In 2021, I made my first angel investment without ever seeing a pitch deck. And I’ve never regretted it.
It was my first angel investment experience, and I realised right away that the initial idea or pitch deck was totally overrated.
In 2016, I met Mo (Mohamed Chahin) during my time at About You in Hamburg. Mo, who lived in Hamburg at the time, was doing something pretty innovative, running EatClever, a “dark kitchen” that specialised in health-conscious food delivery.
After moving on from EatClever, he developed Twain, an AI-driven tool designed to help salespeople craft more effective messages. We instantly connected and stayed in touch, following each other’s journeys. Since then, Mo has become not just a friend, but also a constant source of inspiration and support for me.
Fast forward to 2021, when Mo reached out to me with an exciting opportunity to invest in his new venture, and I didn’t hesitate for a minute.
I didn’t see his pitch deck, but it didn’t bother me at all. Some might say that is naive, but I knew Mo’s expertise in the field and his determination to build something great.
The true essence of a startup’s potential doesn’t lie in its initial idea but in the passion, agility and vision of its founder.
Angel investors play a pivotal role in the startup ecosystem, often bridging the gap between self-funding and more traditional investment routes.
Their involvement can significantly influence a startup’s path, both in terms of financial backing and mentorship.
Angel investors bring not only financial support but also valuable expertise, mentorship and networking opportunities, which are crucial for the growth and success of startups.
Overall, angel investing is a dynamic and evolving field, with angel investors playing a critical role in supporting and shaping the future of early-stage startups through their investments and expertise.
But for some reason in the world of startups, the initial idea or pitch is often given a pedestal status.
My experience with Mo’s venture led me to a different realisation: these initial presentations are, in many cases, overrated.
The true essence of a startup’s potential doesn’t lie in its initial idea — which, more often than not, evolves drastically — but in the passion, agility and vision of its founder.
Tune In, Hook Up and Twttr
Consider YouTube, for instance. It started as a video dating site with the slogan, “Tune In, Hook Up”, far from the global video-sharing platform it is today.
This pivot from a niche dating site to a broad video-sharing platform was a gamechanger, underscoring the importance of adaptability and market responsiveness.
Similarly, Instagram began as Burbn, a check-in app with gaming elements and photo-sharing capabilities. Its founders made a strategic decision to strip down Burbn to its photo-sharing feature, creating Instagram. This focused approach played a crucial role in Instagram’s success and its eventual acquisition by Facebook.
And then there’s Twitter, initially called Odeo as a podcast network created by the founders of Twitter, back in the early days.
But fearing competition from iTunes, and realising that early podcasts weren’t as popular as they were expecting, in 2005 the team gave themselves two weeks to invent something else.
This idea evolved into a broader microblogging service initially called Twttr, allowing users to post and interact with messages known as "tweets", transforming Twitter into the influential social media platform it is today.
These examples illustrate how initial concepts often undergo significant transformations to become successful. What remained constant, however, were the founders’ drive and determination to adapt and excel.
Mo’s journey since our investment has been nothing short of exemplary. He has not only captivated the attention of top-tier venture capitalists like Sequoia Capital but has also assembled a remarkable team and developed an outstanding product.
His regular investor reports — a window into his world — have been a testament to his meticulous approach and commitment to his vision.
Success often lies not in the pages of a well-crafted pitch deck but in the unwavering spirit of those who dare to dream.
The success of Mo’s venture, however, isn’t just about the financial returns.
For me, it has been a profound learning experience. I have had the privilege of closely observing an extraordinary individual’s journey, gaining insights and lessons that extend far beyond the realms of business and finance.
This experience has led me to contemplate the true essence of early-stage investing. Is it about analysing business plans and evaluating market potentials, or is it about recognising and nurturing human potential?
Perhaps, the real value lies in identifying and believing in passionate individuals like Mo, who possess the tenacity to turn visions into reality.
Reflecting on my own founder’s journey but also on my investment experience, I am increasingly convinced that the traditional metrics of evaluating startups — like pitch decks and initial ideas — might indeed be overrated.
The real metric lies in the passion, resilience and vision of the individuals behind these ideas.
In conclusion, my experience with Mo reinforces a crucial lesson for investors and entrepreneurs alike: success often lies not in the pages of a well-crafted pitch deck but in the unwavering spirit of those who dare to dream and work tirelessly to turn their dreams into reality.
This aligns with the ethos of angel investing, where the focus extends beyond the immediate financial metrics to the potential of the individuals behind the venture.
Angel investors, often driven by their passion for entrepreneurship and mentorship opportunities, invest not just in ideas, but in people. They understand that startups are dynamic and require more than just capital to thrive. This holistic approach is what truly fuels the growth of early-stage businesses.
It reminds me that in the realm of innovation and entrepreneurship, the true measure of success often resides in the resilience, vision and passion of the founders.
Making angel investing not just a financial venture but a journey of collaborative growth and mutual learning.