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The best hope to avoid a complete failure of a startup you have invested in is to stay informed and keep up-to-date on how the company is doing. A good startup CEO will send out regular communications to the investors. This should cover good news, bad news, and how the investors can help the company. If you are getting these reports, you should definitely read them, and you should have an idea of whether the company is executing well, when it is thinking about raising another round, whether the company is struggling to fill a key slot on the executive team, or failing to land key customers.

If you are not getting updates, be proactive in reaching out to the CEO or the lead investor in your financing round or other investors in the round who may be connected to the company.

Negotiating for information rights and board observer rights can be really useful, because being informed of problems early gives you the best opportunity to do something about it before the company runs out of runway.

Digging In

Assuming you discover that things are not going well, you need to decide how much time and energy you want to invest to try to get things back on track. Part of being engaged as an angel investor is helping where you can when a portfolio company needs it, and if you have focused your investments in domains that you know well, there should be plenty of opportunities to help, including:

  • Talent gaps. It is very common for angels to get involved in helping a startup source and recruit key talent. Many active investors have strong networks, and they may even know seasoned executives and consultants that they can bring in on an interim basis if necessary to get companies β€œover the hump” on whatever issue is holding them back. This can be an effective stop-gap solution while the company continues to recruit for a permanent executive.

  • Specific execution challenges. Founding teams are necessarily small, and young entrepreneurs often have gaps in their business experience. For example, strong technical founders may need help driving customer growth, which might be slow due to poor positioning, inefficient marketing, ineffective pricing, or a poor initial user experience. Arrange a working session with the team and spend several hours digging into a specific issue. You may be surprised how effective your own business experience, domain expertise, and seasoned perspective can be in overcoming challenges.

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