Ireland’s first ever Angel MeetUp took place in Dublin this morning, with the city’s tech hub, Barrow Street, abuzz with both experienced angel investors, start-ups and nascent entrepreneurs.
The keynote speaker was the renowned US investor Bill Payne. Since he made his first-ever investment in 1980, Payne has subsequently invested in more than 50 start-ups, including DoubleClick.
Today’s event was organised by Diane Roberts, CEO of Xcell Partners, as a means of connecting up Ireland’s angel investing community, and also as a way of shedding light on how angel investing works, how angel syndicates are the way forward and how start-ups looking for investment should go about it in the right way.
The event itself was held in The Factory, a rather inventive space that is home to the Startupbootcamp accelerator. Against the backdrop of the angel forum, the 10 start-ups that are engaged in the three-month accelerator, were working away in the background.
This morning, four new start-ups also pitched for investment to the angels.
New syndicate in Ireland – Colman Equity
Firstly, Roberts announced the formation of a new syndicate in Ireland called Colman Equity, which will have hubs in both Belfast and Dublin.
"We’re open for investors; we’re open for entrepreneurs," she said.
Roberts also reflected on the new breed of start-ups that are emerging in Ireland.
"We’ve seen lots of new words emerging in recent times," she said, "such as lean-start-ups, to reflect the change." However, Roberts said that these start-ups need to be funded.
"We need to have a robust angel community. We now have eight additional syndicates across the country."
According to Roberts, the aim of future Angel MeetUps in Ireland will be to share knowledge about angel investing, while also giving both self-starters and investors a forum to network. "Ultimately, it’s about funding start-ups," she said.
Investing trends in the US
As for Bill Payne, he shared his insights about the investing scene in the US right now, as well as touching on how angel investor groups are "hungry for data" about investing trends.
He also spoke about Silicon Valley and the way its investing climate differs to places such as Dublin.
"We have a very open community. We share. In Silicon Valley it’s exactly the opposite," he said, describing the Valley as a type of closed community.
As for the US, he said that many angel groups are still doing seed/start-up deals at $1.5m or less.
Payne said that some verticals such as clean tech, science and biotech demand higher valuations.
And he spoke about the competitiveness of being an investor in certain cities.
"Frankly, let me tell you as an angel investor it’s nice not to be investing in Boston, New York City or Silicon Valley."
The panel discussion to discuss the keynote was an eclectic mix that included Diane Roberts of Xcell Partners; Peppe Santoro, principal, Venture Legal Services; Tadhg O’Toole, an angel investor at Bloom Equity; and Martin Kelly, partner IBM Venture Capital Group.
Meanwhile Diane Roberts of Xcell Partners spoke about how, for angel investors, it’s about working out the opportunities are the right ones and the idea of getting syndicates together on the island.
Payne said that in the US syndicates are known as angel groups.
He spoke about the "explosive growth" in such angel groups. For instance, in 1994, Payne said that there were 10 angel groups investing together. Flash forward to 20110, and the US boasted 360 angel groups.
Roberts also touched about how when angels build up syndicates, it allows them to make smaller investments. She also spoke about how entrepreneurs themselves need to be more realistic when approaching investors.
"I have never seen an application that was less than a €1m valuation. I think entrepreneurs have to start getting realistic," she said.
Advice for investors
The other keynote speaker today was investor Bill Liao from SOSventures, and co-founder of the CoderDojo movement here in Ireland.
Liao offered advice to investors about not getting too greedy. He also said it was important for investors not to be mentors in the companies they invest in, but to instead mentor other start-ups that they don’t have interests in. Liao also emphasised the importance of demanding metrics from the ventures they invest in.
He also spoke about Open Ireland, the new advocacy movement to make Ireland a global hub for tech talent.
Liao said that there are still 20,000 unfilled jobs in Ireland’s tech sector, due to a lack of testers, designers and programmers.
"We need to open our borders. We need to grow our talent, right now," said Liao.
He spoke about how the country doesn’t have enough coders and designers, and encouraged people to embrace CoderDojo, which now has over 80 dojos, teaching coding to kids and teens between the ages of seven and 17.