How to get started with angel investing

*WARNING* What I’m about to say about angel investing will annoy the heck out of professional investors and rightly so. I am an amateur shooting from the hip, but I’m happy doing so. 🤠

Investing money is just one type of investing to me. It’s no different than spending time, sharing your brain power, advising, supporting, or advertising. All of these things are limited resources. 🧠 When I was at Microsoft, for example, the “investing” I did was in recruiting, onboarding, and development: I was a person you could go to for hugs and cookies 🍪, cheerleading 📣, and championing. I have always tried to put my resources where my mouth is, to solve problems worth solving. And those are to create more time ⏳, freedom 🆓, quality of life 🥂, and joy 😄 for more people. Isn’t that what tech is all about, to create tools for people to solve problems?

To me, angel investing is enabling a person with an idea to 3D-print it herself. I particularly enjoy being an enzyme 🧬, a catalyst 🧫, that first follower who endorses and lends credibility to a thing. Therefore I invest in people doing things I think are cool and making the world be more the way it ought to be, and where I think I can be useful. It is a relatively new tool in my toolbox 🧰, one I started using in 2019 when I really began digging into startups and entrepreneurship. I wanted to learn from people who were doing what I dreamed of. 🏫 Plus it seemed a great way to give, not just to take. But it’s also direct and visceral. 👼🏼  Many people with world-changing ideas can’t afford to quit their day jobs and work on their ideas full-time — not without money. And it’s hard to raise money unless you’ve already raised some money. 💱 

To be an early-stage people-and-idea investor is to be a gardener. 👩🏻‍🌾 And I don’t mean growing blackberry bushes, which grow here in the Seattle area no matter what you do. It’s more like olive grove or grapevine gardening. 🍇 You don’t just plant and harvest. You have to cultivate and tend, age and develop, and support and water for years. It takes a long time and you need to love it. 🌸

My biggest tips for operators who want to get into angel investing:

  • Figure out what problems drive you crazy and what areas you love, and invest there.
    You’ll have better intuition and help more on things you care about and understand. You are also more likely to connect well to people working on those things. 💖
  • Find or build a community.
    Join an existing angel syndicate, a group or conference (like Seattle Angel Conference or Alliance of Angels), crowdfund (Backstage, Hustle, and Rarebreed have them), or pull together a group of friends who want to get into it too. 🤝🏽
  • Make an investment and put it in your LinkedIn/Twitter bio.
    You’ll bring awareness to the thing you invested in, but it will also make you visible to those looking for investors. Try it. Seriously, put “Angel Investor” in your activity list on LinkedIn and see how many messages you get from founders looking for investors who find you in a search. 🤯
  • Leverage your superpowers.
    Part of investing is to change the probabilities of good outcomes. Anything you can do to nudge one bit left is helpful and it adds up. So why not invest where things you are great at and come easy to you can change the result for the better? 🦸‍♀️
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