This is the first in a series of conversations with local angel and early-stage investors. In December 2019, four investors spoke with the entrepreneurs in our GROW Accelerator, sharing their insights and advice on seeking and securing investment. To discover if angel investment fits your company’s needs, connect with our Business Services team.
This fiscal year, Ontario’s angel investors invested in 194 early-stage companies, most of which were digital media & ICT companies. With AI, machine learning, fintech, edtech, proptech and biotech startups all on the grow, tech founders across industries are clamoring for the time and attention of in-demand experts with the capital to help them succeed.
But investors bring much more to the table than funding alone. Many have built businesses, made succesful exits and are well-connected in their chosen industries. Southwestern Ontario’s angel investors and community leaders are looking within our region innovation economy to foster ideas and leaders that will fuel a prosperous future.
In a panel discussion for a selection of high-potential startups geared for growth in TechAlliance’s GROW Accelerator, Brian Foster, Dennis Ensing, Lina Bowden and Lynn Davis offered their insights on what startup founders should consider when pitching to investors.
Put your money where the impact is
Lina Bowden, co-founder of Cambia Development Foundation and Chair of VERGE Capital, knows that mission-driven investment is gaining traction. “Impact investing is becoming a movement globally. We know there’s a certain type of investor that fits our world. Foundations are waking up to the fact that their large endowments can bring investment into the community.”
As someone whose own portfolio includes VERGE Capital, Lynn Davis’ interest in fostering our local economy informs her investment choices. Leading impact investment and property management company Alegria 3 Inc. and as Chair of Southwestern Ontario Angel Group, Davis is keen to back homegrown initiatives.
“I invested in VERGE Capital’s community bond, predominantly because that meant the money would stay and work here. I can walk in and see how my investment is functioning for the city of London. You don’t get that when you’re investing in the stock market. The type of investor who will do this is the one who sees the community impact as being almost as important as the financial return.”
There are no cookie-cutter investors
Dennis Ensing, Executive Director of SWO Angels and one of the architects Canada’s second largest angel network, Equation Angels, asserts that this passion-forward approach is more common than founders might think.
Leading within their network of over 200 investors, there is bound to be someone with the expertise that fits the startup seeking investment. Ensing encourages founders to take a wholistic lens to investment, considering industry expertise, capital and mutually beneficial terms. “When our members invest, it’s about more than just the money.”
Knock it out of the park
When it comes to crafting a strong value proposition for a conversation about funding, Brian Foster, co-founder of RH Accelerator, suggests taking a note from Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle model. Having built and successfully excited two businesses – including leading campus recreation software company InnoSoft – Foster is no stranger to the art of the business pitch.
“Make sure you know your ‘Why’.” Foster tells our accelerator cohort to establish and communicate a crystal-clear purpose that connects. Having this purpose as an anchor ensures that entrepreneurs are well-equipped to evaluate and align with future investment terms.
“The storytelling piece is imperative. Find out who the best storyteller in your business is and leverage their talents for the pitch,” Davis urges. “Regardless of whether or not that person holds the ‘Founder’ title.”