😇 Angel Interview #1: Mireya Manigault
"I look for companies that are looking to do things that have a large social and global impact and companies that align with the theory that they should do good AND do well."
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Can you give a quick introduction of yourself?
My name is Mireya Manigault. I have been an angel investor for eight years. I am the founder of Foundation, LLC, a corporate culture consultancy that works with VCs and startups to set a cultural foundation that grows with their team as their companies grow. I'm also the founder of WeDemption, an all-inclusive angel investing platform for womxn angels and womxn founders.
It sounds like you're a founder by day and angel investor by night.
I started investing as an angel eight years ago. As soon as I could get an education around angel investing, I wanted to make sure that I participated in the process and helped founders succeed. I come from a family that ran businesses and generally women and minorities tend to open lots of small businesses. They're super entrepreneurial. However, women and minorities are not generally what you see in the landscape of angel investing and in the broader startup funding sphere so I wanted to have a positive effect on that.
I come from a family that ran businesses and generally women and minorities tend to open lots of small businesses. [...] However, women and minorities are not generally what you see in the landscape of angel investing and in the broader startup funding sphere so I wanted to have a positive effect on that.
How did you first hear about angel investing?
The founder of 37 Angels, Angela Lee, and I worked together right after college in San Francisco at a credit card company. She then left for Columbia grad school and eventually opened up 37 Angels, an angel investing bootcamp that was focused on educating the next generation of female angels.
For the second cohort, she reached out to her community to see if any of us were interested and I jumped at the opportunity because I had been thinking about it already. It was an opportunity for me to actually learn the ins and outs of investing.
After 37 Angels, did you feel like you were ready to write your first check immediately afterward?
Part of the process at 37 Angels is that you start the training, a 2-3 day training during the weekend, and the expectation was that you would also make an investment in a start-up at the end of the educational training. So after training, the following day there was a pitch forum where 8-12 companies come in and pitch for their current fundraising.
We immediately got to go through the process of picking companies we thought were interesting, digging a little bit deeper and doing the diligence process, creating a diligence report that went out to the entire 37 Angels community, and picking a company to invest in. I invested in two companies that weekend.
Congratulations. That sounds like an exciting and good ending to the program. How many investments have you made so far?
Including friends and family rounds, I've done 15 investments or so. I tend to be a mission-aligned investor, which means I'm looking for companies that align with my personal mission. I don't have an investment thesis that says "this is the sector or vertical that I'm interested in". I don't necessarily invest in companies based on my greatest area of expertise but I look for companies that are looking to do things that have a large social and global impact and companies that align with the theory that they should do good AND do well.
I don't necessarily invest in companies based on my greatest area of expertise but I look for companies that are that are looking to do things that have large social and global impact.
When I think of social impact, I think of sustainability or ethically sourcing things. Are there specific verticals that you look at in terms of social impact?
There's this whole branding around social impact. For me, social impact is more an ideology: how do I create things, companies, processes, that truly do good? The most obvious organization that comes to mind for a lot of people is Toms Shoes. Buy one and give one pair of shoes to someone in need. However, I also think about whether or not the company intends to solve some human challenges, which includes companies that would not fit within the current definition of social good (say a cancer drug company).
I would like for us to rebrand our thinking on social impact. Oftentimes most women and minority founders have a primary, secondary, or tertiary strategy around social impact. This automatically makes many investors think a company isn't going to do well and they won't get as good of a return. I don't think that that's true.
What’s positive is there's been a change in philosophy over time. When I started judging pitch competitions, the first year there were no companies that had any kind of social impact schema. By year three, 30% of the companies pitching had a social impact strategy. Last year, it climbed to 90%. There's a different philosophy today that profit, growth and social impact do not have to be separate things.
How much time in a week do you spend on average on angel investing?
As I'm building this platform for angels, I spend quite a bit of time on that. I also spend time with founders that are part of my portfolio, founders that are part of my broader community and founders that I advise or mentor and who might be in the process of fundraising. If I add together my time on WeDemption and advising founders, probably about 65% of my time each week is spent on angel investing.
That's a lot more than I expected.
Here's the thing, with COVID, there's been a big shift. Many projects from my corporate culture consultancy got moved out to next year as founders are trying to figure out whether their doors are going to stay open. Also, we have been focused on building out the WeDemption platform because it's desperately needed right now.
How do you balance angel investing and being a founder for WeDemption?
I don't see them as separate. In part, the necessity of WeDemption came from my own degree of selfishness because of my frustrations around inefficiencies within the natural process of angel investing.
I traveled extensively up until COVID. I traveled every week of every month. It makes it more difficult to attend pitch forums, which affects my deal flow and I need to be able to do things in a mobile way. I've also been moving several times over the last eight years. It makes it difficult to manage the documentation for my angel investing.
How do we make that process more efficient? I want to make sure that I'm not investing in a black hole and I never hear anything else about it. It's not uncommon if an angel doesn’t hear from their founder once a year or less frequently. So how do we address that? Because that affects people's willingness to invest in the first place. How do we make the entire process more efficient?
It helps me as an angel, but also as a founder to think about the entire ecosystem and my end goal is to help everyone in the system. The singular goal of WeDemption is to positively affect the lifetime and generational wealth gaps for women and minorities. The only way that we can do that is to make this process smooth and simple and good for everybody because that lifetime and generational wealth comes from equity.
The singular goal of WeDemption is to positively affect the lifetime and generational wealth gaps for women and minorities. The only way that we can do that is to make this process smooth and simple and good for everybody because that lifetime and generational wealth comes from equity.
Let's say there's a startup that you really want to invest in and the round is oversubscribed. How do you convince someone to take your check over someone else's?
I've actually never been in that situation but I tend to be pretty detached. I'm of the thought process that investments happen as they are supposed to happen. I can't get deeply involved in the idea that I might lose out on something, whether we're talking about the stock market, we’re talking about angel investing, or we're talking about a home. I don't care what it is. It's super important to me to constantly evaluate my behaviors around that because I think the fear of missing out is a bad place to make an investment decision.
Kind of like the herd mentality.
Absolutely. How many times in your life has FOMO really treated you well? So I'm interested in keeping that in check.
What tools do you use for angel investing?
Spreadsheets. It's not super efficient. Lots of angels are developing their own Excel spreadsheets to try and track around their portfolios.
There may be large groups that have better tools but not so much for the individual investor. I know that we, as a space, are starting to innovate. When COVID happened, everything was going online. We needed to take a step back and figure out how to innovate to get all pitches and deals online and it took a while for that to happen.
What's one investment you are proudest of?
Hireanesquire, which is an innovation in technology within the legal space supporting freelance lawyers. I'm proud of this investment because the space is not sexy at all, but that’s the critical piece. We shouldn’t always invest for sexy or “right now” or fun. I think it's really important when thinking about investing as an angel to invest in founders who are super hard working, who bootstrap the hell out of things, who are super efficient, and who efficiently use investor money. When COVID happened, they were already built for remote work and mobility. They were ready to go.
What's the number one piece of advice you want to share with aspiring angel investors?
I'm gonna make this advice specific to women angels, I would say trust yourself. Trust yourself. Women, historically, for any type of investment tend to do about 20% better in how they naturally evaluate companies, whether we're talking about stocks or angel investments, as long as they trust themselves.
When they start second guessing, they don't tend to do as well. I want them to understand their own natural ability. Get the education but also understand their natural ability. Trust yourself when you know something is right and you feel it in your gut.
I'm gonna make this advice specific to women angels, I would say trust yourself. Trust yourself.
This is our first interview and we would love to hear from you. Do you have any questions for Mireya around angel investing? Feel free to leave a comment below.
Fantastic & thoughtful read! This is a very important message, particularly in the mist of Nationwide pandemic. Well done!