Setting goals is important, both personally and for your organization.
Today I want to talk about one of the five goals I set over the past couple of years, why I set it, and how I am executing it.
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Goal: Be the Most Sought-After Angel Investor in the World
Five years ago I started angel investing, and got lucky enough to invest in Uber’s and Thumbtack’s first rounds (under $10m valuation — combined). I hit two unicorns in my first 10 investments, and one more since then. Also in that first dozen were Signpost and Chartbeat, which are also well on their way to greatness.
That hit-rate lead me to believe, “Heck, I just might be good at this!”
So I set a big, audacious goal for myself to be, “The World’s Greatest Angel Investor.”
The problem with that goal is, well, what does it even mean to be the greatest? Largest returns? Most investments? Greatest according to whom?
After some reflection, I realized that what’s important when judging an angel investor is how sought-after they are. Great founders have their choice of investors, especially in a hot market, so being the *best* really means being so helpful that they come to you.
Additionally, it’s super efficient if the founders come to you because, well, you spend less time hunting for them.
Efficiently Going After a Single Goal
Since I had this singular goal in investing I decided to optimize my “platform” around being helpful. My theory being that if we are absurdly helpful, word will spread — and boy has it!
My 10-person team doesn’t angel invest, they are building a platform to help startups across a dozen different product lines, of which a half-dozen are public knowledge:
- This Week in Startups: My podcast has been going for six years and over 500 episodes. My Emmy-award winning producer Jacqui seeks out 150 or so guests per year to fill our 104 episodes, and I’m aware of no more than half of the guests BEFORE they are booked. In most cases I’m meeting people for the first time five minutes before we go on air! These 150 folks are selected because they are, well, awesome. Not only do we have a great conversation, but that conversation is seen by over 100,000 people — per episode. So, millions of folks watch the show per year and I bond with dozens of those viewers per day.
- LAUNCH Festival: 12,000 folks came to the Festival this year and 11,000 of them came as our guest! Two hundred of the 225 DEMO PIT tables were free to startups, which we selected from the 500+ startups that pitched to get one of the 50 slots on stage. All of these founders came for free and got massive value from the event. Compare that to our closest competitor, TechCrunch Disrupt which extracts $3,000 from each founder that comes to the event and that forces every demo pit company to buy three of these tickets for $9,000! Disrupt makes millions in profit for AOL, while LAUNCH Festival breaks even for us — but we touch 4x as many people without price-gouging them. We also give all of our portfolio companies free tables and tickets to the Festival.
- Blog & Email: The people who come to the Festival and watch This Week in Startups, of course, find out about this email list, our Twitter handles and my blog. Our email list has broken 50,000 subscribers and more than half of them open our emails each time. We give out a ton of free advice and get a lot of questions and feedback on that advice.
- LAUNCH Incubator: Instead of just investing in companies, we are now spending 12 weeks with them refining their ideas. We did this with seven startups in December, January, and February before they launched at the Festival and they were awesome. Those Incubator founders will do a 6-12 months check-in on, you guessed it, our podcast, This Week in Startups.
- LAUNCH Fund & AngelList Syndicate: nine out of 10 of the deals our angel fund invests in also goes to our AngelList Syndicate members. Those members get to invest alongside me, and over 500 investors are doing so now (although only 99 can do each deal due to the LLC laws). This means that almost every time we invest we bring another ~100 angels along for the ride. Those angels are stoked for the deal flow and they, as you might guess, love to send me the best deals they find out there.
- Launch Ticker: The LAUNCH Ticker is our research department, currently staffed at two. Those two researchers summarize the news every day and tell our investment, event, and podcast team when they see something epic. Over 900 folks are now paying $100 per year for this service and 15,000 folks get the weekly recap. We are experimenting with the LAUNCH Ticker Pro, a $1,000-per year, per-person product that profiles 150 startups per year (that we are considering investing in).
We have another six products that are not public, and that we are not going to make public. As you can imagine, all of these things combine to give us a platform that is massively valuable to a new startup.
We’ve been told that we bring not only the first $50,000 to $1,000,000 to a startup, but we also bring the first 10,000 customers, top employees, and other investors. In fact, at a party recently two senior executives at Uber stopped me and said they reached out to Travis after seeing him on This Week in Startups.
So while we can’t take any credit for the businesses our portfolio companies start, we can sleep well at night knowing that we are helping them at the edges.
All of this leads to the mission of the LAUNCH company, which is:
“To support founders and inspire innovation.”
With a mission statement like that, you’re going to become the world’s most sought-after angel investor in under 10 years, I think. Right now, I’m told objectively I’m #3-#10, which is fine by me, considering the folks in front of me are typically reported to be legends like Ron Conway, Chris Sacca, and Marc Andreessen.
Now, it’s not a competition. I’m not trying to beat Ron, Chris, or Marc; no, they have returns I’ll probably never hit. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t hit *my* goal of being the most sought after.