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Alicia Castillo Holley

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Alicia Castillo Holley is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor who invests in 8 new companies a year.

What’s your story?
I’m a serial entrepreneur, and angel investor. I grew up in a small town in Venezuela, and was a scientist (presented my first paper at 15), then head of R&D, and found entrepreneurship through a Babson College MBA. I’ve had a fascinating life, moving to 6 countries, creating startups, investing in them, and teaching and researching about passion, socio economic development, and venture capital. I now live in Silicon Valley and am a full time angel investor. I’m also a writer and speaker.

What is your involvement with Investment?
I invest in around 8 new companies per year, and I’m also an LP in three (soon to be 4) small VC funds. I created and ran Chile’s first seed capital fund so I enjoy the many colors of equity investment. I’m a member of Sand Hill Angels too. I also run programs for entrepreneurs and consultants and I’m a frequent speaker.

How did that come about?
When I first raised money, I developed a profound admiration for the angel investors that supported my projects. I valued their wisdom and now that I have enough resources, I decided to follow those steps. I also liked the research I read about angel investing. In terms of managing a VC fund, I noticed that I could not find in Chile an organization that provided the support (capital and non-capital) that some great companies needed. I had a consulting company then, and later a research and training organization. I noticed then that socioeconomic development is a stick with two ends, one is the entrepreneur and the other is the investor. We need both to lift the economy. As I did not see who could be the early investor, I created a model, organized it into a fund, raised the capital and resources, and executed it.

What are some of the key things you have learnt about Investing?
Action reigns. There is no substitute for action. An entrepreneur that is good at thinking but does not act does not work for me.
Also I like to work with individuals who are curious and that curiosity turns any disagreement into an opportunity to explore new ways of doing things.
I also learned to say NO.

What mistakes do you see less experienced investors making?
Being greedy, wanting to control the entrepreneur (instead of supporting him or her), and being comfortable with the idea that failure is an option.

What mistakes do you see Entrepreneurs making?
Mistrust and lack of preparation are on the top. If an entrepreneur wants my money but does not trust me, and does not appreciate my knowledge and wisdom, why should I take the risk of supporting them?
The lack of preparation and the ignorance about business topics and the topics critical to the industry makes me lose interest.
Last, some entrepreneurs listen to consultants that have not raised money and get ill advice, or they follow news that are incomplete or inaccurate. Money is a commodity but people are not looking to throw away or gamble money in start ups.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Close that company. One of my biggest failures was driving me crazy. I had been working on it for 4 years without making a sale – we had users but not paid customers. We kept pivoting, improving it, expanding it. I even had to fire my co-founder, the CEO of the company. It was painful. A friend who was also an angel investor called me up and offered to put funds in the company to give it a runway of 6 months. With the promise that I would close it if we did not make a sale. We made big changes, but within a couple of months, I could tell that we did not have a viable model and closed the company (and returned the unused cash).
Years later, I had to convince another co-founder on another company that we had to close it. We had had the opportunity to sale it and he did not take it. It was his first angel investing deal, and he was fixed in making a good return. We ended up selling at a loss months later.

What advice would you give to those seeking funding?
Never miss the opportunity to learn from rejection: What do I need to change to make this a more attractive deal? Is a great question.
Also do not take NO personally. Investors have many reasons to reject a deal.
Last, be prepared. Understand what are the key issues you are solving and what is the deal you are offering.

Who inspires you?
Individuals who are passionate.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
How cryptocurrencies and e-sports are disrupting the financial and sports industries respectively.

What business book do you recommend the most?
Rich Dad, Poor Dad by R Kiyosaki
Mindset, the new psychology of success, by C Dweck
And of course my book How to Fund your Million Dollar Idea, by A Castillo Holley, and the Ten Unwealthy Habits.

Shameless plug for your business/organisation:
I developed the Wealthing® Method to help people manage: passion, profits and purpose.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]; My assistant: Daniel Chapellin

Social Media profiles?
http://www.aliciacastilloholley.com/
@aliciacastillo
https://www.facebook.com/wealthing/

This article is part of the World Business Angel Forum media partnership with AsianEntrepreneur.org

If you would like more information about WBAF, please contact Callum Laing WBAF High Commissioner for Singapore. [email protected]

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Easy to invest. Impossible to exit?

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Investors are living through the most exciting time in 400 years!

Is Entrepreneurship about Invention or Innovation?  If you watch any of the Dragons Den type shows on TV you would be forgiven for thinking that the way to become an entrepreneur is to invent a new product.  Look through history and it is littered with inventions that have changed the world.  As Emerson is reputed to have said ‘Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door’.   Yet not only do we no longer live in the sellers market that Emerson did in the in late nineteenth century, the reality is that just like a ‘better mousetrap’ entrepreneurship is about refining what has gone before to create even more value for others.  Any investor that is waiting for the perfect invention, is in for a long wait.

In February 2018, over a thousand of the top entrepreneurs and investment professionals from around the world are going to be gathering in Istanbul, Turkey for the annual World Business Angel Forum.  This years topic is Innovation.  While innovation is most definitely at the core of entrepreneurship it is an area that has been sadly lacking in finance and investing.

Fortunately that is changing and we are in the middle of probably the most exciting changes in investment and funding since the Dutch East India company decided to sell shares to the public in the 1600’s.  This means that listening to and learning from the best thought leaders in this area from around the world will be critical to seeing where the market is going next.

Innovation typically takes 3 forms.  Incremental, Disruptive and Radical.  As far as investment for startups and early stage companies, the last few years has most definitely touched all three of those areas.  Whether it is crowdfunding, the rise of Angel investing, or the recent flood of money into Initial Coin Offerings (ICO’s), the world of early stage investing has changed beyond recognition in the last 10-20 years.

Yet there is also change at the other end of the equation.  No longer are companies in a hurry to go public.  IPO’s are down 50% from 20 years ago meaning it has never been easier to invest in a company, yet conversely it has also never been harder to exit.  Secondary markets and innovations like Agglomeration have popped up to serve both the entrepreneur and the investors who wish to support and profit from them.

Governments, policymakers, and key players of the equity markets will gather for WBAF 2018 and will be focusing on building partnerships, fostering connections, and discussion of democratising access to finance.  Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an Investor it is time to get innovative and get yourself to Istanbul.

Where:  Istanbul, Turkey
When:  18 – 20th February 2018
How:  Tickets at http://wbaf2018.istanbul/

World Business Angel Forum is an official partner of AsianEntrepreneur and supports Entrepreneurs around the world.

This article is part of the World Business Angel Forum media partnership with AsianEntrepreneur.org

If you would like more information about WBAF, please contact Callum Laing WBAF High Commissioner for Singapore. [email protected]

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Are ICO’s the death of Angels?

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Killing Angels. Are Initial Coin Offerings (ICO’s) the death of early stage investing?

Imagine a startup that aims to build a decentralised cloud storage network, essentially disrupting platforms such as Dropbox and Box. The startup, not having a working product or any traction yet, decides to raise funding.  It does this very successfully raising $257 million. In the past year, this and stories like it have dominated the funding discussions thanks to Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). Yet most traditional Venture Capitalists (VC’s) and Angels missed out on these ‘opportunities’ and have started questioning where their role sits moving forward.

At the annual World Business Angel Forum coming up in February, you can be sure that amongst the normal topics of macro trends, impact investing and philanthropy, that ICO’s are going to be the amongst the hottest conversations both at the conference and in the hallways and bars afterwards.

With ICO’s overtaking early stage Venture Capital it is a topic that everyone is keen to understand

As opposed to equity/debt financing, ICOs are events where a startup raises funding through issuing tokens to the public. These tokens do not represent a stake in the company; rather, it primarily serves either as a securities or utility token. Securities tokens attempt to provide investors with returns for holding them while utility tokens act as “gas” for using the system the startup builds. Either way, investors aim to profit off these tokens on the various crypto exchanges. According to data from ICObench, ICO proceeds increased 141-fold, from $9.7million in Feb 2017 to $1.3billion in Dec 2017.

With more than 180 new ICOs scheduled to launch in 2018  it is easy to see why it is dominating conversations.

Of course, it is not just just early stage investors that are watching this space closely,  governments too are beginning to notice. Late last year, South Korea joined China in banning all forms of ICOs.

But for every South Korea and China, there is Switzerland or Estonia, the former known as Crypto Valley for its political stability and support for ICOs , the latter recently announcing to launch est-coin in its bid to be the global ICO hub.

The question for investors and for governments is whether this is another unsustainable bubble or whether it is some much needed innovation in a sector screaming out to get more funding into the hands of those creating value.  The lack of regulation certainly presents potential investors with another risk factor.

For those looking for a safer way to get involved, one option might be funds such as Polychain Capital and Fenbushi Capital. They specialise in blockchain vertical only portfolios. These funds also do invest in pre-sales, enjoying discounts on token prices and occupying an advisory seat on a startup’s board. This in turn provides the startup with more credibility, boosting demand and eventually prices of the tokens. It doesn’t hurt to diversify into blockchain startups if it falls within an angel’s or a fund’s thesis.

Proper Governance Models; Angels and VCs may look to invest in startups before they raise ICOs once milestones are met or come in at a later stage post-ICO when traction is gained. Alternatively, funds may be locked up in a cold wallet and voted to be released as milestones are reached. This model has not been explored yet but it could offer stability and trust.  However, looking beyond the core business and seeing who is on the Board, or what partnerships are already in place is also very important.

Either way this is a fascinating time to be involved in the scene.  If you want to be involved in the conversation then it is well worth heading to Istanbul to join the World Business Angel Forum 2018

Where:  Istanbul, Turkey
When:  18 – 20th February 2018
How:  Tickets at http://wbaf2018.istanbul/

World Business Angel Forum is an official partner of AsianEntrepreneur and supports Entrepreneurs around the world.

This article is part of the World Business Angel Forum media partnership with AsianEntrepreneur.org

If you would like more information about WBAF, please contact Callum Laing WBAF High Commissioner for Singapore. [email protected]

Continue Reading

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