How Business Angels select their projects, how cooperation with them works, and what founders should consider before dealing with a Business Angel. Berthold Baurek-Karlic, Austria’s Business Angel of the Year 2023, shares his insider knowledge.
Many startups have fantastic ideas. However, often they lack the necessary funds to bring these ideas to life. This is where investors and Business Angels like Berthold Baurek-Karlic come into play. Business Angels, however, don’t just act as financiers; they support companies right from the start with crucial industry insights and networks and serve as sparring partners. Frequently, they have been startup founders themselves, wanting to pass on their expertise to other young entrepreneurs and advance a specific subject. The expert explains what matters in this “temporary marriage,” how the collaboration between companies and Business Angels operates, and what businesses should consider before striking a deal with Business Angels.
Is “bootstrapping” enough or does it require an investor?
Before seeking an investor or Business Angel, the expert advises companies to consider whether external financing is genuinely needed for a project. Often, “bootstrapping” – financing from one’s own resources – makes sense, which can ultimately be significantly more lucrative for companies.
Connect with Business Angels early on
The advice from Baurek-Karlic is to get in touch with potential Business Angels sooner rather than later. The earlier Business Angels come on board, the sooner they can support with their knowledge and network. It’s also crucial to navigate the world of Business Angels as early as possible to find the right one.
Good idea is one thing, teamwork another
Besides having a good idea, before a deal with Business Angels, the company needs standard documents and data on financials, legal regulations, a business plan, etc. This allows Business Angels to gain an outside perspective on the company and its scalability. Essential for striking a deal are also soft factors such as the startup’s team dynamics and the personal traits of its members. Business Angels aim to determine whether collaboration with potential partners can work, how dedicated and open the team is to advice, and the resilience of future business partners.
Steer the course together
Collaboration with a Business Angel usually lasts between three and five years. Just like any business, during this time, there are highs and lows. This is where Business Angels can offer support, helping companies maintain direction during challenging times, not getting too carried away in peak phases, providing backing when things aren’t going smoothly, and advising on sensitive professional matters.
Perform a background check
Similar to how Business Angels check the business plans and financial data of companies before forming a connection, companies should also conduct a background check on potential Business Angels. Does the Business Angel and their network even fit with my company? What references are available? Can I contact a company that has already worked with the respective Business Angel? Ensuring that a Business Angel aligns with a company and that the collaboration will last for an extended period is crucial. A premature “exit” or withdrawal of the Business Angel often creates distrust among future investors and Business Angels.
The original interview was published in the Austrian Broadsheet “Wiener Wirtschaft – Die Zeitung der Wirtschafskammer Wien” on December 7, 2023.