The Angel Manifesto with Chris Adelsbach – part 1
At the 5th Mayor of London’s TechInvest Fintech event in September, Chris Adelsbach, UKBAA’s 2018-2019 Angel of the Year took the stage as keynote speaker to discuss his experiences as an Angel and mentor in the Fintech space. In his talk, Chris spoke of his successes in backing over 50 startups, what he looks for in a founding team and most importantly his strong belief in the value of mentoring founders. Mentoring through lending his insights and expertise, mentoring by operating with empathy and consideration, and ultimately mentoring with an ethos of always giving to the founder first. It was in this talk that Chris introduced his Angel Manifesto where he outlined the very obvious, but the often overlooked role of an angel investor to always be a strong guiding force to the entrepreneurs that you back. The statement may seem simple to grasp, but to unpick this 5 point manifesto, we sat down with Chris to understand firstly the background behind this inspiring initiative and secondly the actions that need to be taken to fulfil this goal.
Before we delve into the details of the Angel Manifesto, we’d like to introduce this multi-part UKBAA Blog as an ongoing series, wherein you’ll hear from Chris monthly as he establishes each point of his manifesto with our UKBAA community. Chris will take the time to elaborate on his thoughts and provide insights into how all angels can put into place some if not all of his manifesto.
“Working with TechStars is like joining the priesthood – you do it for good. A higher calling”
The Angel Manifesto: Many angels aren’t mentors. Many angels don’t know what it means to be a good mentor.
This statement is the core of Chris’ Angel Manifesto. It is simple, clear, and to the point, but hits home with what many entrepreneurs are seeking in order to grow their business. To be successful founders need guidance, nurturing, a little tough love and a lot of time to have their ideas heard and supported. In speaking with Chris, he told us of his own journey as a founder with his first business in which, despite being rapidly successful, didn’t take on any angel investors and therefore, never had mentors behind the founding team. This experience played a huge role in developing the Chris’ feelings towards the need for the role of “angel investor” to be synonymous with mentor. Chris states that he is well aware of the amount of time required to be a confidant, a guide, an advisor to founders, but this is the intrinsically unique part of angel investing, the opportunity to offer advice when asked and be a part of an evolving journey.
So let’s get to the main event, the Angel Manifesto itself. Chris breaks this down into 5 points, each of which will be introduced in this post but will be explained in further detail in the throughout this UKBAA Blog series.
Point 1: Remember you’re an angel, have empathy, running a startup is hard.
Being a founder is a life of uncertainty made up of highs and lows, stresses and successes, and a little empathy can go a long way. Chris states that there is a high level of anxiety and depression that is often brushed under the rug in the entrepreneur community, and creating an environment that allows for authenticity can reveal some of the strongest founders. He went on to note that most founders feel that they can’t reveal their perceived weaknesses for fear of not being investable, and in turn strive for perfection, which can be an unnecessary uphill battle. Chris believes that vulnerability can reveal a high level of trustworthiness and actually make a founder more investable. On the flip side, the white picket fence notion of the entrepreneur life with a pristine pitch deck and an immaculately perfect update report can be a tall tale of cracks in the foundation, and in turn make a founder less investable. If you are an angel that has empathy and see someone as a real person, you have an opportunity to be heard and have your guidance received, absorbed and put into action.
“Working at TechStars,” Chris states, “is like joining the priesthood. You do it for good – a higher calling”. This statement really hit Chris’ first Manifesto point home because meeting with founders that you genuinely have a connection with andan interest in shouldn’t be a chore. Daily, Chris finds himself in face-to-face meetings with entrepreneurs and while at times the conversations can vary from fun and easy going to difficult and necessary, they are key to your journey as an angel. What we need to remember as angel investorsis we hold this role for a reason, we have weathered a great many storms in our time and can use those experiences to shape a founding teams’ success.
This leads us to introducing the next points in the Angel Manifesto.
Point 2: Provide specific, actionable advice. But guide, don’t control.
Point 3: Clearly commit to invest or not. Either is fine, just remember to value the founder’s time.
Point 4: Hold information in confidence.
Point 5: Communicate with other mentors and angels. Get involved. Use your network.
We, along with Chris ask you as the UKBAA angel community to help us put into action the key points of the Angel Manifesto as we continue to explore them in the coming months. Our start-up and early-stage community is growing and evolving, and in the uncertainty of the post-Brexityear ahead, help from angels will not go unnoticed. So, join us next month to hear from Chris as we delve into Point 2 of the Angel Manifesto in further detail, and until then we welcome any thoughts and inputs on this!
For your inputs email firstname.lastname@example.org