With a marketing background and a love for purpose-driven startups, Lana Weal is an aspiring angel investor. Here, she, along with her fellow course participants, share their biggest lessons from the VC Catalyst program.
The wonderful world of venture
After working in the startup industry for a few years, I realised I had a trait that many in the industry have – an excess of optimism. It’s not only startup founders that have and often need this trait to persevere – their investors, mentors and supporters also need optimism to keep motivated and to encourage great work during the many highs and lows of startup life.
In my short career in marketing, I feel lucky to have found my way into the startup world, where I’m able to speak with optimistic founders about the big problems they’re solving and the positive impact they’re making.
But after a few years of supporting founders with marketing, I realised I had become more and more interested in how finances and funding can impact business success. It can be hard to know where to start, so I pursued my curiosity by speaking with experts in venture capital, angel investing and impact investing. These conversations led me to Roshan Ghadamiansh, Program Director at Wade Institute, and an opportunity to participate in the VC Catalyst program (VCC).
Evaluating the industry and my place in it
Before starting the VC Catalyst course, I was extremely optimistic and excited about the idea of making my first investment in a promising startup. I started saving a percentage of my business income to allocate to future angel investing – but I had no idea what my first deal could look like. I knew I wanted to support impact startups and women-led startups, and I thought my marketing experience would come in handy. But that’s about as far as my thinking went.
Part of our preparation for VCC was reading the highly regarded book: Angel by Jason Calacanis. The book is highly recommended for both founders and investors, but I found its ambitious goals of investing in the best early-stage investors quite intimidating.
But during VCC, we met with and heard real examples from a range of experienced and successful VC investors from around Australia and around the world, which allowed me to see the broader spectrum of what the “best” startup is for each investor. While some investors might be aiming to 10x their money, others might be looking to earn a percentage of their money back, making a big difference within the industry they’re operating within or supporting upcoming founders. These conversations really helped me to start thinking about where my ‘place’ might be within the ecosystem.
Discovering my superpowers
With most teamwork, it’s beneficial to be able to articulate your strengths and weaknesses. It’s arguably even more important within the startup industry, where people are encouraged to dive in quickly, test, learn and develop. While I knew a few of my strengths, VCC facilitators encouraged participants to think about our individual superpowers. What do you do well that others could benefit from?
For me, my superpowers are storytelling and connecting. I love supporting founders to realise their value and unique offerings, encouraging them to share it with the world, and then brainstorming the best marketing strategies to achieve their goals. And I realised I should be leveraging these superpowers to mentor more startup founders. Marketing is important for all businesses and I already spend a lot of time speaking with startup founders and sharing knowledge, but VCC helped me to realise I can be even more intentional with this.
The value of your Investment Thesis
While most of the people I’ve come across within the startup industry are super passionate, switched on and keen to make a difference, how each of us make that difference ranges a lot. Almost every VCC participant I spoke to had some idea about what they wanted to invest in and how, but not many of us had spent the time expanding on how we’re unique and how we can add value to founders and their startups.
VCC gave me the opportunity to review concepts which shifted my perspective to the long-term game of investing, and helped me refine my investment thesis. And it showed me how mapping answers to a few simple questions can help create a long term strategic investment thesis: What do you want to invest in? How much will you invest? How often? Where will you find these game-changing founders? What types of founders do you want to support? How will you support them?
For some things in the startup world, it’s best to just start, then test and learn. But for other parts, it’s better to take your time and be more strategic with decisions. I now know that when I do make my first investment, I’ll be even more committed and excited about what I’m investing in.
Making a long lasting positive impact
Because of VCC, I’m now thinking far more strategically: what do I want my portfolio to look like in 10 years time?
Previously I was thinking mainly of myself, and how I could potentially impact just one company. Now, I realise where I can play within the wider investment community, I see the value of my superpower, I have connections with angel investors with experience, and I know more communities I can get involved with. The experience was invaluable as I now have more focus to develop my superpowers, more connections with founders I want to support, and more lessons from experienced investors.
Lana Weal is the founder of Market Mindfully, a purpose-driven marketing consultancy with a focus on making SEO and organic partnerships easy. With a communications career that spans some of Australia’s most well known brands, local businesses and early-stage startups, Lana enjoys supporting purpose-driven entrepreneurs, to amplify their impact and change the world. Lana is also the Program Coordinator for Atto – a pre-accelerator and school that supports female founders to launch tech companies in an independent, scalable, and sustainable manner.
Wade Institute of Entrepreneurship is a leading centre for entrepreneurial education. We deliver programs to accelerate learning, creation and connection.