel Academe, Laura found that she felt more confident and better equipped to pursue angel investing. The mystique around it had been lifted and she was empowered to move along on her journey.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is how this whole new sector of the market is working. My background is in large corporates, big listed or private businesses. What I’ve learned is how this much smaller, more agile part of the market, which is growing so fast, works and operates. How do you spot a good one? How do you know if it’s well-run? How do they raise money? It’s demystified, not just for angel investing, but it’s demystified a lot of the scale-up tech community for me. I was always super interested and drawn to it, but I had no way of really understanding it and getting to grips with it on a hands-on basis. Now I understand how it works having gone through multiple deals and I think that brings me huge value, not just on the investing side, but then when I’m advising the larger corporates about how to move in a more agile way and how these scale-ups operate. It’s not just helping the investing side, it’s helping my other side – my advising side – as well.”

Before completing the course, Laura’s only real exposure to angel investing was through TV shows like Dragons’ Den. She found she couldn’t relate to the investors on there who were multi-millionaires with plenty of successful exits under their belts. Laura also hadn’t realised that becoming part of a syndicate could make angel investing possible for her and help mitigate the risks that come with it. Enthusing about the benefits of being part of a syndicate, Laura says:

“If I hadn’t found the syndicate, I wouldn’t have started angel investing. For me, it was a super supportive network of mostly women, but not all, who are really supportive and collaborative. Angel Academe gives you an hour’s mentoring from one of the more experienced angels when you join. They do very collaborative due diligence. Your first time you basically go along for the ride, you hear the discussions, you understand the pain points and where people are worried, and how they dig into it. The whole thing is just a fantastic learning experience that gives you the confidence to do it yourself. After doing that a few times and opting into one, and opting out of a couple of others, I then led one of the deals. You learn a lot about how to work with start-ups in running the due diligence processes and how you keep the angels on board and answer the questions collaboratively. It’s taught me a bunch of hard skills about how to assess a deal but also a bunch of softer skills as well.”

Feeling passionate about her angel investing journey and the skills she’s learned this past year, Laura wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the e-learning course to others.

“It definitely demystifies the process taking it from what can seem quite an elite mysterious thing to something that is actually accessible to many more people. It teaches you how to have angel investing as part of a balanced portfolio and how to manage your risk. Even if you don’t go into angel investing, I think it gives you a good understanding of that whole part of the market, which I think is a useful thing to know for anyone who is dealing with small scale-up businesses. The course gives you the confidence to be able to say, “right I know the fundamentals of how this works. I’m now going to go and apply what I know and learn even more when I join a syndicate’.”

With more and more women becoming angel investors, Laura has one piece of advice to share.

“Just to throw yourself into it. That doesn’t mean spend lots of your money, it means just go along with the learning experience. Immerse yourself in it and ask lots of questions so that you really understand it. There are also so many events you can go to to speed up your learning. See this as a learning experience.”

Want to learn more about angel investing? Enrol in our course The Effective Angel Investor at http://bizangels.thinkific.com.

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