The Business Angel Life-Cycle

The aaia unites around 200 members that are as diverse as they come. Everyone from the young successful entrepreneur, who wants to give back, to the retired former senior employee can be a member. The one criteria that unites them all is the passion for angel investment and the wish to support entrepreneurs on their way. The aaia as an organisation provides a network for all these people and wants to support and accompany the path of each and every one. But how can it be done? How can the aaia address all these different skill and experience level?

Last May, the aaia team wanted to restructure the aaia away from an “Eierlegende Wollmilch Sau” (a word in German that literally means “egg-laying, milk-bearing woolly sow”) towards a clearly structured service partner. The team came together to rework the service program and develop a long-term strategy. To do so, an analysis of all members and their activities was done through Typeform surveys and existing member data. The analysis showed, that the aaia is formed by a large and heterogenic community with a wide variety of needs. To address them throughout the whole career life-cycle, the Business Angel Life-Cycle Concept was established – short BALC (Just spell it like “waltz”, after all the aaia is based in Austria!).

4 life-cycle stages were defined: Virgin Angel, Co-Investor, Lead Investor and Super Angel. For every stage, the aaia designed tailor-made events and services that fit the specific skill level and needs.

Virgin Angels are the investors that just started off. They have either no, or very little investments, and a lot to learn. They might feel uncomfortable in this world of business angels and are afraid to make a first deal. What they need first is a feeling of security and a network – something that the aaia family is strong in providing. As a next step, they need hard skills to be able to conduct first deals and co-investments. Services that are provided for this stage are amongst others a welcome package with all basic information about the Austrian ecosystem, law, tips and tricks. Additionally, last year for the first time, an Investors Academy was organized. This is kind of a boot camp that provided the basic hard skills for newbies and curious minds. Everyone who is interested what happened there can read it here. Another service of the aaia are the monthly meetups. Regular exchange is important to establish relationships in an informal setting and build a community of trust. It’s a people’s business! Different formats range from the Investors Lounges (Input and discussion of relevant topics) to the Masterclass (skill workshops with a year-round program that starts with the basics and progresses gradually to end with exit strategies at the end of the year.)

Co-Investors have made their first investments and are already creating their personal portfolio. They are hungry to deepen their knowledge and thus need further know-how and exchange with more experienced investors. Plus they need to screen more startups and relevant market data in order to know how to expand. Besides the event formats mentioned above, a new event series was introduced especially for this target group: Vertical Uncovered. This event happens bimonthly and focuses each time on one industry exclusively. External experts put relevant developments through their paces. Then, several startups of the vertical present their business ideas. Through this event series it is possible to get to know certain industries better and interested investors get matched with pre-screened startups.

Lead Investors are important in giving back to the community but still benefit from certain services. In this stage, hands-on support for their portfolio startups is needed. Experience sharing, access to external knowledge and useful tools can be life savers in this phase. The aaia community can further offer access to co-investors and corporate partners. Ways to facilitate access to follow-on funding are currently explored.  As a member of the largest European Business Angel Network – EBAN – the aaia builds bridges towards an international community. This membership offers meetup opportunities, exclusive invitations and international mentors to aaia members. Once a year, the aaia hosts the Investors Day and thereby brings the center of attention and an international investors community to Austria.

Super Angels have more than 25 investments and have already made exit experience. They matter a great deal for the drive of the community and it is important that they share their knowledge with others. In Austria, Super Angels are a rare species and are only spotted once in a blue moon. But if they are, they can be found as mentors and role models for others. They search for a beneficial regulatory framework and an active ecosystem. The aaia pushes for these circumstances and plays an active role in achieving it. This year the aaia created investor-relevant parts of the Austrian Startup Agenda for the new government in Austria. Several members actively participated in this policy recommendation catalogue. Further the aaia works on bringing international role models and knowledge to Austria and export Austria’s knowledge.

To achieve ambitious aims, the aaia is regularly teaming up with other relevant players in Austria and the collaboration shows that that the ecosystem works better together. Strong cooperations are leveraged to achieve high-quality events and services. Regularly the aaia is also sharing it’s learnings with the EBAN community, since it is considered and elected as a benchmark example for one of the best Business Angel Networks in Europe. Finally it must be said, that the BALC concept described, is the right classification for aaia members and the Austrian ecosystem. Other ecosystems or structures might need a different one. Get in touch if you have any inputs from your experience or simply comments. Yours truly, the aaia-team 😊