To find financing, some entrepreneurs turn to angels. Not those from the sky, but investors ready to invest time and capital in promising companies. Focus on this little-known role with Nathalie Bélanger, member of the administrative council of Anges Québec, the network of Quebec angel investors.
What exactly is an angel investor?
In the eyes of many, we are just giving money (laughs). In fact, I would say that the angels want to participate more. Yes, we help finance businesses, but we also provide them with our time and expertise as businessmen and women. We often participate in the daily running of the company. The Anges Québec network is sometimes compared to shows like The Dragons, but really, it’s not the same thing. In real life, an angel will think for longer than half an hour before making an investment decision, among other things because we want to ensure that the financial presentation we are looking at holds up.
What responsibilities come with being an angel investor?
Anges Québec brings together more than 220 investors, and each has a different approach. Some are full-time angels, and are 100% involved with the companies in which they invest. I’m more part-time. I will often get involved as an advisor to entrepreneurs, which sometimes means serving on their board of directors or advisory committee. It takes up a day in my week, on average. In the broad sense, an angel is also responsible for choosing the companies he supports carefully. For example, in recent years, I have made a pivot towards impact investing. Since then, I have only been involved with companies that have a positive impact on the environment and society. This is my main goal today.
How is the role of angel enriching for you?
For me, especially since making a pivot to impact investing, I think about the positive effect my involvement has on the world. For example, by investing in Myni, a company that makes cleaning products in tablet form, I can tell myself that I am helping people reduce their use of plastic. But even before, when I was only investing in technology companies, I looked at the jobs it created. From a personal perspective, it’s also really rewarding to see a company I believed in moving forward and growing.
Are there any obstacles that make being an angel more difficult?
For sure. The hardest thing for me is seeing a company full of potential fail to survive. It happens a lot, in the current financial context, many small businesses have gone bankrupt. That’s the saddest thing: seeing good ideas fail. Another challenge is the great inequality that still exists between women entrepreneurs and men. It’s still very difficult for women to raise funds, unfortunately. This is something that concerns me, and this is why my portfolio is made up of almost 50% companies founded by women. It’s important for me to be there for them, to support them not only with my money, but also with my experience.