When I arrived at that meeting with my angel colleagues, I was feeling somehow curious but also a little bit sceptical. We were supposed to evaluate three startup pitches and later watch a presentation from one of the portfolio startups. I was not feeling very confident about this last part of the plan. Was it possible that the angels remember what exactly the company does, among so many other companies in the portfolio? How could the angels be of some help for that startup? Could we be of any value in the remaining 30 minutes saved for discussion?
The first part of the meeting went well, nothing different from what I expected. We were almost 20 angels, asking questions, trying to understand the founders' plans for those businesses and the potential we could unlock together.
Then came our startup presentation. We had decided to invest in them one year before. They were moving, but they had some focus issues. They were not growing as fast as everybody expected — business as usual. The angels’ questions made it apparent that half of the audience were not familiar with what the company was doing, at least not enough to create a deeper discussion about the strategy, the market approach and priorities. It was going just like how I thought it would go until someone in the audience started asking the founder completely different questions. It was like he was simultaneously confirming information and stimulating the founder to bring new data to the angels. He asked the founder to explain the case of that particular customer. He also reminded him to describe how the team organised themselves to reduce the set-up time and why he decided to change the approach in the B2B segment.
This person brought a whole new perspective to the discussion, and slowly the angels started to understand the points the founder was trying to make.
Best of all, the angels could offer concrete help by not only bringing new ideas to the table but also providing key contacts that would help the founder with the challenges.
“This man is part of the team”, I thought. I was pretty sure that the founder had been smart enough to bring this person who looked like an advisor or could be part of the team or even a previous investor, to make this bridge between the founder’s mindset and the angels' mindset.
I was wrong. He was one of the business angels but for that startup, a special one. He was the Archangel of that startup.
In COREangels, we believe that working closely with the startups is key to improving the portfolio results. One of the ways of creating this closeness is having this particular angel, whom we call Archangel. Archangel is a business angel who keeps a close relationship with the founders of one startup and constantly communicates the progress with other angels of the group.
The more angels and the more diverse profile of angels we have in a group, the higher are the chances of better supporting the startup with connections and experience. If we are not close to the founders, we won’t know HOW to help or WHEN to help.
The Archangel plays this unique role, keeping regular communication with the founders, discussing the business, and interacting with the rest of the angels. Having an archangel makes the relationship more efficient since founders won’t need to be explaining the same thing again and again. It makes things more empathic since having someone putting their feet in the shoes of the founder makes a big difference. This also makes the support more effective since when it comes to requesting specific help, activating the personal and professional network of angels, understanding when there is nothing to do except letting the startup work can happen more smoothly.
My own experience as an Archangel has shown me that if we are all aligned with the same goals, it is just a matter of spending some time to dive into the business, promote frank conversations and demonstrate interest not only for the business but also for the human beings that are running it. Sometimes we give a little push, raising the issues, concerns, and expectations. Other times, we need to tell the angels that “well, the team is working, they have a good plan, let’s be here for them, and in a couple of weeks, we talk again.”
Being an Archangel is a volunteer activity, but it pays off - not only because it increases the chances of better returns for the group but also because it is a pleasure to observe and participate a little bit in the journey of these amazing people.