In an exclusive interview with Paul Allen, Founder and Managing Director of The Tribe of Angels, Jew Central gets the details on how to get investors to grow your business.
The dot-com days are over, but it is still possible get investors.
Tribe of Angels (TOA) is the Jewish community’s oldest and largest business network. TOA bring together Jewish industry leaders to develop business, identify new ventures, develop partnerships, and source talent.
Jew Central: How can Jews find angel investors (or VCs) in today’s market?
Paul Allen: The answer is the same for Jews and Gentiles: Get vertical. Slice prospective investors finely into categories based on prior investments, interests, management experience, and industry contacts, then relentlessly refine your business and pitch to address a viable and large enough niche.
JC: What is the key selling point(s) of any new venture to get funding?
PA: Right product for the right problem at the right price — communicated well.
JC: What unique challenges/opportunities do Jews face in the startup process?
PA: No unique problem for Jews specifically. It’s false to think religion plays any role in whether you’ll get funding from an investor. What does play a role is shared values, language, and goals and sometimes these things coincide with cultural and religious ties.
JC: Can you share some TOA success stories or lessons (from unsuccessful attempts)?
PA: The greatest lesson from TOA is the importance of second tier referrals. Entrepreneurs are mainly focused on convincing the person in front of them — either to fund them or to buy something. When you’re networking for funding or customers in the early stages, your best relationships will most likely come from outside your existing network via referrals.
JC: What do you consider your biggest professional accomplishment/achievement?
PA: Building a network of over 5,000 Jewish executives.
JC: What do you consider the most important factor(s) to your success?
PA: Concerning myself with small details. Business people that only think big picture don’t earn their keep.
JC: How has being Jewish made it easier and/or harder to reach your goals?
PA: It’s made it easier because staying true to Jewish ideals has forced me to grow TOA slowly and I believe with a higher degree of care and integrity than say, growing a group for stamp collectors or bee keepers.
JC: What advice would you give to other Jewish people who want to succeed?
PA: Be selective who you let into your inner circle in the early stages. There’s no question you should surround yourself with smart and experienced people. But intellect and experience alone are insufficient. You must find advisors, investors, and partners that are realistic optimists. At every stage of a new venture it’s far easier to come up with objections than reasons to continue. You need people in your corner that understand, and are willing to accept some risk and uncertainty in order to succeed.
JC: Who are the people you look up to and why?
PA: I admire most one type of person — the individual that despite tremendous adversity succeeds through their of character. Think ‘self made’ business owner that didn’t graduate high school, or social worker or teacher that makes a difference in their community with low pay and few resources. The traits I admire most humility, creativity, and kindness.
JC: What books do you recommend?
PA: The Operator — Life of David Geffen.