By guest author Irina Patterson
Irina: What do you think is the most important thing that angel-backed founders can do to increase their chances of success?
Ray: The execution. It means you have to work with partners — work with partners like us, work with the team, and execute the plan. They also be able to change on a dime if things don’t go right, to be able to change the plan. I think that is very important.
Also, I would say, entrepreneurs have to be flexible. Because as entrepreneur you hear a lot of different opinions and ideas. You just have to be able to intelligently absorb all of these ideas, understand them, apply them, and see what works and what doesn’t work.
Irina: Test it quickly and regroup, if it’s necessary.
Ray: Right. I’ll tell you a story, a personal experience. To allow users to look at our virtual event, which I mentioned earlier, we use a technology called Vokle that’s also a company we invested in. This company was founded by two USC students who had no experience in running a company. Now their platforms are used by us and also by Huffington Post. Huffington Post is a huge online publication. They use Vokle to do their own TV channel of their magazine on their website. They have live interview events, like an Oprah Winfrey show, on the site. They use it to interview influential people, so their readers don’t just read the blog; they actually can watch a show, live interviews, and recorded interviews.
These two founders had this vision, this great game-changing idea, and they came to Tech Coast Angels because they understood that they needed help. They came to us to get a small amount of funding. They were able to execute their plan and be used and adapted by many users. Now they are used by major events. In addition to Huffington Post, Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin Atlantic chairman, used Vokle to do a charity show to raise money for Pakistan. Basically, Branson said, In two days’ notice I want to do a live TV show. But you cannot get on TV in short notice, right? So Branson used Vokle’s platform, a TV show over the Internet, and did a charity event in which different celebrities all over the country played music, from LA to Boston to Oregon. It was just like a PBS charity show, and they raised money. But instead of being on PBS or NBC, it was on a computer.
So, Vokle had to have traction and vision for the product to get to this stage. They have all the elements of successful entrepreneurs – they are hungry, they have the vision to change the world, they are passionate, and they work with partners.
Irina: Excellent story. What is your advice to angels? What they could do to increase their success, returns, and impact on entrepreneurship?
Ray: Oh, my God. Angel organizations need to respect entrepreneurs, treat them like they are their partners, reach out to entrepreneurs and work with them, and look at them just like they are customers and partners. We need to look for the problems that we can solve and find out what sort of help entrepreneurs might need from us. We need to listen to them.
And I can tell you so far that our mixers and our virtual events allow us to understand entrepreneurs better because we come to them face to face. In the past we went to a panel, we talked, we did some Q&A, and after that we would disappear.
I’m sure you’ve experienced this type of conference before, right? All these VCs, entrepreneurs, and angels are sitting on panels answering questions, and after the event they talk to entrepreneurs for five to ten minutes and the event is over. What we want to do is to spend more time with entrepreneurs through these mixers and these virtual events so that we can really connect with entrepreneurs and help them where they need it the most.