Summit 2014 – Wrap from Marcel van den Assum

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It’s incredible to realise it’s been almost a month since the Angel Association of New Zealand’s Annual Summit. Reflecting the energy and activity in early stage investment at the moment, I have been flat out since working on a number of deals.

Over 120 Angels, members of networks and funds across New Zealand, along with international guests from the United States, Australia and Singapore came together for 2 days of mind sharing, networking and collegiality.

Having had time to absorb this years event, and those from previous years, I’m completely convinced of the important part the Summit plays in the development of the early-stage investment community. Supported by our sponsors Craigs IP, Kiwinet and this year, Callaghan Innovation it is a tremendous couple of days full of value for all who attend. 

As well as many many interesting conversations on and off stage, it is a great occasion to remind ourselves of the power of the community who invest in early-stage businesses. And by this I am deliberately referring to those who are members of the Association AND those who aren’t. I like to think of the Association as a champion for all early stage investors.

The Summit calls attention to the way we all contribute financially, intellectually and socially to the future of New Zealand in a very relevant way. 

Angels, members of networks or funds, or not know that intuitively. What became obvious just before and throughout the Summit was that we all need to make our contribution explicit. 

Suse has referred to data gathering in a recent post. It’s vital that we work harder to effectively disseminate the facts and stats around how we are creating economic value – from entrepreneurs, investors, academics, multi-nationals, governance, investors – and how that economic value extends to social value. Early stage investing plays a major role, its important and we should be proud of it. 

Minister Steven Joyce touched on this point a number of times, some of the panelists got into it too – without curating the data and communicating it effectively the media and therefore public perception of our activities focuses only on the failures or the exits and does not extend to what early-stage investment contributes economically and socially. We all need to play a part in telling that story. The value our work helps to deliver needs to be quantified – not just measuring output, but outcomes and impact too.

In my role as Chair of the Angel Association I am aware we need to be responsive and active in playing our part in this communication, but we also have to be clear about the data we collect at this stage. Curated through Young Company Finance (YCF) the data we currently release is clearly is a subset of wider activities – it only tracks investments through networks and funds, and then those only with Seed co-investment funding (SCIF) from New Zealand Venture Investment Fund (NZVIF). There is much work to do and we are committed to doing it.

Jumping now to the end of the summit it was great to hear from Peter Beck at Rocket Labs – aiming for the moon and beyond. In reaching for the stars – figuratively and literally – working to build a billion dollar business and send rockets into space Peter has decided he couldn’t do his work from anywhere else but New Zealand.  It was a great and inspiring example of the fact that we have some unique characteristics and therefore opportunities to take to the global market. As a collective many of us have been doing this for a while now and as we build the collective of people in this space we can support each other in going global and really make the most of this.

The visitors that contributed to our summit and the learning of delegates locally confirmed that our global reach works both ways. Jim, John and Catherine from the US shared their perspectives and have taken away a better understanding of the opportunities in New Zealand’s early-stage space. From Australia, Tom, Jim, John and Jordan, and Chris from Singapore made many connections and shared useful intel which will enable our countries to work closer together. It was made clear to us that by working together and opening up our portfolios to multi-nationals looking for early stage opportunities for acquistion, for partnership, we can activate more channels to market for more investees.

In this way our community plays a role that is important to NZ, and we are being followed and emulated in other parts of the world. We are global in our orientation and in the way we reach out to the world and are looking forward to bringing more international partners to New Zealand to showcase what we have available with the Asian Business Angel Forum next October. This an ideal forum to do that as well as a way to bring deal flow into NZ to globalise our own portfolios.

Locally we continue to emphasise diversity. There are different perspectives, there are different ways of doing this work – diversity is increasing. Early-stage investment, crowd-funding and more is starting to flourish. The Angel Association welcomes that diversity and the fact that we promote a united face going global, and yet maintain a healthy competitive attitude locally. 

Personally I am looking forward to working with all these different players that operate at the highest level of integrity, and philosophically are all committed to creating value, working together to increase the level of investment activity. I think it’s clear to all there’s not one right or wrong way of doing things, and I am looking forward to understanding more about some of the approaches and how they gain traction.

One of the highlights for me was Debra Hall’s angel profiling exercise which explored what kind of angel each of us is, or wants to be. It opened up the conversation about deal leads and investor leads in some detail. What became clear is that as well as this work being about management, governance, process and systems, the most important element is leadership – bringing people together from different backgrounds and being able to provide navigation towards a shared vision, to find and execute on an agreement on the desirable aspirational outcome. 

We as a community consciously look to build this leadership capability investing in people to grow and learn, in some cases investing in ideas because of the people more than idea, with the belief that a particular team can be an A team in the future even if the current idea doesn’t pan out. From an AANZ perspective, I would like us to get to a point where there is clear accountability around deal and investor leadership – if the business fails, we fail, learn from it and make the commitment to grow from that learning together.

All in all the summit was a very full, comprehensive learning opportunity. 

As Chair I’d like to thank all the angels who made the massive investment in personal learning by participating in the Summit. Your commitment is inspiring. Please share your experiences with your network. And I’d like to lead all of our thanks to Suse Reynolds, Executive Director of Angel Association New Zealand and her team who with very little budget and huge doses of goodwill make this event, and the work of the Association happen.

I’d also like to invite you to let us know if you feel there is something you can contibute, or some learning the AANZ should seek out and bring to our community.

To conclude, amongst all the complexity there remained a simple truth to what we do – create value and you’ll generate returns, and providing that I’m doing that and continue to enjoy it I’ll stay the course and work alongside you. I trust that you feel the same and look forward to a year of exciting activity and seeing more of you at ABAF in Queenstown, 13-15 October 2015.

Marcel

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