• Amanda Castellino posted an article

    The Best Advice Startups Will Never Follow

    Here are six pieces of invaluable advice that every entrepreneur chooses to ignore. see more

    In any startup, the founder and/or CEO tries to have their own team of advisors and investors to help the company scale. In addition to the financial benefits of angel investors, they bring years or even decades of experience and serve as mentors to entrepreneurs, helping them grow and scale their businesses.

    To accomplish this, investors typically look for entrepreneurs with great teams and products, but mostly those who are coachable and open to feedback. Ideally, a CEO would seek advice from seasoned investors and avoid common business pitfalls. But that's not always the case, and CEOs tend to ignore investor advice and fall into common business traps.

    Long-time angel investor Dave Berkus has made more than 200 investments to date. He attended our 2021 Investor Capital Expo and shared his experience working with entrepreneurs. Here are 6 pieces of advice, cumulated from his decades of experience, that entrepreneurs are most likely to ignore.
















    Advice #1: Don’t Accept Money from Family Members

    Accepting money from family members can be tricky! Today, more than a third of startup founders raise money from family members. While you may think it is beneficial to have family members be a part of your business, here are the pros and cons of asking your relatives to invest:


    • They are willing to invest in you because of familiarity & the family connection
    • They do not question your business decisions
    • They are more likely to reinvest


    • They believe that the family bond is their guarantee of getting their money back
    • Family relations can be negatively impacted during a business loss/or inability to return their invested amount

    Dave recommends only accepting money from experienced family members if they are willing to invest in the business and can walk away without regrets if the money is not returned. In the instance that you want to ask for money from a wealthy family member, it is advisable to present them with the idea and give them the opportunity to say no without it affecting your relationship. If this family member has put money into your business on three or more occasions, then it is perfectly acceptable to ask them without out getting emotionally involved. He went on to say that if they've invested with the entrepreneur in the past, entrepreneurs may not need to worry about emotional distress before asking them to invest again.

    The real problem comes when the business fails and the entrepreneur cannot give them their money back. Family members tend to think of family ties as insurance to get their money, and failure to do so may create a bad feeling for family members investing in the business. Remember, just because an entrepreneur has a family relationship with an investor doesn't mean they don't expect a return on investment.

    Always instruct entrepreneurs to consider whether family members who are asked to invest will be able to walk away without remorse if the business fails.


    Advice #2: Don’t take money from unsophisticated investors 

    The most important advice here is to not take any money, especially a startup loan from an unsophisticated investor.

    Dave shares an example here where he was a co-lender and took over the role of chairman of a fledgling startup where the entrepreneur’s cousin loaned money on the same terms. After the deal fell through, the entrepreneur's cousin sued everyone involved, including the entrepreneur, Dave himself, Dave's wife, and his family trust, just to get his money back. Dave said it cost him several times the cousin’s loan value in legal fees to settle and extradite his interest from the baseless lawsuit.

    Carefully vet investors to ensure they have the experience and temperament to handle all types of situations.


    Advice #3: Get investors to purchase equity 

    It is advisable to take loans from sophisticated investors only after you have done everything possible to convince them to purchase equity. But, ensure that they have a clear understanding of the potential extension and the repayment process. Entrepreneurs should let investors buy equity for the following reasons:

    • If the corporation is a C-Corp - the legal form of a corporation, the owners or shareholders are taxed separately from the corporation.
    • You can benefit from Section 1202. This provision encourages non-corporate taxpayers to invest in small businesses. Exempting capital gains from federal income tax on the sale of small company stock is the primary purpose of this IRC section.

    Getting investors to purchase equity, which is good for everyone, keeps entrepreneurs from having too much debt on their balance sheet and allows them, if required, to take a loan in the future.


    Advice #4: Don’t talk yourself into high valuations

    This is an important one! Talking themselves into high valuations is a trap that entrepreneurs often set. Don't convince yourself into a high valuation in your first funding round. Even if the idea is a never-seen never-done-before. Even if the idea could be worth billions of dollars.

    Not only is it a difficult lesson to teach, but Dave also says, it's one that entrepreneurs overlook quite regularly. Friends and family are often the first investors in a company, and they don't have the experience and knowledge to adequately compare value ​​or ask the difficult questions about the business. So, when evaluating a company, they trust the words of the entrepreneur. Only when angel investors get involved, they may or may not agree that the valuation is reasonable and comparable to other opportunities. More often than not investors walk away from deals when the valuations are unreasonable.

    It's not worth arguing with entrepreneurs and early-stage investors such as friends and family when valuations are too high when many other deals require sophisticated investor money.


    Advice #5: Don’t take “Dumb Money”

    Always advise entrepreneurs not to take dumb money, especially when the investor or lender has nothing but cash to offer. Angel investors aren't just good for writing checks, but so much more. Here are 5 attributes that make investors indispensable to your team!


    1 – Capital inflow: Funds brought into the company by angel investors on reasonable terms.


    2 – Ability to lead entrepreneurs: Investors are able to guide investors into the context of a business plan relevant to the market to ensure they are not in the wrong place at the wrong time or their product/service is not premature or arrives too late at the market. An investor also helps entrepreneurs better understand the TAM (Total Available Market), SAM (Serviceable Available Market) & SOM (Serviceable Obtainable Market), this is crucial to understanding how their product will fare in the market. Investors can advise them on the context of their actions so they can be better prepared when they enter the market.


    3 – Investor's experience growing a business: Any experienced investor has a history of managing or owning a business. Almost all investors have made mistakes and lost money while trying to make money, so there is valuable experience/knowledge that can be shared with entrepreneurs to help them avoid similar mistakes and save the money invested into their company by investors.


    4 – Investors know the best use of time: This means investors know when is the right time to launch a product. Faced with such hurdles as entrepreneurs who want to approve every decision, can create significant bottlenecks in product launches. There is also a core time to control, especially early in the development cycle, so that the development team understands the value of time and ensures that it is used in the best possible way. Otherwise, most investors will have put their money in a company whose core team can't come up with a finished product.


    5 – Leveraging an Investor’s Network:  Last but not the least, an investor’s access to extended relationships with fellow angel investors and entrepreneurs alike.  Dave states that every investor has investor friends and acquaintances and all of them have made mistakes and learned from them along the way.

    As an investor, you can influence the decisions of entrepreneurs and their teams, whether you join as an individual or as a member of a group such as Keiretsu Forum, or as a chairman of the board or advisor to entrepreneurs. All in all, all investors have smart money to offer, but they're worth as much or more than the money they bring to the table.


    Advice #6: Don’t walk away from rejection by experienced investors

    Entrepreneurs might hold residual bad feelings towards investors who don’t invest in their company.

    But rejection isn't always a bad thing! Most early-stage investors have seen thousands of good and bad proposals and know how to distinguish a good deal from a bad one. Investors may reject it because they compare it to previously lost investments, or because of their industry experience and understanding of the market. He suggests using the ‘Berkus Method of valuation’ to better evaluate the scalability of a startup.


    As an investor, Dave says, you should advise entrepreneurs to ask three progressive sets of deeper questions to find out why investors aren't investing in their companies. Every encounter should be a learning experience, so inform entrepreneurs that a well-worded "no" can be a step toward a correction of the course, and maybe a later "yes".

    About the Speaker:

    Dave Berkus is a noted speaker, author and early-stage private equity investor. He is acknowledged as one of the most active angel investors in the country, having made and actively participated in multiple technology investments. He is a much-in-demand keynote speaker throughout the world, addressing technology trends for corporate planning, building great companies, and sharing great, epic stories about entrepreneurism from his vast personal experience. As Managing Partner of Kodiak Ventures, L.P., Wayfare Ventures, LLC, three ACE Funds, and Berkus Technology Ventures, LLC, all private equity investment funds – and Chairman- Emeritus of the Tech Coast Angels, one of the largest angel investing networks in the United States, today Dave is board chairman or board member of ten technology companies. You can watch his keynote here.


     September 23, 2022
  • Amanda Castellino posted an article

    How to Avoid Early-Stage Startup Failure

    Learn how applying the 80/20 rule can improve investment outcomes! see more

    Ever heard of the 80/20 rule in business?

    The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto principle, states that 80% of the results come from 20% of all causes (or inputs) to a given event. In business, one goal of the 80/20 rule is to identify and prioritize the inputs that are likely to be most productive. For example, once CEOs have identified the factors that are critical to their business success, they should focus their efforts primarily on those factors.

    Park City Angels member Ted McAleer joined our Keiretsu Forum Northwest & Rockies Roadshow to discuss go-to-market strategies for helping emerging startups avoid failure. He believes that the failure of the entrepreneur is the failure of the investor, a risk that can be avoided by simply developing a well-thought-out strategy, with metrics and performance indicators at all stages.

    Here are the 3 most common reasons for startup failures, according to CB Insights:

    Product Market Fit – 35%
    Ran out of Cash – 38%

    Wrong Team – 20%

    In addition to the first three reasons, we have an insightful blog from investor and entrepreneur Rob Neville where he dives into the many reasons why startups fail. Let's talk about reason number one.


    • Identifying a good Product Market Fit


    Product-market fit describes the degree to which a company's target customers buy, use, and tell others a reasonable amount of a company's product to sustain the growth and profitability of that product. So why is it so important to implement it? Why do so many angel investors need proof of product viability before investing in a company?

    This is because an entrepreneur & their team can't focus on other strategic goals such as increasing or upselling existing users until they develop a product that people are willing to pay for. In fact, these initiatives can be seen as counterproductive, if they haven't determined that there is enough market for their product to sustain themselves and make a profit, it can backfire. When you work with entrepreneurs, whether they're in early stage, seed, or late stage, you need to do an audit with them. Ask them the following questions about their product or service: Is this idea a good idea? Is the business model viable? And how can it be scaled? Here are some more questions and tests you can use to ensure that the company you are interested in has a good product-market fit.

















    If they haven't done these three tests, you really don't know if the idea they're after is good. If the idea is good and they pass all three tests, then you move on to the business model viability. Entrepreneurs can often build products, but it's important to know if they understand the market and industry. It is also important to note that entrepreneurs often do not represent the entire competitive landscape. In fact, they should study it better and understand if the product or service is a niche product in a certain region, or if they really have the ability to scale it.


    How does a good go-to-market strategy impact product market fit?


    The challenge with go-to-market strategies is that the timing of entry depends on technology. The term "Minimum Viable Product" or MVP is a product with enough functionality to attract early customers and validate product ideas early in the product development cycle. In industries such as software, MVPs can help product teams gather user feedback as quickly as possible to iterate and improve products. So, you will see that the product has gone through different versions during the initial stages of its release, namely MVP v1, MVP v2, MVP v3, etc.















    If an entrepreneur continues to build a minimum viable product without customer feedback, it is likely that the product will never be successfully launched. The bare minimum for a truly viable product is to get people to interact as betas, then strategize how to convert those betas into paying customers, and then expand those paying customers to what Ted calls non-discounted, full paying customers. By systematically executing this process and regularly providing customer feedback to the development team and improving the product or service, a company can gain confidence in its product-market fit.


    • Managing the company’s cash flow













    Another big thing you need to consider as an investor is that startups may run out of cash. When a startup has gone through the co-founder, family, and friends’ stage and is now coming to an angel investor, it is necessary to determine your role in the company, especially if the product or service is technology-based.  It's also required to thoroughly research the company's financials to understand how much money is raised in each round and how the money is being spent. As you continue to work with entrepreneurs, make sure they understand what happens to the CAP table when the company structure changes.


    • Creating the perfect team structure

    Angel investors often feel that they do not want to be on the board of directors of the companies they invest in. This is because, you stand to undertake a lot of fiduciary responsibilities, and when you invest in many companies, having too many board memberships can take up a lot of your time! One thing all investors can agree on is that in a go-to-market strategy, having a solid advisory board is crucial. For example, if you are interested in a company, and you are in conversation with the co-founder that is raising a pre-seed round. It is important to know the background of the co-founders. Do they have expertise in customer development and product development? Because if they don't, they will fail. In recent years, there have been many entrepreneurs aged 21-30 without much leadership and management experience. This is where angel investors can join as advisory board members, developing policy recommendations and helping young entrepreneurs make the most impactful decisions.

    If you are planning to invest in a startup and want to evaluate their workflow, or are a board member of a startup and want to improve their current process, here is a quick guide to the steps each department needs to follow to ensure a smooth process within the organization:













    Sometimes you meet visionary entrepreneurs who are good at product or customer development but don't know how to build or lead a team. Building and leading teams effectively are what most seasoned investors have achieved in their day. Angel investors play an important role in a company's go-to-market strategy and overall company growth by counseling these young entrepreneurs. The advisory board or core team must have members with a thorough understanding of all of the company's business functions. Take note! Never add too many ‘leader of leaders’ to a company's advisory board. This means that almost every seasoned angel investor can be considered a leader of leaders, but when you put too many angels into a startup team, the hierarchy pyramid collapses. Organizational balance is key to its success, so how can this be achieved?


    Achieving organizational alignment in a startup

    This is another essential element of a go-to-market strategy. An entrepreneur and the core team must understand the importance of strategic planning. Here are a few KPIs suggested by Ted for each team, they can be further developed as the startup scales.


    • Mission: Define why the company exists
    • Vision: Aspirational outcome determines the description of long-term success
    • Strategic Objectives: If achieved, results will lead to the realization of the vision
    • KPIs: How to know if results are being delivered, it also forms the basis of the company and its partners' scorecards
    • Strategic Initiatives: Short-Term Attack Plans and 14/30/90-day plans to achieve quarterly goals
    • Structure: how the company uses its human resources and how we organize our partner resources
    • Budget: How a company uses its financial resources


    Here are also a few principles that startups can adopt:












    Going back to the Pareto Principle, Ted noted that creating organizational alignment and a metrics-based strategy provides the 80/20 focus to the business. It supports a company's decision-making process, facilitates the performance of all business functions, and most importantly, enables smooth communication between internal and external stakeholders. As you go through multiple funding rounds, you may find that the company's metrics improve quarter-to-quarter. It's important for every part of the business to have at least one metric. To define metrics, make sure they are smart, specific, measurable, and achievable. Don't get overwhelmed in the process, take it step by step, making sure the entrepreneur and their team are in sync, it's a surefire way to achieve common goals and be successful.


    About the Speaker

    Ted McAleer has been working with Utah’s Startup community since 1999. He is currently the VP of Operations at Rebel Medicine and prior to this Ted was VP of business Development at Braveheart Wireless, an IoHT Medical Device startup. From 2015 to 2018, Ted was the first Managing Director of PandoLabs, a business incubator and accelerator based in Park City, Utah where he worked with over 100 Entrepreneurs and their companies and developed a methodology for scaling companies from 2 to 20 employees that he captured in PandoLabs Institute. From 2006 to 2014, Ted was the 1 st Executive Director of USTAR (Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative), the State of Utah’s signature technology - based economic development initiative. Prior to USTAR, McAleer spent 5 years in a variety of leadership roles with Campus Pipeline, a Utah - based venture - backed EdTech startup that raised $80+ million during the “dot com” era. Click here to watch his keynote.


  • Amanda Castellino posted an article

    Questions to ask yourself before investing

    Do not invest until you have an answer to all of them. see more

    The investment process comes with many challenges and rewards. As an investor, it's up to you to overcome the challenges and reap the rewards, but how do you do it? One simple tactic that always helps is asking questions!

    When it comes to investing, you don’t just need to ask questions, you need to ask the right questions. The questions that you ask during the due diligence process can give you an insight into the companies and teams that can help you make your final decision to invest in a company.

    Norman Boone has compiled a list of questions every investor should ask themselves and entrepreneurs before investing. He is an experienced leader, entrepreneur, long-term angel investor, and member of the Keiretsu Forum NorCal region. He gave the keynote address at the Denver/Boulder chapter meeting at our May 2022 Roadshow.

    Whether you're investing for the first time or have been investing for years, here are some key questions Norman asks himself and the entrepreneur during due diligence and before writing a check.


    The most important Question Investors need to ask themselves! (With examples!)


    Do you have space in your allocation?

    If you plan to invest in a new business, it is important that you have sufficient funds allocated for the investment.


    Do you love the product idea?

    Does it appeal to you? Do you find it practical? If the answer to both of these questions is no, you need to reconsider your investment decision. Norman explained that Northern California-based Earth Grid is working on underground tunnels almost as large as roadways, and he thinks they will eventually work with power lines, water lines, and more. This is a global opportunity as their competitor in the region PG&E (power company) has had major problems with fires on overhead power lines. Investing in the company could be a great opportunity to create more beauty and less harm to the environment.


    What is the quality of management and the board?

    Most fledgling companies probably don't have a board of directors at this stage of their growth. Norman went on to say that if the company has a board of directors, you need to look at how involved they are. Also, the quality of the team such as management, entrepreneurs, and core decision-makers. Norman cites the company Epilogue Systems as an example. When he joined Epilogue Systems as part of the due diligence team, he appreciated CEO Mike Graham's ability to act on recommendations and his willingness to accept feedback.


    Is there an exit plan?

    No sane investor wants to lose money on an investment. Therefore, it is important to assess whether the company has a clear plan and path towards an exit.


    Is the Term Sheet fair?

    The Term Sheet is an essential document that contains all investment terms. As an investor, it is important to understand the details of the Term Sheet and the financial terms contained within. It is necessary to read the Term Sheet frequently to ensure that you are getting the best deal from your investment. To make money from a company, it is imperative to understand the Term Sheet.


    Operational Efficiency

    Norman went on to ask, does the business model make sense for you? Can it be scaled? With the current business model, will the company deliver on its promises? Or do they need to change their operating structure as they grow? The more effective the business model, the more likely it is to succeed in the future.


    Is the market ready for this innovation?

    The market plays a significant role in the success of a company. As an investor, you want to know if this company is an attractive investment. You want to know if there is a large market for the product or service you are investing in and if that market is ready for innovation. Example: Turn Technologies is one of the companies that Norman believes has great technology and a way to connect gig workers with employers.


    Competitive Landscape

    Competitive landscape analysis is a proactive way to understand how a company competes with its competitors. By leveraging on its strengths, the company can make up the ground between itself and its competitors. 


    Do the economics/financials make sense?

    Understanding the numbers in a company's financial statements is a vital skill for investors. Meaningful interpretation and analysis of balance sheets, profit, and loss statements, and cash flow statements to identify a company's investment quality is fundamental to making informed decisions.


    The impact of technology

    A company's technology is critical to its success. Norman gives another example of Epilogue Systems. In his experience, their technology overwhelmed unicorn-sized competitors. He loves their management and their technology, what they do and how it makes them useful.


    Here are Questions Investors Need to Ask Entrepreneurs 

    The infographic below summarizes 4 key areas where questions can be asked.



    Questions Investors need to ask themselves before finally writing a check

    Even if investors like a company, there are a few other factors to consider before closing a deal.


    • Is there room in your allocation?
    • Have your questions been answered in a way that makes you feel comfortable?
    • Will it help you build diversity in assets?
    • Are you passionate about this company and its people?
    • Will this affect your decision to proceed and the investment amount?


    Final advice for all investors

    Norman recalls the advice given to him by Keiretsu Forum founder Randy Williams when he joined Keiretsu Forum.


    • Don’t invest in your first year – use it to learn;
    • Attend as many sessions and deep dives as you can;
    • Do at least 1, preferably 2 due diligence projects;
    • Seek insights from more experienced people in Keiretsu;


    At the end of the day, what matters to Norman is the big picture, does the company have a real possibility of becoming successful? What are the obstacles and how do they get around them? Does the company have a clear vision of what it wants to achieve? As a longtime financial advisor, Norman explained that you can only invest in what you can afford to lose. As an investor, you need to be careful and ask the right questions every step of the way.



    Norman Boone


    Norman Boone is an experienced leader and entrepreneur. He founded and successfully sold two companies - one a financial advisory firm and the other a software SaaS firm. He is a board member of many non-profit organizations, a university, and professional associations. He also authored a textbook for the financial services industry and a variety of articles and columns. He is currently retired and is focused on consumer fairness, scaling of successful non-profits, and consulting to non–profits, and is an active angel investor. Click here to watch his keynote address.  


  • Amanda Castellino posted an article

    Top Reasons Why Start-Ups Fail

    Here's how a thorough due diligence process can protect your investment interests. see more

    You probably already know that starting a business can be a challenging journey. Few companies have the right product-market fit, the right team, and the right business model to guarantee their future success. Have you ever wondered where most businesses go wrong? How and why, do they fail? The factors that hinder success are often not just one, but many. As an investor and entrepreneur, it is important to understand why before you invest and/or start a business.

    Rob Neville has been active in the Keiretsu Forum NorCal region for ten years, initially as an entrepreneur and investor. In the Portland chapter of our April 2022 Roadshow, he outlines the top three reasons start-ups fail. They are as follows:



    According to Rob Neville, the top three reasons start-ups fail are capitalization, poor product-market fit, and teams. The reasons below cover over 90% of start-up failures.





















    The first hurdle start-ups need to acknowledge after their launch is that they don’t have enough capital, this can be due to the failure to raise money, or that they did not raise enough money.


    The CEO must be a good storyteller

    The process of raising capital is closely tied to whether the CEO is a compelling storyteller. At the end of the day, if you cannot tell a story about your company, you cannot motivate your audience to write a check. Any CEO who cannot do that will have a hard time raising money. Rob recalls hearing presentations from companies in the past, where the idea was great, but the presentation did not convince him to write a check. During the due diligence process, he often helps revise presentations and coaches CEOs on how to tell the company story more persuasively.


     Address the most important risks early

     From a capitalization perspective, start-ups are always risk-oriented, so as an investor, everything is about addressing those risks. During the due diligence process, it is important to identify significant risks early on, before any funds are invested in the company.


     Align GANTT Charts, Revenue Usage, and Financials

     A GANTT chart is a bar chart that represents a project timeline. Rob recalls that he rarely encountered a company's GANTT chart where the revenue and financials were all lined up. As an investor, it is important that you work with the company to adjust all elements on the chart and accurately reflect it in all other documents.


    Talk to primary vendors

    It is vital not to blindly believe what the company says, and to have a dialogue with other stakeholders such as primary vendors. Example: If there is a manufacturer that makes widgets for a company, you should talk to them and confirm that the timeline shared by the company matches their timeline for delivering a complete and functional product. If not, adjust the GANTT chart and financial data accordingly.


    Appropriate security and terms

     Proper security is an important factor in this process, as you take many risks when investing in a business. So, whether you see a $1 billion valuation or even a $100 million valuation, if the company is coming to angels for investment, the numbers are probably not 100% credible. It's wise to spend a lot of time making sure safety measures are in place. Investors generally prefer convertible bonds to SAFEs because they are safer.



    The second hurdle to overcome is product-market fit. As an investor, don’t simply trust the data the company provides, do your due diligence to see if the product has a place in the market or not.


    Validate every assumption

     The CEO said the product is in high demand. Don't believe it.

    The CEO said the product has a 70% profit margin. Don't believe it.

     Don't believe in assumptions and don't listen to opinions. If there's one thing to watch out for, it's peer-reviewed data. For example, if a company is making assumptions about data, then every number they talk about, every number in their executive summary, and every number in their slideshow needs to be correlated, challenged, and validated.


    Rebuild TAM/SAM/SOM

     It is important to develop your Total Addressable Market (TAM), Serviceable Addressable Market (SAM), and Serviceable Obtainable Market (SOM) and challenge the business with your data. In most cases, they will probably just adjust their model based on your input.


    Market Validation (early traction, survey)

     How to measure market efficiency? The first step is to look at customer acquisition cost (CAC) and lifetime value (LTV). This can be done by mapping sales in the marketplace, but if a company isn't already selling anything, it's important to know the size of its customer base. This can be done initially with a qualitative survey; you use your network for this. Next, conduct quantitative research with the help of the company to understand who the customer is and what their buying process is like.


    Mega Trends

     Never invest in a sinking ship. Any investment you make should be in an expanding industry. Therefore, adapting the product to the market is critical, which is why investors should spend a lot of time talking to as many customers as possible during the due diligence process.

    3) TEAM


    If a company has a good team, all other factors generally fall into place. As an investor, how do you approach the challenge of understanding the people behind the company?


    Get to know the board and team

     For angel investors, the only real opportunity to meet the team of the company you invest in is during the due diligence process. So, what can you do to overcome this challenge and know if the team behind the company has what it takes to make the company successful? Spend time with them formally or informally. A due diligence meeting is one thing, but you can also meet informally, such as for dinner or set up discussions during a sporting event. Conduct secondary reference and background checks, talk to as many people as possible, and make sure any data shared by the CEO and executive team is validated by these checks.


    Wild Assertions/Lack of Humility

     Always pay attention to any assertions made by the CEO.  If he or she makes an exaggerated statement, treat it as a red flag.  As an investor, you don’t want wild assumptions, you want a humble CEO who understands the ups and downs and sticks to the facts.


    Relevant Experience

     It is important that the core team working for the company are investing their own money into the business and are there in a full-time capacity. It is imperative to judge teams by their backgrounds and whether they have the grit and tenacity to move the company forward.


    The following chart by CB Insights outlines additional reasons why start-ups fail.



























    Rob’s Due Diligence Philosophy


    • Due diligence is more than checklists and fact-checking
    • The Due Diligence process should shape the company into a viable and investible entity
    • How can this be done? Focus on what makes start-ups crash
    • It should validate your pre-defined investment criteria
    • Due Diligence continues well after the DD report is done


    Rob explained that as an investor, you should always go beyond the due diligence checklist. When a company comes to you and you have a legitimate interest in the company and see areas for improvement, it's important to take action, especially when doing due diligence. If the CEO can't tell the company's story well, you should spend weeks or even months helping them solve the problem and turn it into something convincing. The process of due diligence shapes a company into a viable and investable entity, not just through its pitch presentation, but also through its financials and go-to-market strategy. This can only be achieved by taking an active role in the company. If you have completed the due diligence process, you may not be ready to invest 100% in the company. You can invest the minimum amount and watch the company’s performance over time, and once you are confident that it can achieve its goals, you can go ahead and invest more money. Thus, the due diligence process continues way beyond the completion of the report.




    Rob Neville

    Rob Neville is a successful entrepreneur now turned angel investor. As CEO of Savara, Rob attracted one of the largest historical amounts of angel investment ($50m from 400 angels including $15M from Keiretsu) - Savara was listed on NASDAQ in 2017. Prior to co-founding Savara, Rob founded and served as CEO at Evity, which he subsequently sold to BMC Software returning 30X to angel investors in just over 1 year. Based on his work at Savara and Evity, Rob was honored as a three-time finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, winning the life science award in 2018. Rob now serves as a repeat judge in the Earnest & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Rob is currently Managing Director at Springbok Ventures, investing in and assisting early-stage start-ups. Click  here to watch his keynote address.