Troy Knauss focuses on entrepreneurship ecosystem

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Troy Knauss speaking to a group of entrepreneurs and investors in Florida.

Photo of Troy Knauss speaking in Greensboro, North Carolina

Troy Knauss concludes an Angel Resource Institute workshop in Greensboro, North Carolina to an audience of local investors and entrepreneurs.

As an accredited investor, Troy Knauss has built a diverse portfolio of angel-only backed deals with some successes, a few failures, and a whole lot of opportunities. In addition to these deals, Knauss has spent time growing companies and volunteering on boards that benefit the entrepreneurial ecosystem. His recent boards include Vice Chairman of the Angel Resource Institute, a spinout of the Kauffman Foundation, the Greensboro Partnership’s Entrepreneurship Connection, The Launch Place, and Wake Forest University’s Advisory Council for the Center of Entrepreneurship. According to Knauss, “There is no greater reward than helping a fellow entrepreneur realize his/her dream. It doesn’t matter if that dream is to simply start a company to build an income or to grow a high-value business with the ability to create major wealth creation when it is sold.” Knauss expects to continue to invest in 4-5 deals per year.

One of his latest ventures is E&I Risk, an insurance company that offers affordable and complete policies to early-stage and startup companies. According to Knauss, “Most insurance agencies don’t understand the inherent risks of a startup and, given that many startups don’t have significant revenue, many insurance agents aren’t willing to put in the time and effort for a low-priced policy. That’s where E&I Risk enters the field. E&I can provide very competitive quotes that include comprehensive coverage needed to protect entrepreneurs and their investors.” Check out E&I Risk. Click here for a quick quote on a Directors & Officers insurance (D&O) policy.

If you are interested in meeting with Troy to discuss your current business or opportunity, visit

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Angel investing being promoted | Barbados Advocate

A new programme dubbed ‘LINK Caribbean’ has been launched aimed at helping regional entrepreneurs address the issue of limited access to finance through developing a culture of angel investing.

Speaking at the official launch last week at the Radisson Aquatica, Executive Director, Caribbean Export Development Agency, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, announced the programme which, being facilitated by Caribbean Export in partnership with the Canadian High Commission, the World Bank Group, InfoDev and the European Union, is the first of its kind in the world.

“The fact that the World Bank was willing to do this with us and to put in place a regional programme, owned by member governments and I think the support from the CARIFORUM Secretariat, from our member states, our board member has made it such that Caribbean Export has the credibility to be able to partner with the World Bank, to basically be able to pilot a prototype of this nature,” Coke-Hamilton said.

She added, “If this works and there are no ifs, we are going to make it work because we don’t do failure, it will then be able to be replicated across the board in so many other regions.”

The programme, she said, allows small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to have access to private investment from business angels and other early stage investors. She made the point while noting that a 2014 study conducted by Caribbean Export showed that credit card financing was the most popular form of business finance used by the SMEs, followed by bank overdrafts and commercial loans, which she said is understandable as the companies lack the security and assets needed to access overdrafts and loans.

“However, if the majority of SMEs are resorting to credit card financing, this further places them in a very vulnerable position as we all know that high interest rates can easily lead to further indebtedness. For example, here in Barbados, the interest rates on credit cards from one of the commercial banks range from 21.5 per cent to 24.99 per cent. So already you can begin to get a picture of the financial cost of doing business in our region… Because of this, Caribbean Export is pleased to be collaborating with our partners in the roll out of LINK Caribbean,” she said.

Coke-Hamilton said that through the programme, they intend to facilitate increased levels of equity financing going to early and growth stage SMEs, primarily through angel investors, and by so doing, increase the growth potential of the firms. Referring to studies in the US market, the Executive Director said that angel investing has been shown to greatly increase not only the survival rate of SMEs, but also impacted their growth, and she said they are hoping to see similar results in the region.

She explained that angels play a pivotal role in not only providing invaluable business expertise, but building strong management systems and leveraging their personal networks for the benefit of the SMEs they invest in.

The Caribbean Export head said that such a combination of capital and business acumen can significantly transform the region’s private sector.

On that note, she said that Caribbean Export together with InfoDev have been working on building out the ecosystem for angel investing under the Regional Angel Investor Network (RAIN). She noted that to date they have provided training on best practices for engaging angel investors to entrepreneurs in Barbados, Jamaica and St. Lucia.

She indicated that through RAIN, angel investors and SMEs will have access to an online introductory and convening mechanism to facilitate connections, while
offering access to a wealth of resources. (JRT)

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Angel Investing Dilemmas – Mentor Or Micromanager?

Some of my angel investments have been through angel networks, and since I am the lead investor, I serve on the Boards of these companies as a director, where I represent the interests of the other angel investors. This brings up all kinds of interesting dilemmas.

In the beginning, I used to be a fairly activist as an investor. I would share knowledge with the entrepreneurs, and send them lots of emails, with the hope that my insights would be useful to them.

Over the time, I realised that this had very little impact. They would politely acknowledge the emails, but it didn’t seem like they did anything differently based on them. It finally dawned on me that my time was valuable, as was that of an entrepreneur. Unless he felt that I could add value to his life, there was little point in my reaching out to him. In fact, by sending him lots of emails, I would actually perhaps be doing a disservice, because I would be distracting him from his major task of growing the company.

Yes, I am opinionated and do have my own point of view, but I felt that since he was in the trenches and had to deal with the company’s problems every single day, he was much more invested in making the company succeed as I was. I felt it would make more sense to wait until he reached out to me, rather than proactively pushing information to him and telling him what to do. My efforts to be helpful might end up back-firing, and he might be too polite to tell me this!

When A Little Advice Is Too Much

A lot of the other angel investors in the network don’t like my approach. They think I’m being naive, and that my laissez-faire attitude suggests that I don’t care much about what happens to my money. They feel that I am allowing the entrepreneur to do pretty much what he wants by giving him a free hand. They feel that I need to actively monitor what’s happening so that I can ensure that company is on track.

That’s not true. I have earned my money the hard way and do want to make sure that it grows. However, I have matured, and over time I realise the limitations of what the impact of my advice on the entrepreneur can be.

This is why I’ve learned to be picky and choosy about what and when to share. There’s little point in telling him things if he doesn’t listen to me. The worry is that if I tell him too much, he will just stop listening to everything I say.

The danger is that the few gems of wisdom which might be of value to him might get lost because I have filled his inbox with a lot of stuff which may be completely irrelevant to him, or which he already knows.

I need to focus on what I can do to help him to succeed. What are the actionable items which he can implement which would increase his odds of success? The problem is that everyone has different worldviews. My perspective may be different from the other angel investors, and from the entrepreneur’s and we all need to accept this.

When entrepreneurs raise money, they’re often excessively optimistic. However, when they actually get out in the real world, they find that they cannot deliver a lot of their hockey-stick projections.

They find they have not been able to meet projected revenues because excel spreadsheets have very little resemblance to what happens in real life.

Now this is not for lack of trying, and it’s obvious that they were working hard and doing their best to deliver. This is why we need to differentiate between a founder who couldn’t care less and one who’s responsive and responsible. My worldview is that – if the founder has a good handle on his problem; listens respectfully; pushes back when required and is doing his best, then I should only judge him by the process he’s following, rather than the outcome because the outcome often is not in his hands.

The problem is that a lot of other angel investors are not willing to be that charitable and hands-off. They feel that investors need to intervene if the founder is not delivering as promised. Thus, their advice may be – if sales are lagging, we need to hire a sales executive; or we need to appoint a senior business development manager.

They are worried that the company may be running out of money, and that if they want a VC to fund a Series A, they need to make sure that the company starts looking more attractive. The standard way of putting lipstick on this pig is to try increase revenue, perhaps by importing more skilled executives.

I believe that founders are smart enough to have thought of these obvious solutions, and they don’t need me to suggest these to them. They are as interested as I am in making sure that the company doesn’t crash and burn. I feel that they have considered solutions, and maybe the reason they haven’t implemented them is that while they may look good on paper, they often don’t work well in real life.

For example, a senior sales executive and business development managers may add a lot of value in a large corporate setting, but they often don’t perform well in a startup. They don’t end up adding any value, and in fact, may burn scarce capital – a luxury which the founder cannot afford. I think when we advise the founder, we need to be respectful and to trust that he is doing his best.

In Conclusion

It’s important to assume positive intent so that we can avoid confrontational relationship between the investor and founder. It’s when it becomes adversarial that we might kiss the company goodbye because it is often this friction which causes the company to spiral downwards. Both founders and funders are on the same side, and we should allow both of them to do what they are best at!

I am happy to be a mentor but I don’t want to become a micro-manager.

[This post by Dr. Aniruddha Malpani first appeared on LinkedIn and has been reproduced with permission.]

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FIN Capital launches Angel Investing Boot Camp




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Angel investing in Baton Rouge to be examined at BRAC monthly luncheon

Innovation Catalyst’s Louis M. Freeman and NO/LA Angel Network chairman Mike Eckert will lead a discussion examining the business of investing and angel capital in Louisiana at the Baton Rouge Area Chamber’s monthly luncheon on Tuesday.

The luncheon titled “The Business of Investing: Angel Capital in Louisiana” will examine two approaches to early stage funding. The lunch will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Main Library at Goodwood, 7711 Goodwood Blvd.

Freeman and Eckert will discuss access to capital and deal flow in the Baton Rouge area. BRAC says angel investment—financial support by private wealthy individuals—can help launch startups and is important to high-growth businesses that need to scale very quickly.

“After family, friends, and credit cards, angel investors are often the first dollars a new company or entrepreneur can secure to launch their new business idea,” the chamber says. “Banks won’t typically lend to startups, so angel investors can make it possible for a new business to get started. The entrepreneur can also get valuable mentoring and business advice from angels.”

There are many advantages to angel investing, the chamber says. Investors have the security of more eyes looking at deal. Angel investors also are less reactive to economic downtowns and are less risk-averse than traditional lenders.

“They tend to continue investing when other capital providers slow down due to market conditions,” BRAC says.

The financing concept has taken off in Louisiana in recent years. The NO/LA Angel Network as of January had roughly 120 members including some from Baton Rouge. BRAC is holding recruitment events to establish a local angel network chapter. Angel investment in the United States was estimated to be about $24 billion in 2014, BRAC says.

The cost attend the monthly luncheon is $20 for BRAC investors; $30 for guests. Get complete event details and register to attend.

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African Angel Investor Summit set for Lagos

Registration is now open for the third African Angel Investor Summit, with over 40 speakers to present at the one-day event dedicated to the early stage investing space.

Disrupt Africa reported in August the African Business Angels Network (ABAN) announced it would host the third annual African Angel Investor Summit on November 17, once again in Lagos.

The theme for this year’s event has now been selected as “co-investing, making it work together”; with ABAN saying the Summit will focus on how different players in the ecosystem – angels, VC’s, government, diaspora, academia, crowdfunders, professional services, corporates, incubators, accelerators and others – can and should co-operate to unlock the potential of Africa’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.

The event brings together investors from across the African continent and other parts of the world to exchange best practices, debate pressing issues, share lessons learnt, and set the road map for angel investing in the future.

“Growing Africa’s Angel investing community is a critical component to scaling up the number of African start-ups successfully becoming global businesses. The African Angel Investor Summit 2016 is a crucial gathering for experienced and new investors to hold prescient conversations, sharpen their investing skills, and build the relationships needed for successful co-investment,” says Tomi Davies, president of ABAN.

Over 40 speakers have been confirmed for the event, and will participate in six keynote talks and seven panel discussions during the one-day Summit.

Speakers include ABAN president Tomi Davies; Leticia Browne of the Ghana Angel Investor Network; Tayo Akinyemi of AfriLabs; Mark Essien of; and Afua Osei of She Leads Africa; to name a few.

A number of related events will also be co-located at the Summit, such as the third Lagos Angels Network (LAN) Deal Day, as well as the She Leads Africa accelerator Demo Day.

Tickets to the Summit are available here.

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Gil Penchina on angel investing, market timing, and his ambivalence to venture capital

Let’s start with a bit of background. How did you get into angel investing?

I was one of the early folks at eBay and by 1999 it was completely overrun by consultants from McKinsey, Bain and BCG. It went from being a cool fun startup to an MBA factory. Angel investing was an outlet for me to hang out with people I liked– startup founders doing crazy stuff!

Where did you get the money to do angel investing?

I was lucky enough to have made some money from eBay, but in the early days I would negotiate to invest as little as I could– $5,000 to $10,000 at a time when CEOs didn’t want to take less than $25,000. I did this to gain experience and meet people, not because I thought I was going to make money.

You’ve said you chose to be an angel and not a VC because angel investing is about enthusiasts helping fellow entrepreneurs succeed rather than professional financiers whose primary goal is to line their own pockets and grow the endowments of Harvard and Princeton [1]. Can you expound on that? Prolific angels like yourself seem to invest in the same companies as VCs.

God knows, I’ve talked to hundreds of angel investors and money is usually low on their list. They invest because they want to give back, are excited about the company or personally like the CEO. Sometimes they do it to learn to be a professional investor. There are lot of ways people get non-economic payback–learning, networking and relationships. These drive most angels more than the money.

The result is we back things that VCs won’t touch. For instance, we invested in Cruise, a self-driving kit you install in your Audi when everyone thought it was crazy. “Who is going to use an unsafe amateur self-driving kit with no manufacturing partners?” they asked. It turns out the company exited for over $1 billion!

We also invested in a company that is reinventing furniture design, rather than just software companies.

Would you say you can do that because you don’t have the same pressures on the kinds of returns you need to generate?

I don’t think that’s why. It’s because our group (the 4,000 angels who back us) have a more diverse set of interests than a bunch of Harvard MBAs.  They’re interested in taking risks on a different set of things. We’ll find out in a few years which of those things were good.

You’ve talked about this helping aspect that angels are more passionate about than VCs. But in the past you’ve also said that one of the key lessons you’ve learned about investing is how little control you have over the outcome. Most investors say they add lots of value can contribute to the company’s success beyond writing a check. Would you say they are delusional?

I would say they are really good at marketing. They say this because they want you to pick their VC firm, but the reality is most companies succeed or fail because of the founders and the market timing. I’ve never seen a VC take over a company and help fix it.  Sure, they have input because they’re your boss and are proud that they get to boss you around!

You don’t seem to love VCs but have said you greatly admire Reid Hoffman. Are there other VCs you admire?

Reid offers a ton of practical advice and a fantastic network. David Hornik at August Capital is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and one of my favorite investors. I have never heard either take credit for an entrepreneur’s success.

What are other lessons you’ve learned about investing? Feel free to talk about mistakes or even your anti-portfolio i.e. companies you passed on but later became successful.

We passed on Postmates and Instacart. Those are probably my two favorite oopses.

Again, I think people underestimate how much the market, timing and luck matter.  I have an old saying, if you walk around in the rain a lot it doesn’t mean you’ll get hit by lightning. But if you stay home, you definitely won’t be. A lot of it is being agile enough to take advantage of the luck when it happens.  Classic investor questions we ask are “What’s changed? Why do this now? Why did it fail five years ago?”

A mistake I’ve made is investing in my idea rather than the entrepreneur’s. Sometimes I’m excited about an idea that is similar to the entrepreneur’s idea – but not the same.  A smart entrepreneur will convince me it is the same, until I write a check!

I’ve also learned that I am not as smart as I think I am.

Speaking of luck and timing, some would explain it as the founder’s genius in discerning emerging and intersecting trends and then building precisely the kind of company that capitalizes on them. Steve Jobs, who transformed several industries, is the classic example. What do you think of this view?

There may be some truth to that but often the founder is doing something and the real opportunity is five degrees away. Something small has changed and it turns out giving software away for free and making money selling insurance is a genius idea, where last week selling software was the right idea.

It’s about launching your product and then finding the right combination of things that the market is ready for. How many mobile app companies were doing WAP and WHTML in the late 90’s? They thought mobile would be big and they were right, but were just off by ten years!

What are three things that turn you off when an entrepreneur pitches to you?

  1. 1.Not listening. If you can’t listen to me, you probably won’t listen to your customers either. This doesn’t mean you have to agree, but active listening is key.
  2. 2.Not knowing about competitors which really just another form of not listening. If I know about competitors who tried this five years ago and you don’t, you haven’t been listening the market.
  3. This one is rare but occasionally, especially with young founders, you find people who are afraid to tell you certain things and get caught up in a story that isn’t entirely true. If I am in your house and I find one cockroach, there’s probably a lot more and so this is a red flag for me.

You mentioned getting caught up in stories that are not entirely true. There is basic ethics and then there is what some might call a ‘reality distortion field’. For example, when Nike’s founder Phil Knight met Mr. Onitsuka to negotiate a distribution deal for Tiger Shoes he said, “I represent the Blue Ribbon Sports company,” the forerunner of Nike. The company didn’t yet exist but he had to say that to get the deal. Are these the kinds of things you are talking about or would they be more blatant? Where do you draw the line?

I wish I knew but it’s like the old joke about a judge and pornography, “You know it when you see it.” I can’t define what’s hyperbole and what’s lying. You just sort of know when you see it.

You are the top ranked angel on AngelList and have the largest syndicate. How did you go about building it?

When AngelList launched syndicates, most of the people with the tenure and track record I had decided to become VCs–Reid Hoffman, Josh Kopelman and Jeff Clavier, to name a few.  People trusted me because one of the only angels left, with a proven track record.

Now we have 25 syndicates where we partner with executives who look a lot like I did ten years ago. Whether it’s Jocelyn Goldfein, ex-VP of engineering at VMWare or  Merlin Kauffman the CEO of Soothe. We help these executives who are already angel investing become better and write bigger checks.

I’ve heard people like Mark Suster say that to be a successful investor, you need to have proprietary deal flow. With marketplaces like AngelList where the deals are public, that’s hard to do. How important is proprietary deal flow and what do you do to nurture your own?

Each of our 25 partners has their own unique relationships, networks and knowledge. That is a source of proprietary deal flow and competitive advantage.

AngelList has changed and our deals are now private. This allows the companies to share more information and those who back us get access to proprietary deals from several dozen syndicates.

Do you have any parting thoughts or advice for entrepreneurs?

Focus. It’s powerful to do just one thing and pour all your energy into it. You’ll get lots of advice but you should disregard most of it. Heaven knows, all sorts of people told me the thing I was doing on AngelList would never work! They said I should be more careful and build more infrastructure but I did it as fast and as simply as I could. This notion of an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) applies to investors as well.

Lastly, call us. If you are a serious entrepreneur we are here to help.

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Two years of growth leads York entrepreneur to open own micro-brewery


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London entrepreneur launches The New Rich List, a funding and accelerator programme

Here’s what you need to know about it

Marco Robinson, the founder of NAKED Group, has launched the world’s first entrepreneur funding and accelerator company.

Called The New Rich List, the platform aims to help start-ups “pitch their business model, get funded, receive mentoring and advice, and gain access to the New Rich List’s database of 50,000 customers”.

According to Robinson, the platform has already secured £2m in pre-seed capital.

Robinson said: “The New Rich List is the most exciting and disruptive thing I have ever done. The investor interest we have had so far has been phenomenal. Think Dragons’ Den meets the Apprentice in an offline formality, but with the unique concept of both mentoring and funding entrepreneurs. It is something I have been working on for 10 years.

“By rewarding customers generously, in a crypto-currency available for use on the newest and most exciting products and services on the market, the New Rich List will become a hub for the best, most talked about, most investable businesses of the future.”

Robinson wants to list the New Rich List on the AIM Market within two years and various other stock markets.

“The beauty of it is that instead of competing with other businesses, within the New Rich List entrepreneurs can collaborate with diverse start-ups across a variety of sectors- hugely strengthening their network,” he added.

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5 Female Entrepreneur Musts in the New World of Funding and Financing

The world is getting smaller and smaller thanks to modern communication methods, making it easier to connect and conduct business. This accessibility is also making the modern world of funding and financing new businesses grow larger and larger. Instead of the traditional method where, for example, a female entrepreneur setting up a local business in Los Angeles, CA, would be confined to seeking funding and financing locally — or at most within North America — by thinking globally, she can easily tap into a much larger pool of wealth. According to the World Wealth Report, by the end of 2015 North America ‘s total wealth stood at $16.23 trillion, whereas global wealth had hit $56.4 trillion, a value that is expected to rise to $70.5 trillion by 2017.

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The New Rich List: The UK’s First Entrepreneur Funding and Accelerator Company

A new company that will enable startups to pitch their business model, get funded and receive top-level mentoring has been launched. Called The New Rich List, it will help startups receive access to the New Rich List’s database of 50,000 customers. It will also give them the opportunity to collaborate with other businesses in the portfolio, according to a report from Market Watch.

Launched by the number one best-selling business author and CEO, Marco Robinson, the company’s idea came to being after spotting a gap in the market for an accelerator programme that offers mentoring and guidance and truly challenges the way investment in startups is carried out.

Robinson owns a number of businesses operating under his global franchise NAKED. They include companies in the travel, food and beverage, property, cosmetics and entertainment sector. They are part of the New Rich List and based on Robinson’s patented cryptocurrency, NAKED dollars (NKD$).  The cryptocurrency is based on the blockchain technology. NKD$ will enable loyal consumers to save money on their usual spending habits. It will also earn them rewards on every purchase from companies selected as part of the New Rich List.

The accelerator platform will be launched globally. It has already secured £2 million in pre-seed capital.

In a press release Robinson said:

The New Rich List is the most exciting and disruptive thing I have ever done. The investor interest we have had so far has been phenomenal. Think Dragon’s Den meets the Apprentice in an offline formality, but with the unique concept of both mentoring and funding entrepreneurs. It is something I have been working on for ten years.

By rewarding customers generously, in a crypto-currency available for use on the newest and most exciting products and services on the market, the New Rich List will become a hub for the best, most talked about, most investable businesses of the future.

The New Rich List plans to issue an IPO. This will give members the opportunity to multiply their input several times in coming years. The strategy will get the New Rich List enlisted on the AIM Market within two years and other stock markets later. Robinson believes this will enable them to raise £15 million in 2016 alone.

New Rich List entrepreneurs will strengthen their network by collaborating with diverse startups across a variety of sectors. Robinson says newly funded startups will immediately see the benefit of earning profit and a loyal customer base.

He added:

Our unique crypto blockchain currency will make shares in the New Rich List more valuable and whilst close ended now, we plan to make it open ended like bitcoin and develop debit cards for loyal users in following years.

Robinson is a bestselling author of two books – “Close the Deal Suddenly Grow Rich” and “The Financial Freedom Guarantee”. He is also an award-winning entrepreneur and winner of the People’s Choice Best Real Estate Investment Company 2015.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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