Peter Cowley is EBAN‘s new President, he is first of all an entrepreneur, then an investor (he has personally invested in over 65 startups) and now an educator for investors and entrepreneurs.
For our latest Meet the Community, we co-organised the EBAN Partner Dayto introduce the work of this Business Angels Network and its new President to their members.
We took this occasion to ask Peter some questions to learn how to discover talent and innovation.
According to the Business Dictionary, an Angel Investor is “usually, a former entrepreneur or professional who provides starting or growth capital to promising ventures, and helps also with advise and contacts”, well, EBAN is the Europe’s leading early-stage investor network. Their work is to create a create a community of investors all around the globe. The network is present in more than 50 countries and allows its members to connect with fellows, manager their investment portfolio, take part of major events and meet new startups to support. Absolutely a win-win situation for both sides, right?
It was a great pleasure to host the EBAN Partner Day and much more we have to learn about their world.
1. Being a Business Angel means first of all to have an entrepreneurship sensitivity and to be able to take a risk. Can you tell us about your professional history and what brought you to your actual position with EBAN?
Like any entrepreneur I have grasped opportunities and followed a circuitous path through life. Starting with an engineering and computer science degree from Cambridge University, then 3 years of corporate life as a software engineer and project manager in London, I moved to Bavaria to join a small company, and a year later formed my first startup. That was 1981. Since then I have founded 14 companies, served on 7 charity boards, built 5 houses (for resale) and started angel investing a decade ago, now with 67 investments, of which 9 have failed and 5 exited with positive returns. I have been fascinated by investing in startups, and visited many ecosystems such as Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv and Singapore. I chair probably the most active exited entrepreneur angel group in Europe – the Cambridge Angels, and am on the body of the UK angel trade association, was voted UK angel of the year in 2014, and I am a fellow in entrepreneurship at the Cambridge Judge management school. This experience and passion for our early stage investment ecosystem led to me being chosen as EBAN’s new President. To give back my and others’ experiences, I founded (with one of my sons) the Invested Investor, which publishes educational podcasts and a book for entrepreneurs and angels.
2. You have years of experience working with startups, how the market shaped itself during the last decade?
Throughout the world, being an entrepreneur has been recognized as a career choice and they are supported by investors, incubators and universities. The level of activity varies between regions and countries. Corporates throughout the world have also recognized the importance of leveraging the agility of startups to help with innovation. And many governments have programs and incentives to support the ecosystem.
3. Can you predict the trajectory that the wannabe startuppers will follow for next years? Which one is the hot business topic, which the lost cause?
My crystal ball is too cloudy to guess when the world economy will slow down, but this will reduce investment in startups and ensure startups rapidly reach breakeven in order to survive. If terms of business sectors, personalized medicine, machine and deep learning(commonly misnamed Artificial Intelligence) will thrive and ICOs and crypto will struggle.
4. The work of a Business Investor can be similar to the one of a talent scout. How do you discover and pick your “stars”?
With great difficulty – when one meets an entrepreneurial team and spends a few weeks getting to know them before investment, it is almost impossible to work out whether they are likely to succeed, but they need to be exceptionally good listeners, need to be open and honest and willing to cope with all the many obstacles that are thrown at them.
5. Meet the Community is one of our activity to make the networking spur, how much do you think that the workplace can help you to create professional connections?
6. Share with us a brilliant business idea that you wished it was yours.
I am content with my life – I have had many ideas over the years and backed over 100 entrepreneurs who are full of ideas. One of the main rules for an angel investor is to avoid FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) – having regrets is a negative emotional reaction, unless one learns from it.