Invest in Moonicorns: Making good decisions as angel investor

Angel investing is a complex and challenging endeavor but can also be incredibly rewarding. For those passionate about innovation and with a knack for spotting the next big thing, angel investing can be a great way to make a difference in the world and potentially reap significant financial gains.

At the Invest in Moonicorns event, a panel of experienced angel investors and other professionals shared their insights on making sound investment decisions for your portfolio. Let’s delve right into the essence of insights shared by:

Alex Burciu, Angel Investor at Growceanu

Mihai Guran, Angel Investor at Growceanu

Robert Hescovici, from GapMinder Venture Partners

Dan Calugareanu, Partner at Early Game Ventures

Ileana Glodeanu, Partner at  WolfTheiss

Alexandra Jivan Partner at Legal For

Catching Investors’ Attention in 5 Minutes

During brief pitch sessions, the panel explored the challenges and opportunities of evaluating startups. While some panelists acknowledged the limitations of forming a comprehensive assessment in just five minutes, others emphasized capturing key elements that spark initial interest. 

Mihai mentioned the ability to discern the team dynamics and energy that drive a startup. He emphasized that follow-up discussions are essential for a deeper understanding of the company's potential. 

Alex suggested that five minutes satisfy an investor's curiosity and establish the focus for subsequent conversations. 

Dan expressed the need for more in-depth exploration beyond the pitch. He highlighted the importance of understanding the idea's genesis, the founder's motivations, and the underlying value proposition. 

Alexandra maintained that five minutes can effectively convey the essence of a company and its product. She advocated for concise, well-structured pitches that deliver a clear message to potential investors. 

Robert emphasized the importance of simplicity, akin to a first date or a hiring interview. He suggested avoiding overcomplicating the pitch and focusing on the core elements that resonate with investors.

Investing with the Right Ingredients

When asked about the top three factors influencing their investment decisions, panelists unanimously agreed that the team, the idea, and the potential for scalability are essential.

The Importance of a Strong Team

Unanimously, the panelists emphasized the team as a critical factor. Ileana, Mihai, Dan, and Robert pointed to the team's composition and capabilities as primary indicators of a startup's potential. Mihai specifically advised against single-founder startups, suggesting that a well-rounded team is more likely to succeed. This emphasis on team strength underlines the belief that a good team can navigate challenges and pivot as needed, which is crucial for startup success.

The Business Essentials: Idea, Execution, and Value Proposition

Ileana highlighted the necessity of a unique idea and its scalability potential. Similarly, Alex and Dan focused on the startup's core - its value proposition and the founder's ability to execute. Alex's criteria of resilience and addressing frequent, significant problems ("pain killers") points to the importance of a startup's relevance and impact. Dan's emphasis on understanding differentiators and global ambition speaks to the need for a startup to stand out in a crowded market.

Market Potential and Technological Sophistication

Most of the panelists pointed to broader market and technical considerations. Mihai looked for global potential, while Robert stressed the technological sophistication of the product and the team's ambition. These insights suggest that investors are looking for startups with a solid product or service and the potential to significantly impact globally.

The Community and Peer Opinion

Alexandra brought a unique perspective, highlighting the role of peer opinions and a collaborative feeling in the investment decision. This approach acknowledges that investing isn't done in isolation and that the wisdom of the investor community can be invaluable. It also reflects a more collaborative approach to venture investing, where shared insights and experiences are crucial.

Traction and Real-World Impact

Finally, Robert's mention of traction as a critical ingredient underlines the importance of real-world impact and progress. Traction is tangible proof that a startup is gaining momentum and can capture market interest.

What Does the Perfect Exit Look Like?

The exit strategy is a critical component of the investment process.

The panel concluded with a discussion on the ideal exit scenario for investors, exploring the different paths to realizing investment returns.

Diverse Exit Strategies

Robert considers a straightforward acquisition or Initial Public Offering (IPO) the ideal exit scenario. These methods are often seen as "clean" exits, providing a clear end-point for the investment. Dan expresses satisfaction with significant returns, such as 5x to 10x or achieving unicorn status. He also notes the importance of the industry vertical and strategic partners' role in facilitating an IPO. Alex advises on the importance of modeling the portfolio to anticipate potential exit values, indicating a more analytical approach to exit planning.

Timing and Expectation Management

Alexandra cautions that exits can be time-consuming and unpredictable, highlighting the importance of being prepared for various scenarios rather than expecting a guaranteed timely exit. Mihai points out that angel investors can wait for the right timing, suggesting a timeline of 5 to 10 years. This perspective reflects the patience required in the investment world, where rushing to an exit can sometimes mean missing out on more significant returns.

Market Realities and Learning from Experiences

Ileana notes that acquisitions are more common than exits in specific markets, like Romania. She emphasizes the uniqueness of each transaction and the importance of understanding market-specific dynamics. Alexandra and Mihai underscore the value of acting quickly and learning from experiences. For instance, the Bright Spaces and TypingDNA cases illustrate the need to be decisive and adaptive.

The Importance of the Right Opportunity

The panelists also discussed the significance of recognizing and seizing the right opportunity. Robert aptly noted, "It’s not Pokemon; you don’t have to catch them all," implying that not every investment needs to lead to an exit. This mindset encourages investors to be selective and strategic in their decisions.

The Role of Learning and Adaptation

Learning from missed opportunities and mistakes was another theme. Ileana and Mihai emphasized the importance of learning from every investment, whether it leads to a successful exit. This approach fosters continuous improvement and better decision-making in future investments.

Keep an eye on our blog, and stay tuned for more insights and lessons learned at our Invest in Moonicorns conference.