I had an amazing career in tech and mobile for close to 25 years. Only 2 years ago, I immersed myself completely in the startup ecosystem empowering communities, accelerating startups, and building a network of resources.
It’s possible today, more than ever before, to start with little
And when I took another leap and started exploring startup investments, it was an eye-opening experience, full of possibilities, but also a maze…
I wondered: How does one even start? What are the correct questions to ask? How can one evaluate a worthy investment? Who can I go to for advice?
From my background as a corporate executive and now deeply involved with startups, I can understand the apprehension of corporate executives towards angel investing.
After all, the startup landscape is a foreign creation — it’s very different from the structured frameworks that define corporate life.
The good news is, I’m here to tell you that angel investing is a deeply rewarding and enriching experience. It does not have to be a choice of career vs investing. There is more synergy and benefits than meets the eyes.
I have found my engagement in the startup scene extremely rewarding for my personal development — which is why I launched she1K, the world’s 1st corporate executive women network that pools together membership to invest in startups.
At she1k, we help more corporate women executives go through this journey in a friendly and safe environment. Our aim is to provide a trusted networkand resources to encourage corporate women to begin their angel investing experience.
In the last 2 years, I have learnt more about the ecosystem. Allow me to share some of them here — with a particular focus on corporate women towards angel investing.
So what is angel investing, and how is it different from VCs and private equity?
Venture capital (VC), private equity (PE)… These are all big terms that may seem intimidating to those who have not been exposed to investing.
But angel investing is much simpler than that and barriers to entry are much lower than before with the emergence of angel syndicates.
Unlike VCs or PE structures which provides financing provided by firms or funds, angel investors invest their own money in startups, mostly at seed and early stages.
Angel investors also have a vested interest beyond financial returns — they invest their time, connections, and make themselves available to their startups for business assistance.
Besides potential investment gains, angel investing is a genuine attempt to learn from startup founders about new industries and innovative ways to solve problems.
Corporate women can apply industry insights and functional expertise. It is an empowering way to give back, having enjoyed some career success. Many entrepreneurs who have enjoyed a healthy exit themselves have joined the angel pool globally too, calling themselves serial investors or serial entrepreneurs.
Why building a portfolio of angel investments empowers corporate careers
Angel investing is risky. Studies show that 56% of angel-invested startups fail.
However, close to 10% generate a 10x return.
The strategy is to diversify — a few smaller quantum investments is better than one big one. You may not need to be equally involved or active in all of them.
Men with their “bro code” camaraderie get more access to investment opportunities, where one could potentially be a “backseat” angel.
New investors follow an experienced lead investor when it comes to their initial foray into investments. This is a good and low risk way to start. The lead investor basically syndicates a few backers to pool together so everyone does not need to make a hefty amount upfront.
You don’t need to be a millionaire to begin angel investing. Don’t wait till you retire!
At she1K, women can do that for one another too, by pooling resources, leveraging expertise, and opening networks.
But why are there significantly less women angel investors?
Based on a WA4E survey by Business Angels Europe across 6 European countries, reaching out to 6000 women with 640 responses:
- Women non-investors lacked understanding of the core process of angel investing and identified angel investing as risky.
- Women thought that angel investing was only for the super-rich, with the belief that you have to commit very significant amounts of finance in each company.
- Women lacked understanding of how to find and invest in quality deals.
- Many women identified a lack of confidence in making a financial decision about making an investment in a small business.
- Over half of the women non-investors felt that life stage and other family financial priorities as a major reason for non-engagement in angel investing, as well as a lack of time, rather than actual financial capacity.
- The lack of access to angel groups or angel investors and the lack of visibility of this area of investing is seen as one of the main reasons why there are so few women angel investors compared to men.
- Most of the women non-investors did not know any female peers or female role models who were angel investing.
As an ex-corporate woman, I can identify with these reasons.
It dawned upon me that many corporate women, like me, were very focused on what we do at work. We are meticulous, driven but that could sometimes mean we are like buffaloes in a paddy field working on just our plot of land and maybe losing sight of what’s out there.
I meet many women in their 30s who are already contemplating that entrepreneurship is their ticket to get out of the corporate rut or their road to financial independence. Or those, who feel that they have reached a certain ceiling in their profession or their role in a company, may think of starting something of their own.
Women are getting more educated, financially independent, and have greater access than before. It is reported in the UK, women hold 50% of total wealth.
So why aren’t we putting our resources to better use? In fact, if angel investing were as accessible when I was at corporate a decade ago, I would have put aside more of my earnings to that end.
My vision of corporate women is we can continue rising the ranks, take the helm of leadership but also hold a portfolio of startups. It’s about giving back, continuous learning, and staying relevant.
It may not be for everyone, however.
If you enjoy learning and engaging entrepreneurs, having some “skin in the game” can enrich that experience. I believe the insights and connections we corporate women have accumulated throughout our career can be better applied if we venture into future change.
Some corporate women may in fact be in sunset industries which may be disrupted sooner or later.
Some of us have reached a stage where we want to support a cause, so what better way to empower a startup to make that happen? Their resourcefulness may surprise you.
I was complacent when I retired. It was when I started dipping into startups that I was overwhelmed with knowing what I didn’t know.
This is how innovation works. The digital age allows us to test and learn even if it means failing fast. Boundaries need to be pushed. When we empower younger entrepreneurs, we better understand millennials too.
We are better prepared for the future.
I believe women can achieve whatever they want if they put their minds to it. But we have to be smart about our strengths and make time to contribute productively.
It’s more effective of us to support with funds rather than roll up our sleeves all over again in a brand new business. Champion entrepreneurs by sharing connections. Sit on the board of a startup. Just to name a few.
Don’t wait for a transition to happen before you dive into empowering others. When you angel invest, it gives you a sense of fulfillment — a fulfillment that has to be experienced to be understood.
Christina Teo is the mastermind behind she1K, created to empower corporate executive women to champion, sit on boards of, and invest in startups. It is the only collective harnessing the industry and functional excellence of corporate women.
she1K welcomes corporate women with more than 15 years experience in established corporates and angel investors both male and female to be part of our global 1000. she1K invests in startups at early stage globally, industry and gender agnostic, but with a stronger skew towards B2B business models.
One of the flagship events of she1K is WomenChangemakers, held bi-monthly where corporate women share their personal change stories as role models.