Sophia Bendz
Jun 11 · 6 min read

How I angel invest and what it means to me

In November 2018, Atomico started its Angel Programme, which I am leading with my colleague Will Dufton. Each year, we’re letting 12 outstanding individuals from across the European tech ecosystem invest $100K.

Given that 93% of the funding in Europe last year went to all-male founding teams, it’s obvious that capital is not being allocated in a way that reflects our society or encourages a broader set of people to become entrepreneurs. And that’s just gender — diversity of all kinds is lacking in our ecosystem. That’s why we hope the angel program will activate a new generation of angel investors and tap into underrepresented founder groups.

A half-year in, the program has sparked deep discussions among the angels and generated learnings and insights. We want to share those insights here with the hope that they will inspire and inform potential angels, current angels, and founders alike.

As the head of the angel program, I want to kick off this series by sharing about my own experience being an angel. I have been angel investing since 2012 while at and after spending 8 years at Spotify and have backed 34 companies.

Why do I do it?

Simply defined, a business angel is according to wikipedia “An angel investor is an affluent individual who provides capital for a business start-up, usually in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity. Angel investors usually give support to start-ups at the initial moments and when most investors are not prepared to back them.”

For me, angel investing is four things.

How does it work?

First, you have to define what you can bring to the table as an angel. What value can you bring to founders?

In my case that is advice and insights about marketing, brand building, communications strategy, building culture and international expansion because those are the things I have spent my career doing. The best founders often have many people offering them money and being clear with them about your value-add as an angel will help them make a decision about which investors to partner with.

Second, you have to set your investment principles. Here is a list of my principles:

Third, you have to secure deal flow. In my experience, I met with interesting founders simply because I was a part of the tech and start-up ecosystem, and I know the same is true for our angels. Finding your peers and being valuable to people in your surroundings can also create network effects and generate deal flow. I meet a lot of founders with interesting businesses that might not be right for me but for other angels in my network and I try and connect the dots and make the intro’s so Im even if I’m not investing Im able to bring value through connecting founders and angels and funds to each other.

What am I looking for in a founder and a company?

Now that I have met with hundreds of founders, I find that I have also developed a kind of internal sense of which kinds of founders I am looking for. The kind of founders I want to back:

I also have an internal checklist of things I look for in a company when I am investing. Those are based off my investment principles and also common sense about what makes a business successful. Those things are:

Even if a founder and a company check all those boxes for me, it’s never just me choosing a founder. In the end, the entrepreneur and the investor must choose each other. And that relationship clicks when we’re both excited about the same things, share the same values, dreams and passions.

Things I wish I had thought about in the beginning

In conclusion…

Angel investing is a learning process, but having a set of fundamental principles that play to your strengths as an investor can help you bring the most value to your partnerships with founders.

Some of my investments include companies like personalised learning company Sana Labs, food waste fighting company Karma, insurtech company Hedvig, well-being platform for men called Manual and femtech company Daye. I am especially interested in femtech at the moment. There’s so much to be done in this field and I’m very excited to follow the femtech space more closely.

Looking to share more learnings from the Atomico angel program in the weeks and months ahead.

Atomico

Atomico partners with Europe’s most ambitious tech founders at Series A and beyond. Our experienced team includes entrepreneurs and executives from the world’s most successful technology firms.

Sophia Bendz

Written by

Partner at Atomico, angel investor, former Global Marketing Director at Spotify

Atomico

Atomico

Atomico partners with Europe’s most ambitious tech founders at Series A and beyond. Our experienced team includes entrepreneurs and executives from the world’s most successful technology firms.