“I was sitting in my nice, corner office with my title and everything and I just thought, ‘You know, it’s not as much fun anymore. The fun part was the journey.’ And just by happenstance, I went to see a panel on Angel investing and I heard some prominent people talking about why they were Angels and they said, “Look, if you’ve been an entrepreneur, you can really help other entrepreneurs. If you do it right, you can make money, and no matter what’s going on in the broader economy, there’s always a growth industry in the angel world.” And I thought, “That’s it. That is my next step.”
Before founding Pantegrion, New York Angel Board member Alicia Syrett was working in the financial services sector for over a decade. A conversation with Syrett quickly reveals her intense curiosity and drive, so it’s no surprise that she’d felt the urge to change her comfortable role in finance and explore the world of angel investing. At any given time, Syrett reads 25+ different feeds in Feedly, she regularly tweets, and listens to hours of podcasts everyday. She recently began reading all the Pulitzer Prize books written by women (most recently, “The Yearling”) and paused that quest in favor of another: to write a book herself. Status update: she’s halfway through writing it. She swears by “writing everything down,” and you’d better believe we’re taking notes!
Broadmic spoke with Syrett about her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs who want to up their game.
USING YOUR PERSONAL CREDIT CAN SHOW YOU’RE SERIOUS
“Any entrepreneur out there could conceivably take out some personal debt or get some money, get a website up and get some orders in place. If you’re able to do that now, it helps set the bar for what you really need to accomplish by the time you make it to an angel group. [As the] the costs to launch a company have come down, the expectations for what you should accomplish before you get outside money have gone up.”
CROWDFUNDING CAN BE A GOOD GAUGE
“It allows them to tweak their product and offering [using consumer feedback] before they ask for outside money. I’m a huge fan of it, especially for consumer businesses because it is a fantastic way to learn, a fantastic way to market the product and reduce the risk, kind of de-risk the investment for outside investors because we look at it and we’re like, ‘Okay, you’ve demonstrated demand. This isn’t hypothetical anymore. You’ve had X thousands of people buy your product in this campaign and you’ve been able to leverage your network to get the word out. Bravo. That’s fantastic.’”
WHEN YOU’RE READY TO RAISE MONEY
Ask yourself, “do I have something really compelling to tell about the team that I’ve already built, about revenues I’ve generated, or users I have, or partnerships I have? Can I really speak honestly about a strong competitive advantage? Have I thought through all the drivers of revenues? Do I have a really strong sense of sales and marketing and how to build the company from here?“ Market testing is key and an entrepreneur should be able to demonstrate a clear sense of, “If we take in funds, this is what we’ll generate,” versus saying, “I have this idea and I think it could potentially pan out and I’m going to test it when I have the money and we’re going to see if there is a business there.”
WHAT MAKES YOU COACHABLE?
“The ability to listen, process the information, and give a thoughtful response back. They absolutely can disagree, but you feel as though they’re coachable if you’re being heard, if they’ve processed what you’ve said, they give you some really high quality feedback, and then they make the best decision for the company. It’s that feeling. There’s a mutual level of respect here. We’ve had a dialogue. You’ve taken this information into account and I trust you because we’ve hashed through all the info.”
Syrett clearly appreciates the entrepreneur who does her homework, demonstrates solid proof of concept before fundraising, and who can listen and integrate investor feedback. It’s clear that Syrett enjoys her work as an angel investor at Pantegrion which enables her to keep learning while staying focused on helping women entrepreneurs run the gauntlet. Her favorite adage, “it’s easier to pull someone down off the ladder than to climb up it yourself,” serves as a reminder to avoid being the type who initiates criticism of others or who takes criticism personally, and most importantly, to keep on climbing your ladder.