I have recently read a non-fictional book entitled “The Invested Investor”, written by the successful UK-based investor Peter Cowley. I strongly recommend the book to anyone that wishes to learn the basics of angel investing. The author covers the life cycle of an investment, from the first round of investment (seeding) until the startup closes shop (most frequent case), is turned into an operational medium-sized business (sometimes) or is acquired by a big player (rarely).
Most of concepts explained throughout the book are related to the art of investing: funding, valuation, venture capital, options, shares, CLV/CCA ratio, etc. However, some other concepts are also applied in the project management arena. In fact, the author claimed that an invested investor must have good project management skills in order to succeed. I selected and described below the top three concepts that are shared in both disciplines.
Everything starts with the Team. Without a team, there is no startup and there is no project. But not any team will do the job. The features that a project manager or an investor look in their teams are actually the same: passion, drive, knowledge, willingness to learn and listen, transparency, honesty and ability to inspire. In other words, whether is developing a new phone app in a startup that has not reached breakeven or carrying out multimillion dollar projects to transform a city landscape, goals will not be met unless there is a strong and committed team behind them.
Pivot is when a company changes direction and its fundamental offering because the original business model is not working. Pivots are expensive and difficult because they usually carry along more investments and a modified vision. It is important to note than pivoting is not a sign of failure. In fact, most businesses pivot on their way to optimizing the model. Pivoting can also occur – and actually quite often – during a project’s life cycle. At the end of the day, project management enables the translation of a company’s vision into reality. A change in environmental factors or regulations, a shift in consumers’ habits, the release of a novel competing technology… all of these are factors that could pivot the project. Pivoting is carried out by modifying project’s triple constraint – more funding, extended/modified scope, additional resources and/or time – or by killing it straight up. The same concept could be extrapolated to program and portfolio levels, where pivoting the company strategy will inevitably pivot the value stream represented by its portfolio of projects.
Writing cheques is not something that can be done lightly. Funds are transferred from the angel’s account to another account without the certainty that it will ever produce a return. Before the money is kissed goodbye, two documents are set in place; the term sheet which is a mostly non-binding document that sets out the deal to be completed between investors and founders. And the shareholders’ agreement, which is a legally binding document signed by the investors and founders defining how ownership of the company is distributed between the parties. This gated approach resembles the two gates typically found in the initiation and planning phases of a given project. In this manner, the term sheet is equivalent to the project charter – with the difference that the latter is binding – and the shareholders’ agreement is comparable to the project plan.