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The instinct of the average person when we are seeing so much global change is to hunker down, but angels are not average people.
The rise of nationalistic fervour across the West means that we are truly living in unprecedented times. For angels and indeed VC investors, especially those in markets where there is plentiful dealflow and the chances of risk adjusted returns, the temptation is to stick close to home, but I would argue that we are a group of people who have a duty, nay an obligation, to reach out and lead by our investment activities to show others that there is talent and opportunity amongst all the different peoples of the world. Some might think of this a social duty, but in saying that I do not mean that this area should be considered merely as Social Investment. It is ok to invest with a purely commercial approach.
Next week I am off to speak at and moderate a panel at The World Business Angel Forum in Istanbul. Angels from across the globe will be sharing their knowledge and experience in a two day conference and I am certain that as well as hearing comforting familiar themes I will also learn loads about the different ways angels do things in their respective economies, as well as uncovering ideas and opportunities that I could not possibly have identified by staying in the UK. If you can spare the time I recommend you book a flight and join me there.
If you can make loads of money at home, why you might ask, should you take on the extra risk of investing abroad. Firstly, I don't think the first thing an angel should do is to write a cheque for an overseas investment opportunity. If you have not invested abroad before, the first step is to get to know angels in the domestic territory who can become friends and allies and, as appropriate, lead investors in the deals. They will be streetwise about the quirks of entrepreneurs, whether in start-ups or scale-ups, on their home patch. There are now several organisations which can assist in this, notably Go-Beyond and Astia Angels. Many university angel groups also have international reach, Harvard Business Angels springs to mind. And of course, judicious analysis of the EBAN members and the US based Angel Capital Association. I took a look at Angelist for other ideas - it records over 1,100 angels based in South America and if Africa takes your fancy why not check out ABAN? ABAN is based in Mauritius, so maybe a judicious visit can be accompanied by a nice holiday too! A visit to google will help you find contacts in the Far East and Australasia.
My view on why angels are going to play a critical role in calming world tensions is that these investment monies help to generate businesses that make life better for people. It's not just the technological innovation which will produce products and services that help the world to advance, but also good businesses help people to be both productive and creative. They provide all manner of jobs, directly and indirectly, which means that people are happier and more empowered (without needing to resort to marches, sticks and stones). Local economies strengthen as businesses grow and the virtuous circle expands as more money in an economy and more highly skilled people creates further investment opportunities. Your angel pound will still be at risk, but it will do so much more good even if the direct business you back in itself does not work out.
Over the last 15 years or more I have met thousands of angels from across the world. Their backgrounds may be diverse, but the DNA of every human is 99.9% the same as any other human and I would moot that the DNA of angels is 99.99% the same. You will find camaraderie and common purpose with an angel based in Mombasa as much as one based in Manchester.
Deals will be similar. Most will be much more alike than they are different. Though of course by spreading the net wider there will be opportunities which, whilst having different (more interesting?) risks to analyse, may be much better value.
I assume that nobody is really comfortable with the great disparity across the world at the moment. This disparity, the rise of resentment amongst those who feel dispossessed and without opportunity to make things better for themselves, is now leading to real risks of turmoil that could too easily turn to bloodshed. Whilst the Giving Pledge is a vital part of how the most financially successful can address the issue, capitalist investment used to achieve the goal helps too. All the research shows that if you do something that helps and empowers others, you will be happier (much happier) than if you do not. And let's face it, what makes for a more interesting business/friendship group and discussion - saying you have backed what everyone else has backed or being the expert who shares insights and experience of doing something that no-one knows about?
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