Do You Need an Angel?
March 28, 2023

Do You Need an Angel?

Your Journey

Suse Reynolds, Executive Chair of Angel Association of New Zealand (AANZ), discusses the role of angel investment, AANZ as a resource for all stakeholders, and some thoughts on the current investment climate.

The world has so many big problems that need solving right now. And many of those problems are being solved by those of you who are subscribers of the HealthTech Activator. Thank you!

Angel or early-stage venture investors enter the fray with you by providing capital - the fuel - to help you bring those solutions to the world more quickly. The best angels also bring a boat load of experience, expertise, and connections to the table. 

Angel investment is awesome, but making your first foray into angel or early-stage venture investment - either as founder or a budding angel investor - can be daunting. There is all the terminology to learn, there is so much to get to grips with around decision making and where the control rests after investment, and there are a whole new set of expectations to live up to when you take on external capital.

Angel Association New Zealand (AANZ) can help you navigate all of this.

What is AANZ?

AANZ should not be confused with Alpacas Association NZ or Alcoholics Anonymous NZ! We are an industry representative body for organisations engaged in early-stage venture investment. 

Angel investors are individuals who invest their own hard earned (or inherited) cash. Our dozen angel club or member networks up and down the country - the likes of Mainland Angel Investors, Angel Investors Marlborough, AngelHQ, Enterprise Angels and Flying Kiwi Angels - represent about 900 angel investors. 

Enterprise Angels and Flying Kiwi Angels are great examples of member networks who have publicly disclosed investments in healthtech companies - including Formus Labs, chnnl, and Volpara Health Technologies - but there are many more members that have invested in, or are interested in, cutting-edge healthtech.  

A number of our members are venture capital firms or funds investing at the same early stage as angels do. These entities invest other people’s money, and these people are called “limited partners'' or “LPs”. Our associate members include law firms, accounting firms, tech transfer entities, insurance providers and others who are interested and support investment into startups. 

People have told us that becoming a member of the Angel Association has been like finding their tribe. 

What we all share in common is that we are all that slightly crazy kind of human who truly wants to change the world, generate the outsized returns that come with that aspiration and who are into taking the big risks that go with that sort of ambition.

Image: Angel Summit 2020 Auckland

One of our key roles is to provide our members with opportunities to network and access professional development. We put on a couple of events a month to facilitate finding the people you need to help you and extend your knowledge and understanding of investing in startups. One of our favourites is our Runway events where we have about 60 people in the room, always half founders and half investors, and hold three workshops and close the day with a very noisy speed dating session. These events are all about building relationships, alignment, and mutual support. 

AANZ also runs the Abroad Wellbeing programme in NZ for supporting founders and investors to manage their mental health - coming up again in 2023 after two successful years.

Our other two key roles are working with officials and government to ensure the right policy settings are in place for startups and promoting early-stage venture investment to New Zealanders to build awareness and attract more investors to the asset class.

How might we be helpful to you specifically?

Whether you are a budding founder, a wannabe angel, working in academia as a researcher, providing legal and accounting advice to startups or working inside a corporate looking for new technology, we are a really useful crew of people to get in touch with. Here is my email address and Bridget Unsworth, our Executive Director, is also super well plugged into our members and ecosystem. It’s our job to join the dots between people and information that will be helpful to you both in Aotearoa New Zealand and internationally. 

What’s going on in our world right now?

To wrap up … a couple of thoughts on the context for early-stage investment right now. Without doubt it’s an uncertain and crazy old world out there at the moment. Interest rates and inflation are rising. There are a number of geopolitical dynamics adding to investors’ anxiety levels too.

Many would argue this is not a super conducive climate for venture investment. 

I don’t agree. Investing in high-risk businesses in a risky context requires well-founded ambition and a very clear sense of purpose. It still makes sense!

There are two or three further points to be made about venture investment in times like these. First, venture investors are still backing teams and ideas where there is a really compelling value proposition. Second, levels of early stage or angel investment, versus later stage (series A and beyond) are holding up well. And finally, we know that startup vintages born in tough economic times produce the best returns. High profile New Zealand success stories include Lanzatech, Vend and Xero. All of these companies started during the Global Financial Crisis.

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