Andy Ayim, MBE, is the founder of The Angel Investing School and consults organisations on how to build product teams to create products customers love using his Product Playbooks. He has worked in a range of product roles in companies such as Investec and WorldFirst, acquired by Ant Financial for $700m, and has been both entrepreneur in residence and venture partner for a number of firms.

SyndicateRoom Co-Founder, Tom Britton, spoke to Andy about his experiences as a founder and angel investor, about what matters most to him, why he does what he does, and crucial lessons he’s learned along the way.

We highly recommend listening to the full conversation

But if you’re looking for some fast wisdom, here are the three main takeaways.

1. Investors should be an extension of the team.

Andy: “I think most of the founders secretly try their hand at a few things beforehand. The founders that fascinate me can really talk to that lived experience of reflecting on what went wrong last time and how that influences the decisions that they make now going forward.

We don’t talk enough actually around the role of an angel investor as a trusted advisor, and someone that’s also able to be a coach and hold up a mirror and enable there to be a space for a founder to constantly reflect on what lessons they learn along the journey. Like taking a step back and having some self care routine, taking a step back and celebrating the wins, and that role is so important, across life, but especially for founders who can get all consumed by this passion of love.

It’s one of the things that I take seriously around our responsibility as investors, removing that dynamic, there’s a hierarchy here and there’s a power dynamic, and I’m an investor and you’re a founder, really flattening that out and feeling like, I’m an extension of the team, I’m gonna help you and be a true partner along this journey.”

2. Relate to the founding team, understand the product, understand the market, and understand the terms of the deal.

Andy: “Team – On the founder and the founding team – I’m looking to connect on a value aligned basis. Can I work alongside this team, do I feel almost compelled like I’d love to work with this team, I’d love to be a part of this team, that feeling that there’s an authentic connection is really important for me, it’s really biased as well but it’s really important for me individually, because, worst case scenario I want to have fun along this journey and learn by being along on this journey with these founders.

Product – As a product manager who’s worked in numerous product roles, I really care about founders that care deeply about their customers and understanding that they’re in service to their customers even above and beyond their investors. So when a founder can tell me stories about their customers, about the problems they’re solving for their customer, how they alleviate these problems in the solutions they’re providing, that really fills me up with joy because I get that they’re here for something bigger than themselves, they’re not here for the game of entrepreneurship. I remember one founder telling me, “I’m doing my life’s work here, I’m dedicating my life to solving these problems.”

Market – Do I really understand this market, can I or my network add transformational value to this deal. One of my alumni from the Angel Investing SChool talks about transformative deals, can I introduce this B2B startup to two customers, who, if they sign up, gives them the traction to get their next round, gives them that proof point to show they’ve solving a meaningful problem at scale, can I make those introductions, can I fill those knowledge gaps, that these founders have, through myself or through my network?

For example, one of the companies in my portfolio, I helped them interview product managers, I created an assessment for them, I helped them come up with their product principles, and I dedicate time to mentoring their product manager now, coaching them.

Deal – Finally, you need to really understand the terms of the deal. What investment am I making for what equity? In the long run, the irony is, that doesn’t really matter as much, because if the startup goes on to do well, the minutiae of the deal shouldn’t trip you over unless they’ve really awful or non-standard.”

3. Product market fit is important, but don’t expect companies to have already achieved it when you decide to invest.

Andy: “Great founders often pivot from their market or outgrow that market, Jeff Bezos started with an online bookstore, on paper he had no right to start AWS, there’s no logical link to say that one day he’d start AWS. Look at Facebook with their whole portfolio of products, Instagram, Whatsapp, I don’t think you could guess that in the beginning. So great founders have that ability to develop new goals and new dreams over time, connecting on that values level is really important and understanding how they make decisions, because this is what’s going to compound over time… I pay a lot more attention to that, to the market, than product market fit.”

Read more about SyndicateRoom’s unique data-driven approach to investing in startups here, follow us on Twitter here and follow Andy here.

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