Image by Nicolas Nova

Why Your Next Angel Investor Should Be A Designer

When you bring an angel investor onboard, you want to make sure she is the right one. And it’s not just about cash. Instead, you should pay attention to the value each individual can add to your company — industry experience, relevant network (to help you find partners, customers & investors), as well as tech, sales, marketing, design or other skills you might benefit from.

While the need for tech & sales expertise is typically well understood, the need for design expertise is still underrated.


Unique technology is no longer enough to succeed

Consumer expectations have changed — today, we demand seamless experiences from products and services we interact with. And businesses will have to adapt and reshape their offering. You think the situation is different if you sell to enterprises? Stop fooling yourself, it’s not (or won’t be in a couple of years).

Mobile as the first screen has already reshaped consumer experience. With other emerging platforms, our expectations will change even more. As we spend less time interacting with each service, simplicity of it often becomes the competitive advantage. Product development is shifting from technology itself towards designing experiences we get from interacting with technology. Today, more value is created by designers than ever before.


You can increase the value of your company through design

Many entrepreneurs underestimate the value of design in the process of building a business. When I’m talking about design, I’m not referring to a visual appearance of a product or a service. The role of a designer has evolved over the last years. A good designer understands the big picture of a service, has a cross-functional thinking and constantly pays hyper-attention to customer needs. Isn’t it a perfect skill set for your angel investor?!

“Designers have traditionally been paid a lot of money to make what people want; meanwhile, most startups fail because they make things that people don’t actually want,” Enrique Allen, Co-founder of Designer Fund.

While every startup dreams of making a difference, many fail within a couple of years from starting their operations as they build services customers don’t want to pay for. Service design can have a significant impact on all of the key performance indicators of a company, including brand perception, customer engagement, satisfaction, and ultimately revenue.

As an entrepreneur, you have already been a designer of business models and processes. However, you often lack the variety of design methods and tools to help you develop new services. Working together with your team, a good designer can help you foster collaboration within the team, open up communication with your customers, validate your ideas, create new services, gain better understanding of the competition, differentiate your brand, and deliver better user experience.

Typically, you can not afford hiring a full-time designer at a (pre)-seed stage, when design competence is ultimately needed. At the same time, design is too important to outsource. So why not getting a designer onboard as an advisor or an angel investor? Bringing design competence in addition to some cash could be a great way to boost your business.


Designers turned angel investors are the rare breed today.

It gets harder and harder for a startup to hire good designers. Many of them are better off freelancing or working for a top tech company than joining a design agency or a startup. The more experienced a designer is, the more options she has to choose from. Joining your startup as an angel investor might be an interesting opportunity for a designer to build something meaningful without commiting full-time (and with potential financial upside). While you as a founder will benefit from design expertise from the very early stage.


So how do you find one?

Today, most of the designers are not yet part of any business angel network, and don’t see themselves as business angels (hopefully, that will soon change). They are neither easy to find, nor to impress. They chase something else than profit. If you want to get their commitment, you have to make them buy into your vision & your team.

  • Start networking and spending time with people from your local design community. Attend design events & meetups. You will quickly find people who share the same values and are interested in solving similar problems.
  • Check out different accelerators. Are there any mentors with design expertise? These are the people who already work with early-stage startups. You might want to get in touch.
  • Take a look at AngelList; there are some designers, who are investing (the list is sadly short today, but hopefully growing in the future).
  • Talk to other entrepreneurs, who are ahead of you in their journey. Find out who has been helping them design their services.
  • If an angel investor doesn’t sound right, there are also seed VCs providing you hands-on design support — Proxy Ventures is a good example.

Finding the right designer to invest in your startup requires a lot of time, but you will quickly realize the gain is worth the effort when you see the increasing amount of happy customers.

If you need any tips on designers turned angel investors in the Nordics (or if you are one of them), drop me a line at ekaterina@inventure.fi.