“No one should be allowed to be an entrepreneur until…”

Posted by Kate King | August 7, 2014 | Uncategorized | No Comments

“No one should be allowed to be an entrepreneur until they’ve been an analyst first!”

That’s the comment I blurted out to fellow analysts while reflecting on my time in the Atlanta Technology Angels analyst program. The conversation stopped and I was asked to elaborate.

The question of what it takes to be an entrepreneur is frequently debated, and it’s certainly not a matter of being allowed. I think the answer is that it “depends”, as there are many pieces to the puzzle. There are many opinions and one of them is that entrepreneurship can be taught. I strongly believe in entrepreneurial education and Atlanta provides many opportunities through its universities. There are also many excellent opportunities to learn about entrepreneurship from mentors, accelerators, networking events and by working for a startup, just to name a few.

An opportunity that I leveraged which had a significant impact on my entrepreneurial education was working as an analyst alongside angel investors who fund many of Atlanta’s startups.

In 2011, Atlanta Technology Angels (ATA) launched an analyst program with the goal of providing the opportunity for three interested candidates to work for angel investors as an analyst and gain firsthand experience and context into their investment decisions. During my time as an analyst for ATA I worked closely with angel investors to learn how early stage risk is evaluated and investments are made. The analyst program supercharged my prior insights, taught me new lessons, and transformed everything I had learned into knowledge grounded in experience and context. Only by being behind the investor curtain could I have learned so much in such a short time.

The benefits of the program are outstanding, whether your goal is to be a future investor or entrepreneur. The investor piece of the puzzle must be understood. An investor is a customer and the investment opportunity must have a value proposition that meets their specific criteria; otherwise raising capital will be a painful experience for the entrepreneur. The analyst program matches you with investors who teach strategies and reasoning behind the investment criteria used to guide you and help you understand how to evaluate opportunities and deals.

Basic lessons as an analyst:

** Every investment opportunity is unique.

** There is an alternative to every opportunity.

** How to apply common criteria to each opportunity to help identify the best investments for further review (ATA’s criteria is found here http://angelatlanta.com/entrepreneurs/).

# Discoveries from behind the investor curtain: Every investor has a profile. Networking is your opportunity to discover that profile.

# Screening many startups makes you very sensitive to inefficient pitches and presentations.

# Due diligence is an experience.

# There’s a big difference between building a product and building a company.

# Perseverance is required because there is always an alternative investment.

# Don’t be defensive. Be open-minded and listen.

# The investment hurdle can be raised at any time and nobody will tell you.

# The feedback you receive is usually just the tip of the iceberg.

# If the investors don’t get it then you did a poor job telling your story.

# Investors expend an enormous amount of time and energy selecting investments.

# Angel investors are sophisticated and organized.

“No one should be allowed to be an entrepreneur until they’ve been an analyst first!” is another way of saying that the seller needs to understand the buyer, before selling. The seller is the company, the buyer is the investor. The ATA analyst program is a fast paced learning opportunity, from the investor perspective, and the lessons are the real deal (and somebody else’s). The knowledge I gained and the speed of the learning curve was incomparable.

Information about how to apply to the analyst program can be found here http://angelatlanta.com/analystprogram/. The program requires a commitment of about 20 hours per month; that averages to about an hour per day. The sky is the limit and initiative is valued. I had the opportunity to start and lead the life science investment vertical and I look forward to seeing what my analyst teammates do next.

Thank you to all my friends at the ATA.

-Alex Zavorski