Image from Pen Waggener on Flickr.

Angel Meeting #1

In late January, I shared a rough thesis for the angel investments I hope to make in 2017.

A big hurdle for me when started investing was deciding what to talk about in the first meeting. I wanted something between a coffee chat and a pitch. The first few meetings were a little awkward as I tried to strike the right balance. Since then I’ve taken 14 meetings (about two per week). Most meetings were with early stage companies that had raised no capital, or a small F&F or seed round.

As those meetings happened, I developed a rough script for how I like the meetings to flow. This has worked well for me, but feel free to amend it to fit your needs. Sometimes I throw this out the window if a founder comes in with a strong idea for how they want the meeting to run.

1) Level set & introduction (5 min).

  • Clear expectations for the meeting. Set both of us at ease, and make sure we get to cover everything that either of wants to. I go through a verbal explanation of this blog post, and ask the founder what else they’d like to talk about. The meeting is in many ways for the founder: I want them to walk out feeling like they got more than an hour of value. I also specify that my goal isn’t to decide “check/no check” at the end of this meeting.
  • Why I decided to angel invest. If nothing else, I want the founder to know why I’m sitting across the table from them. Angel investing is different than institutional. I’m not showing up to hit a certain IRR, and I like to explain more of what I’m interested in and why I took the meeting.
  • More background on me (so the company can make the most of the time and target questions accordingly). What I do at Lola, what I’ve worked on before, my educational/city background. Almost anything is fair game here.

2) Get to know the founder and the company (15–30 min).

  • What’s your story?
  • Why is this the problem you decided to solve?
  • What’s your team like? How did you build the team? Did you work together before? What are the next key skills you need on the team?
  • Where are you at in the product process? What have you tested? What have you learned? What are you going to test next?
  • What’s the hardest thing you’ve gone through with this company so far?
  • Where do you want to be in 1 month? 6 months? 1 year?

3) Work on interesting problem(s) together (20–35 min).

  • Ask the founder for current product challenges they are facing (sometimes people come with one prepared, sometimes there are a few and it’s more ad-hoc).
  • Ask questions to fill out the space around the problem. This helps me learn how the founder thinks and prevents me from making incorrect assumptions about the business. Then we can see the problem from all sides.
  • Share resources for those challenges: articles, people who have tackled them, companies that might serve as good examples, introductions if appropriate. I want people to walk away from the meeting find resources to get a couple perspectives in addition to mine.
  • Work together on a challenge that appeals to both of us — sketch, discuss, react, brainstorm, critique. Very much like a hackathon or startup project.

Interested in how I think about Product conversations while investing/advising? Please back my Kickstarter project to collect my Product essays. The project will only run for one week. It will include ten new essays, and one of them will be about how to do a good product advisory session.

4) Close (5 min)

  • Summarize the meeting, and if appropriate set expectations for next steps.
  • Founder follow-up (if any) — Deck? Specific thing they wanted me to look at? Add me to company updates?
  • Me follow-up — A distilled version of my notes/suggestions? An introduction?