The Angel Investing School Manifesto

The Angel Investing School Manifesto

Yesterday, a friend of mine shared with me the great news that he was planning on starting a family and asked: “what is the one skill that you would love to teach your daughter as she grows up?” Almost immediately I answered, “the ability to make smart decisions on a consistent basis when I am not in the room.”

One trait that I believe has shaped me profoundly in the decisions I make in my career, with my family and in life, is the ability to make decisions guided by a set of principles. I call these my guiding principles; essentially they are a shortlist of mental models that tie into my beliefs. You could say that they are helpful one-liners that help me make better decisions.

In starting The Angel Investing School, I had the opportunity to catch up with a range of people who I knew were successful angel investors (people who invest into new businesses) and it was apparent that there were common themes, within the lessons learned from each of their experiences; that became the guiding principles that helped them avoid making mistakes.

I recognise that investing in new businesses (startups) has become democratised, with platforms such as Crowdcube and Seedrs that allow individuals to invest as little as £20 into startups. However, the problem exists when the access to invest is so easy that many who take the leap have not had the education to understand what they are investing in. People are taking a gamble as they don’t understand the risk associated with their investment and what returns could look like in the eventuality that the company is acquired (bought by a bigger company) or has an IPO (Initial public offering is when a company gets listed on a stock exchange like FTSE 350 in the UK).

I also recognise that there is a new breed of potential investors, who are digitally savvy, some are young and rich such as content creators (think vloggers and musicians). Others include professionals who have worked several years in their career, building domain expertise and a broad network but have no clue where to get started with investing in startups. Whilst the remainder are entrepreneurs who have successfully grown their companies and are at a stage where they want to invest back into new emerging startups, leveraging their experience and expertise to support others like they were supported too.

The guiding principles below are my own personal principles and I don’t share them as an oath or a contract but as insight into what helps me make better decisions when investing in startups.

  1. Angel investing shouldn’t be the first investment you make
  2. Play the long game and embrace the downside
  3. Take your time, and do your due diligence
  4. Get to grips with tax reliefs
  5. This is a team sport
  6. Don’t transact, nurture winning relationships
  7. Invest in what you understand
  8. Add value beyond the capital


1. Angel investing shouldn’t be the first investment you make

Most high net worth individuals and sophisticated investors allocate less than 5% of their wealth to angel investing as it is such a risky asset class. Typically, wealth has been built up from a range of other asset classes from investing in land & property to public stocks & shares. They are investing what they can afford to lose with angel investing similar to the money they could afford to lose at the casino. As tempting as it may be, learn the rules of engagement, play the long game and be disciplined and patient. Avoid making a bad investment you cannot afford, which puts you off investing ever again.

2. Play the long game and embrace the downside

Don’t invest too much too soon given that over 90% of your investments will probably fail. A common situation is where you have saved up £50K (which is a significant amount of money) and you blow it all within two months out of excitement and the thrill of investing. You soon realised you placed a lot of bad bets, and you have no money to double down and follow on with into the good performers. The wise investor sets boundaries such as investing up to 1/3 and saving 2/3rds for follow on investments into companies that go on to perform well. Go in with your heart AND your head and invest in a few companies a year for a long duration of time like you would if you were a value investor in Index Funds. Embrace the downside and remember it is a continuous learning journey.

3. Take your time, and do your due diligence

Some new angels feel uneasy and guilty taking founders time and rush to make hasty decisions to invest. Remember, it is a significant amount of money, spend time getting to know the founding team, the product, the customers and the market. Bounce the opportunity off a trusted set of advisors to make an informed decision. They might raise the red flags you failed to see.

4. Get to grips with tax reliefs

This is UK specific, but SEIS/ EIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme/ Enterprise Investment Scheme) enables investors to reduce risk and do more with the money you have. Both schemes are designed to encourage investment into early-stage growth-focused companies, providing tax relief (some money back!).

5. This is a team sport

Startups often raise anything from £50K to £300K in their first funding round. Therefore angel investors often invest alongside other angels to close the round. Joining networks and spending time with founders to foster relationships gives you access to deal flow and enables you to share deals with others and get advice from them too. It can be a lonely journey so value the communities you could join. Get help from others who have already been on the path you are about to go on. All of these lessons are from angel investors I have learned from.

6. Don’t transact, nurture winning relationships

Don’t be blinded by a big market or exciting idea, the highest risk is the founding team’s ability to execute on their idea. Remember, you are in it for the long haul and the only thing that is guaranteed when you invest in that you buy the right to participate in an exponential learning journey. There will be some highs but probably a lot more lows, and those are the times you need to support the founders most. Create memos or keep a journal so that you can track why you invested, how you were feeling and lessons learned along the journey.

7. Invest in what you understand

Stick to your core competence and invest only in what you understand. For this reason, I don’t invest in crypto and certain aspects of deep tech. A lesson learned from value investors Charlie Munger and Warren Buffet who were comfortable in missing out of big tech companies like Google and Facebook as they focused on what they knew well and ignored opportunities outside of that. If you worked in marketing for 20 years in an FMCG company then a good place to start could be by focusing on marketing tech and/or FMCG startups.

8. Add value beyond the capital

A brand is built through founders sharing with others how helpful you have been, especially during the difficult times. Four things really stand out to me here:

  • Empathy to understand what the founding team feels and listen sometimes without a solution, just listen and be present.
  • An ability to fill knowledge gaps.
  • Introductions to customers, partners and fellow investors (if needed).
  • Deliver quality contributions consistently.

The Angel Investing School is about what you could do with the money you can afford to lose. Adhering to the principles above should help teach you how not to lose it. My hope is that once participants complete the course, they leave equipped to make smarter investment decisions on a consistent basis.

Are there any principles I missed out on that you have? If so, please share below. If you are interested in The Angel Investing School, follow us on InstagramTwitter and check us out here.

Can I start angel investing with just £5K?

Can I start angel investing with just £5K?

The origins of angel investing is broadly believed to have been an investment by Arthur Rock in 1957 into the Fairchild Semiconductor in Silicon Valley, California . At the time, Arthur was based in New York before moving out to Silicon Valley and eventually went on to form the venture capital firm Davis & Rock. He invested in a range of tech companies we regard as household names such as Intel and Apple. You can learn more about this history and the early days of venture capital from documentaries such as Something Ventured.

Personally, I grew up fascinated by technology, business and investing. Across my interests, passions and career, I have had the opportunity to explore each of them. In 2019, I wanted to learn more about how to become an effective angel investor and learn from the lessons of more experienced angels. I soon realised that a number of people in my network were keen to learn this too. The challenge was that venture capital is an opaque industry and there was no clear on-ramp into angel investing.

The Angel Investing School was born out of this frustration. The purpose is to enable curious investors from anywhere to learn how to get started with investing into startups. I believe entrepreneurs can come from anywhere, so why can’t the capital too!

Common misconceptions people had included:

  • I need at least £20K saved before I can invest
  • I need accreditation before I can invest
  • I will make great returns in a year or two of investing my money
  • I’ve invested £50 in Monzo through crowdfunding, I am an angel investor and can put on Linkedin that I am an investor in Monzo now

Ok, so that last one was cheeky, but a lot of people invest through crowdfunding unaware of what happens to their money and don’t gain skin in the game to learn what it is like investing as an individual. The FCA states that anyone can start investing as long as you can self-certify as either High Net Worth or Sophisticated investors. This basically means you need to understand the risks associated with investing your money and in the event that a company fails you receive no return. There is no limit on how much or how little you invest.

So can you invest with as little as £5K into a new business venture? Absolutely, but the decisive factor that enables you to do so is whether you can access to quality deal flow early and whether you can invest in a sustainable way rather than a ‘one-off.’

Truth is, most new businesses fail and therefore, there is a high probability that you may lose your money as a result. However, the only thing guaranteed is a fast learning experience from having skin in the game. Treat your first investments as the cost associated for learning how to become an effective angel investors. Similar to investments we make into our education from an MBA to an online course, angel investing is an investment into your personal development. Your initial investments represents an opportunity to learn more about developing your investment thesis, learning about how you can add value beyond the capital and what you will and won’t invest in going forward.

To learn more about the next available course, click here.

Source: WSJ analysis of investor documents

As illustrated above, both Mike Walsh and Owen Michels both invested $5K into Uber in the early years as angel investors. I can hear the naysayers say, “but that is the United States, you can’t do that in the UK.” Wrong again my friend, you sure can. In an interview with Sifted, Check Warner, Partner at Ada Ventures explains how Ada Ventures scout network can either get paid in cash or choose to reinvest their finders fee into startups they introduce to the VC.

The Angel Investing School exists to make investing into startups more accessible to all. We will be running an inaugural in-person school for 6 weeks in London, taking place across 6 evenings from 1st April to the 6th of May. The topics we will cover include:

  • The history of angel investing and the London ecosystem
  • Sourcing & assessing deals
  • Transaction economics
  • Deal Structuring (incl. term sheets and valuations)
  • Adding value beyond capital
  • Developing a thesis

Once the course ends, all graduates will gain access to ongoing deal flow, events and support in building a track record in the startup ecosystem. Interested? To find out more and sign up, click here.

Why Am I Building a Micro School?

Why Am I Building a Micro School?

A decade ago, I left university and realised I wanted to work within the startup ecosystem. In the last 10 years I have been fortunate to experience working in over 10 different cities across a range of experiences from co-founding a startup to working as a product manager within a range of companies. More recently, I sat on the other side of the table as an investor at Backstage Capital, investing in underrepresented founders across the globe.

When I left university, I was already in the mindset that life was a continuous learning journey which didn’t just start and stop in school. However, I didn’t realise that my knowledge, relationships and capabilities would compound through the various work I have done.

Nowadays, I freelance with startups, scale-ups and corporates on product discovery, planning and execution. Alongside that, I create content for founders to provide the advice and steer I wish I had at the start of my journey to reduce or eliminate a lot of the risks associated with the all consuming journey of starting a company.

Last year, I reached a point of tension given the limited capacity I had between my freelancing clients and preserving family time with my daughter and partner (which I am never willing to compromise). I didn’t (and still don’t) have the bandwidth to catch up with everyone, that “wants a coffee catchup.” I had 30-50 founders contacting me for help every month. Anything from, “how do I validate the problem I wish to solve in a cost-effective way” to “could you review my pitch deck and my product?”

I can empathise, as I have been in their position before, I speak to founders everyday and I actually care and do want to help. But, I recognise the need to find a more scalable and accessible way to serve founders even if I can’t be in the room.

I tested out a podcast and Instagram IGTV series last year where I was sharing advice on specific topics with founders, from finding your first set of customers to understanding if venture capital is right for you. The feedback has been overwhelming and an indication that more of the same is helpful and needed. As a result, this inspired me to create AHVC.School. A new micro school for explorers who want trusted advice on the first steps of discovering whether they should pursue an idea.

AHVC School is the go-to destination for the discovery process and making smarter decisions.

The focus is on discovering:

  • Why you want to pursue an idea
  • How to validate yourself, your idea and your customer
  • Why you are well placed to do this now
  • How to make smarter decisions on a consistent basis

This is not a course that will get you from idea to startup in 6 weeks. Most explorers will validate that their idea is not feasible or even that they are not well suited to pursue entrepreneurship right now. We focus exclusively on the first step in your pursuit as we feel there is not enough honest and transparent content or support on this stumbling block so many people fall on.

My promise is regardless if you validate the need to start a company or not, you will learn at a real fast pace!

To make it more accessible and affordable, I have decided to create courses, which comprise of 4-6 short classes on a range of topics such as how to create a roadmap or how to interview users. The first two courses will be:

  • Getting started with discovery (online)
  • Angel Investing School (in-person pop-up in London)

Most of the courses, content and community will be online, with some in-person pop-up schools. All of the courses will be based off demand and feedback from users who sign up.

If this community sounds like something you would benefit from and you have topics you would love to learn about, then you can join the waitlist here and share what you would like to learn here.