AG ThIS

TAG ThIS

TAG ThIS

Wind beneath their wings

enTrepreneurs

seT To MeeT Their Angels
iT is noT enough To hAve A good ideA. WhAT good ideAs need To MAke ThAT leAp froM Mind To MATTer is A solid pAir of Wings. Angels den does jusT ThAT.

s

by vani sarasWat hi
tarted in the UK in 1997, it connects entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SME) that are in need of a boost to high net worth individuals (HNWI) who are willing to invest in them. Angels Den is now active outside of UK in Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore, and operates across the world via its website. It makes its Middle East debut in Qatar this month. There are around 4,800 Angels across the world-growing at 120 per month, and over 16,000 business owners have registered with the agency so far. Qatar Today speaks to Bill Morrow, Co-founder of Angels Den, to understand how the network functions, and why Qatar was chosen as the next stop, before USA and Canada (to be launched later this year). When you started off, as an entrepreneur, what was your greatest challenge? How does Angels Den address that? My biggest challenge was finding those who I needed to help me. The first stage of the entrepreneurial journey is often realising that you cannot do it all yourself. Angels’ Den helps make

october 2011

QATAR TODAy 59
9/28/11 7:32:37 PM

QT-Oct_2011.indd 59

TAG ThIS

TAG ThIS
panies to invest in, HNWIs find it hard to find GOOD companies to invest in. On average we reject 93% of those who apply to join us and THIS is the reason Angels join us, as we maximise their minimal resource – Time. We have seen that Qataris are keen to invest in their country and are very keen to see those earlier stage companies being given help, not to make the mistakes that they themselves have made. Often it is this mentoring and advice that is AS valuable as the money. Connections and family are paramount in Qatar. How does the mentoring work? We find that across the world, nothing concentrates the mind more than putting your own money into a deal. Often more established business owners can help a young company with support, direct advice on business models, contacts and data. This is just as valuable as the money to most growing businesses, who otherwise would be destined to perpetuate the mistakes others have made before. Do you think the concept of ‘angel investor’ will appeal to Qataris? A lot of them run family businesses, and may want to pump any surpluses back into their own company. The dirty little secret of angel investing is that the Angels do not primarily invest for the returns. They invest to give back to the community and help others. Qatari society has been built, and is based on these principles. We have been welcomed with open arms, much as we have in Hong Kong, where a similar family bond exists. We thrive in cultures that are not just concerned about squeezing a monetary profit out of every deal. There is a strong family bond in Qatar and we have seen that this extends to helping those who need the capital to expand and the advice to grow. Not only does this help the Angel, but also Qatar. The Qatari Government recognises that a strong enterprise culture of small growth companies drives the economies of most non-oil dependant states and has stated that it is keen to replicate this model; we see Angels’ Den as contributing to this vision. What kind of initial interest have you received from here? Phenomenal interest from both sides. About 27 Angels registered with us in our first week and our first clinics, where we meet with business owners and give them free advice on how to maximise their chances of finding funding, are filling up. Web traffic, from across the world, with an interest in our Qatar region, is growing daily. Would you be able to share the names of some prominent Angel investors? I cannot name individuals as confidentiality is key to our business, from both sides. Most Angels do not want to make it known that they are active investors as their mail boxes would be inundated. We are now

TAG ThIS

If IT’S A QATARI SEEkING fUNDING – whO wON’T NEED A SPONSOR – ThEN MATChING wITh AN ANGEL INvESTOR wILL DOUBTLESS INCLUDE BOTh PARTIES ‘ChECkING OUT EACh OThER’S fAMILy’.

bill morrow, co-founder of angels den

an imperfect market slightly more perfect. There are a great many people looking for cash and a great many with money and experience who cannot find good deals. We help both sides find each other. Why choose Qatar? Investments and funding is not a big issue for Qatari investors... or so it seems. Qatar has a burgeoning enterprise community and whilst there is no shortage of capital and a lot of com-

60 QATAR TODAy
QT-Oct_2011.indd 60

october 2011

9/28/11 7:32:39 PM

AG ThIS
the largest player in Europe and Asia, so we attract most of the serious Angels who want to invest in the best deals and who do not have time to meet with them all. Are there similar networks in the region? Dubai has a few small networks, but most are run as social clubs for the Angels. We attract HNWIs who want to make a difference and NOT just be seen as part of a group; who want to invest not just their money but also give their experience and time to help those further down the trail. Do you see yourself collaborating with existing incubators or funding agencies? Absolutely, across the world we help set up incubators and support numerous programs. What we have is invaluable experience not necessarily about how to run their business but WHAT Angels look for and HOW to present yourself. Is this open to only nationals, or will expatriates will be included as well? We welcome all business owners keen to help drive the economy of Qatar. Business owners from all across the world have registered an interest in pitching in Qatar and Angels from 34 countries have already been to see what all the fuss is about. How involved will you be in the Qatar operations? The Board of Angels Den has made a concrete commitment to Qatar. We chose Qatar over Bahrain and Dubai based on the welcome and the enlightended responses that we received, so we hope to make Qatar the hub for angel investment in The Gulf. It is our youngest child but it will grow to form an important part of our family. Can you name a few gratifying moments or experiences? There are too many to recount individually, but every day we fund at least one 'deal'. However, to us, they are more than 'deals', we understand first-hand the commitment, effort and tears that the entrepreneurs have invested in their businesses. To find another human being, in the shape of an Angel, who shares these passions and vision is a life changing event. The Angels and each of our staff are privleged to facilitate this marriage. Which is the most common concern of entrepreneurs? And of investors? Entrepreneurs are mostly concerned about cash flow, and then secondly about cash flow and finally... cash flow. Investors are faced with many asset classes and choices. We find however that most successful Angels do not invest JUST for the money. This is not philanthropy. The world is divided into those who have been blessed with riches and who want to share their wisdom and those that, for whatever reasons are valid for them, do not. If you just want to make money then I suggest angel funding is not for you. I read that most Angel investors will lose, rather than earn money. How does that reflect on the success of an entrepreneur’s initiative? Most Angels do lose money, but then “most” Angels invest for the wrong reasons. We run insights into ‘angel investing’ for our Angels and we help them choose what deal is right for them and why. Our processes are by no means perfect, but we do have valuable insights into the investment process from both sides, which help skew the decision making to investing in companies where Angels can add the most value. Again I reiterate, if you just want to make money, invest in property or derivatives. A small select group of investors can see this distinction and want to make a difference to their country. Under the auspices of which organisation will Angels Den operate here? Angels’ Den is working under the auspices of a small consultancy run by a Qatari and British partnership. This organisation was established over three years ago to sponsor and represent companies from around the world to do business in Qatar. How will it work within the current, sponsorship/partnership norms in the country? Good question. It will depend on the status of the company that comes seeking funding. If this is already established as a 51:49 partnership agreement between Qatari and non-Qatari business partners, then it may be that the non-Qatari will need to release some of their ownership shares – but as the Angels’ Den arrangement is often about profit-share and not ownership it may be the entrepreneur sees that the extra investment will lead to greater profit. If the business is not yet sponsored here in Qatar, it’s likely the Angels Den process will introduce them to an investor who will also want to be their sponsor. If it’s a Qatari seeking funding – who won’t need a sponsor – then matching with an Angel investor will doubtless include both parties ‘checking out each other’s family’. But again that’s not so different from anywhere else in the world. One of the opportunities for Angels Den in Qatar is that the process offers a simple and rapid matching of entrepreneurs to new investors/mentors. This might be welcomed by those Qatari businessmen who are ‘sitting on’ a number of businesses which may have stalled due to lack of funding and connections. Thus the Angels Den process could help release a log-jam of dormant businesses in the region – as well as introduce Qatar Entrepreneurs to investors worldwide
follow

TAG ThIS

wE hAvE SEEN ThAT QATARIS ARE kEEN TO INvEST IN ThEIR COUNTRy AND ARE vERy kEEN TO SEE ThOSE EARLIER STAGE COMPANIES BEING GIvEN hELP, NOT TO MAkE ThE MISTAkES ThAT ThEy ThEMSELvES hAvE MADE.

twitter.com/angelsdenqatar

october 2011

QATAR TODAy 61
9/28/11 7:32:39 PM

QT-Oct_2011.indd 61

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful