Meet the men backing female founders: FAQ with a male ally

Andy Robson, was the founder and CEO of end-to-end IT solutions provider Cybit (formerly Perfect Image), for almost 30 years. The north-east based company was acquired by Chiltern in 2019. 

Since then, Andy has taken a Non-Executive Director position at the organisation and became further involved in supporting and investing in early-stage businesses across the region. 

This month, Andy spoke to the Lifted Ventures team about his journey and why a diverse portfolio of angel investments is so important – especially when it comes to supporting female entrepreneurs. 

1. How did you get started in angel investing?

I could argue it was investing in myself and founding an IT services start-up, Perfect Image, over 30 years ago, but my interest in angel investing was probably kindled by some of our work for start-ups and supporting them in their early stages. We had opportunities to take equity stakes in some of these start-ups but only did this once, with a SaaS business that we exited (with a tiny notional profit!) after a few years.

I’ve also been an investor in public stock markets for a long time, which I think is a useful experience for angel investors to have, but my first personal angel investment was in Receptive, another SaaS company, which also ended with a (more profitable) trade sale. Spurred on by that success, and having sold Perfect Image (now Cybit Group) to private equity, I’ve made several angel investments over the last few years.

2. What are your thoughts on building a diverse investment portfolio?

Investment diversity is really important and I strongly believe angel investments should only be a relatively small part of your overall investments/savings – by definition, it’s high risk/high reward and you have to be able to deal with losing it all in the worst case.

Within an angel portfolio, I find achieving real diversity is difficult as you naturally end up being drawn to companies where you have some domain knowledge and you’re familiar with the business model. The only solutions I have to step out of my comfort zone are a lot more research, support from or co-investment with other angel investors/VCs you trust and ultimately, making a bigger leap of faith than usual to invest.

Alternatively, you can also invest in EIS funds that will make the company selections for you which will give you the diversity, but obviously at the cost of delegating the decision-making to somebody else.

3. What are the key benefits of investing in female founders?

It’s a real shame that the question even has to be asked but the numbers show that the odds are still skewed against female founders. For an angel investor though it’s an opportunity for many reasons.

First of all, like many angel investors, for me this isn’t just about making a profit – helping founders achieve their dreams is a key reason for investing and if that means seeing success for founders who have to fight harder for their opportunity then the greater the reward for the investor too.

Secondly, if some other investors are shying away from female-founded companies then this provides more opportunities for those that don’t. Also, having a diverse founding team means they potentially provide a different viewpoint on the problem their business is solving and have a different approach to running their business which can differentiate them and lead to their ultimate success.

4. Why did you choose to become a Lifted Angel Investor?

Lifted is helping female and diverse founders obtain their funding and be successful – for all the reasons mentioned above that’s a win-win for the founders and their angel investors. It was an easy decision to join and be part of that and to have access to the investment opportunities Lifted will provide.

5. What advice would you give to other aspiring angel investors?

If you properly understand the risks, have the risk money available to invest, and are willing to trust and back your own judgement, then don’t be put off by any perceived difficulties in becoming an angel investor.

There are investment groups and other angel investors who can help, and ultimately it’s about your own beliefs in what you think will succeed and what you personally want to support.

Also, there are a lot of investment opportunities around of very varying quality and potential – don’t rush into any of them and be prepared to say no to the vast majority.

Would you like to learn more about angel investment? 

We are passionate about supporting diverse female founders  outside of London to access their first rounds of funding.

We actively encourage all genders to join our angel network and access the portfolio benefits of backing women led businesses.

Find out more about our angel investor community and how you can join. 

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