Tuesday 19 June 2018

'Of course I have FOMO but you can't regret things' - Angel investor Peter Cowley learns from the ones who got away

Peter Cowley
Peter Cowley
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Adhering to strict investment criteria can guide an angel investor to success, but there are always exceptions to the rule.

Serial tech entrepreneur and angel investor Peter Cowley has developed a set of rules applicable to a start-up's team, their product and their finances.

With experience in over 60 investments under his belt, Mr Cowley tells hopeful entrepreneurs "please don't email for investment unless you can justify the [criteria]".

Coming from someone who was named UK Business Angel of the Year 2014/15 and Best Angel of the World by the World Business Angel Investment Forum in February 2017, the position seems sound.

But while the creation of these guidelines are based on a wealth of industry experience and absorbing knowledge from other investors, Mr Cowley acknowledges that it's the people within a firm that can change his mind.

"I started with a great group of people [Cambridge Business Angels] who taught me all I know. My criteria are based on largely on learning from this group, based on what I'm comfortable with, and at least to some extent understand," he told Independent.ie.

"People do point out to me that some of the investments I have made over the last eight years don't fit the criteria. And there are exceptions that I invest in and that's because of the people.

Read more: 'If you're running on rocket fuel, you can't afford to dilly-dally' - Super angel Christopher Mirabile believes in importance of mentoring start-ups

"I like to know the entrepreneur, I invest in people, I like to spend time getting to know the people and I believe mentoring is extremely important."

As a result of this hands-on investor approach, one of Mr Cowley's criteria is in relation to distance: he'll only consider investment in a company that requires travel of no more than 90 minutes from his home.

"Of course I have FOMO [fear of missing out] and I've missed out on some things, but you cannot regret things. In saying that, it's very important to learn from the ones that get away," he added.

One such potential deal was a stake in SwiftKey, based on creating keyboard apps for Android and iOS devices, which was sold to Microsoft for an estimated $250m in April 2016.

"There were a number reasons that it didn't happen, not least because the guy who was leading the deal went on holiday in Ireland, and it just fizzled out." 

Mr Cowley joins a number of other internationally-renowned speakers at the HBAN national conference in the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham next month.

He is now chair of the board of the Cambridge Business Angels and the Investment Director of the Marshall of Cambridge, Martlet Corporate Angel division.

The HBAN conference is on Thursday, February 8, and is open to non-members who want to see how the HBAN network works, connect with HBAN angels and listen to pitches from high-potential start-ups. Tickets for the conference are priced at €50.

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