BAE spoke with Luigi Amati, Chairman of Business Angels Europe, on his own journey as an entrepreneur and investor, and the opportunities and importance of a more connected angel ecosystem in Europe.
PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS
“I firmly believe entrepreneurship is not only an economic driver, but also positively impactful for our community. And if the businesses we support are ethically sound, their ethics will have a positive impact on its surroundings, too.
I have achieved several positive results within my own entrepreneurial career. This has enabled me to progressively decrease my day-to-day engagement in running my own businesses, and given me the opportunity to increase my engagement in non-executive roles. I look forward to spending more time with entrepreneurs again, as an angel investor. Specifically, I look forward to being more active in Europe. However, I clearly see that we are still not there with a single market, particularly for European scaleups and angel investing.
Therefore, when it comes to Europe, I like to ‘put my money where my mouth is’. At BAE we advocate for more joint international investment activity supporting our startups to become scaleups and eventually large companies. Business Angels expertise and risk-appetite should not be confined to national borders. Therefore, next to new investments in Italy (i.e., CellPly and BrainJuice together with Italian Angels for Growth), I have started investing in other EU countries.
Finally, I believe in the potential of emerging ecosystems, and the added value of helping them get connected to Europe. Consequently, I also became a limited partner in the Formula VC fund in Armenia. I see a thriving spirit there, and so - for the little that I can - I am also supporting this broader idea of angel investing of building a better ecosystem in the wider Europe region.
Investing internationally has been a good experience. As long as I know the people I am investing with, and it is clear what I can contribute in time, expertise or network, there really is no difference.
The main barrier to international investing remains the absence of a level playing field. That is why Business Angels Europe is fighting so hard to make sure a true single market is implemented. I look forward to underscoring these points during our congress in Paris, on 8 and 9 March: “Startup to Scaleup: the Role of Business Angels”.
LOOKING BACK, AND AHEAD
The business angel group I have co-founded in 2007 with eight other friends (Italian Angels for Growth – counting today over 270 members), is celebrating its 15th year. Looking back, I now have a broad view of how angel investing developed over the decades.
In the late ‘90s and for the first 10 years in Italy, angel investing was a completely unknown phenomenon, and awareness raising was a priority. The second decade it started to become more serious, and people were investing serious money within small groups.
Now in the last 5-10 last years, things have changed dramatically. What was something of a dream 15 years ago we had as pioneers, has now become a reality. With consistent effort and processes, and calculated risk taking from our angels, nobody questions the power of angel investing anymore.
Looking ahead, I see more digitization adding value to our operations. Equity crowdfunding will prove not a competitor, but a good companion to angel investing (as shown by our partner Doorway). The reason is because angel investing is at its core a people business, where deals are sourced and shared in a community of trust. Crowdfunding is a platform to leverage upon.
Angel investing is not only here to stay, but it will also grow on this continent. The fourth phase will arrive when there will be no boundaries for angel investing across European borders.
THE VOICE OF ANGEL INVESTING
I think from the BAE perspective, we always have been strong making connections across actors and borders. This is what we want to lean into, too. At its core, we are the voice of angel investing in Europe. That is why we are organizing this policy- and best practice focused flagship event in the country that has been leading on the Scaleup topic in Europe over the last years: France.
We have 3 main objectives. First, we want to further promote the crucial role of angel investing back into the policy discussion, which has lately been very much focused on later stage finance. Importantly, the lack of good data on angel investing must not be misinterpreted as a lack of investment. Rather, it is as a sign of market fragmentation.
All indicators show that angel investing has significantly more importance than VC in the very early stages. So, we need to remind everyone: if we want flowers to bloom, we need to plant and water the seeds. We want to show this not only with sound data and reporting, but also with good stories like the ones we will be showcasing in Paris.
Secondly, we want to emphasize the importance of the ecosystem, as mentioned in the seminal JRC Scale Up report. They also underscore: more needs to be done to boost those pan-European ecosystem players who bring the national and reginal ecosystem players together.
A great example of this is what we are doing with the BAE Club. With this selected group of leading angels clubs and networks, we are connecting portfolio companies with other networks across borders. We believe angels are the best harbor pilots in new markets: ready to help the grow the company with their relationships and expertise. To make sure we only have real investing angel clubs joining this subgroup, we have set strong thresholds of track record and quality to membership. BAE is always striving excellence, for it is essential for the credibility of our asset class.
Finally, during our congress we want to give concrete policy examples for the national and European governments to explore. We are pleased to be working with InvestEurope on this front.
There are already good practices and active measures how a single market can be created. Imagine what investments we can unleash if Europe implements such measures.