Should I Raise Angel Capital?
What are the steps involved in raising angel capital? What traits are angel investors looking for in the founder of a startup? Noted angel investor and startup mentor Charlie Paparelli answers these questions and more in a wide-ranging interview with host Mike Blake. “Decision Vision” is presented by Brady Ware & Company.
Charlie Paparelli, Paparelli Ventures
Charlie Paparelli is a twenty-five year professional angel investor focused on helping entrepreneurs achieving their dream of starting and growing their own company. Five years ago, he began sharing his experiences in a twice-weekly blog to entrepreneurs and angel investors at paparelli.com. In addition to his writing, he is a speaker and a coach helping founders and their new teams build enormously valuable companies.
He invested in over 35 entrepreneurs over the last 25 years. He is the Angel in Residence at Georgia Tech’s Atlanta Technology Development Center. He is also a mentor at the Atlanta Tech Village. He is Chairman of the Atlanta High Tech Prayer Breakfast. The Breakfast is in its 28th year. It is the largest networking event in Atlanta technology, and it is an evangelical outreach. He has held many community leadership roles during his 40 year career in Atlanta technology.
Michael Blake, Brady Ware & Company
Michael Blake is Host of the “Decision Vision” podcast series and a Director of Brady Ware & Company. Mike specializes in the valuation of intellectual property-driven firms, such as software firms, aerospace firms and professional services firms, most frequently in the capacity as a transaction advisor, helping clients obtain great outcomes from complex transaction opportunities. He is also a specialist in the appraisal of intellectual properties as stand-alone assets, such as software, trade secrets, and patents.
Mike has been a full-time business appraiser for 13 years with public accounting firms, boutique business appraisal firms, and an owner of his own firm. Prior to that, he spent 8 years in venture capital and investment banking, including transactions in the U.S., Israel, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
Brady Ware & Company
Brady Ware & Company is a regional full-service accounting and advisory firm which helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality. Brady Ware services clients nationally from its offices in Alpharetta, GA; Columbus and Dayton, OH; and Richmond, IN. The firm is growth minded, committed to the regions in which they operate, and most importantly, they make significant investments in their people and service offerings to meet the changing financial needs of those they are privileged to serve. The firm is dedicated to providing results that make a difference for its clients.
Decision Vision Podcast Series
“Decision Vision” is a podcast covering topics and issues facing small business owners and connecting them with solutions from leading experts. This series is presented by Brady Ware & Company. If you are a decision maker for a small business, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at email@example.com and make sure to listen to every Thursday to the “Decision Vision” podcast. Past episodes of “Decision Vision” can be found here. “Decision Vision” is produced and broadcast by the North Fulton studio of Business RadioX®.
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Intro: [00:00:01] Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast series focusing on critical business decisions, brought to you by Brady Ware & Company. Brady Ware is a regional, full-service, accounting and advisory board that helps businesses and entrepreneurs make vision a reality.
Michael Blake: [00:00:20] And welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast giving you, the listener, clear vision to make great decisions. In each episode, we discuss the process of decision making on a different topic. Rather than making recommendations because everyone’s circumstances are different, we talk to subject matter experts about how they would recommend thinking about that decision.
Michael Blake: [00:00:37] My name is Mike Blake, and I’m your host for today’s program. I’m a Director at Brady Ware &Company, a full service accounting firm based in Dayton, Ohio, with offices in Dayton; Columbus, Ohio; Richmond, Indiana; and Alpharetta, Georgia, which is where we are recording today. Brady Ware is sponsoring this podcast. If you like this podcast, please subscribe on your favorite podcast aggregator, and please also consider leaving a review of this podcast as well.
Michael Blake: [00:01:01] Our topic today is seeking angel capital. And for those of you who don’t know me, most of you don’t because you’re out somewhere on the internet, I’ve been a cheerleader and advocate in the angel capital world for really as long as I can remember. My first job out of school actually was helping entrepreneurs in the former Soviet Union and in Russia. And at that time, there wasn’t even a term for angel capital. It’s kind of fascinating because the whole business vocabulary was evolving at that time.
Michael Blake: [00:01:34] And when I moved to Atlanta about 15 years or so ago, I got a taste of the early stage capital scene here. And the one theme that was recurring was you can’t get a deal done here, there’s no angel capital, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. If you live in Atlanta, it’s tedious. If you don’t, this is news to you. And the thing I, sort of, thought was, well, I saw people making investments in Minsk. And I can’t imagine that investing in Atlanta is harder than investing in Minsk. Maybe I’m wrong, but I can’t imagine it’s that big a difference. There’s got to be something kind of going on here. And as it kind of got more into the community, I was very fortunate, the community embraced me very quickly. I started to learn about the gears and cogs about this.
Michael Blake: [00:02:21] And as I start to learn more about angel capital and early stage investing, in general, and with the travels I’ve had abroad, I came to a conclusion that for all the things that we, as Americans, think make us unique, I’m not sure anything makes us more unique than the angel and venture capital sectors. I’m not sure anything makes us more unique than the way that we support startups. And if you look at at the word “entrepreneurship” in other languages, if you directly translate them, they almost have a sense of doing something semi-devious. If you’re enterprising, that’s not necessarily a good thing. But in the United States, we have a unique cultural facet where the entrepreneur is folk hero. And I can’t think of any other place in the world where we elevate the entrepreneur to that status.
Michael Blake: [00:03:13] And one of the things that makes the entrepreneurial sector go is angel capital. You can’t bootstrap a new car company. You can’t bootstrap a new airplane company, right. And many of the largest companies, the most important inventions in the world that we think of today, at some point, were funded by angel capital. Columbus’s expedition to the new world was funded by Angel Capital called The Royal Family of Spain. Thomas Edison-
Charlie Paparelli: [00:03:53] Queen Isabella.
Michael Blake: [00:03:53] King Ferdinand, who’s with Queen Isabella, right?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:03:56] Yeah.
Michael Blake: [00:03:56] I was going to say King Ferdinand. I knew that was not right, so I choke. It’s Queen Isabella. Thank you. Thomas Edison was funded for the light bulb and for General Electric by a guy named JP Morgan. And so, angel capital pervades almost everything that we think about in terms of the American economic story. And I think if you don’t understand angel capital, you don’t understand a big part about how American business works.
Michael Blake: [00:04:24] And so, here to talk about that is somebody that I’ve known, and, for a long time, I’ve come to respect. He doesn’t even know this, but he’s a spiritual mentor to me. If you don’t ― if you haven’t listened to his or read his emails, get on his email list. There’s how many? I think three times a week. They’re just phenomenal. Not good – great. Required reading. And his name is Charlie Paparelli.
Michael Blake: [00:04:47] Charlie is a 25-year professional angel investor focused on helping entrepreneurs in achieving their dream of starting and growing their own company. Five years ago, he began sharing his experience at a twice-weekly blog – so, it’s twice weekly, just assuming – to entrepreneurs and angel investors at paparelli.com. In addition to his writing, he is a speaker and a coach helping founders and their new teams build enormously valuable companies. He invested in over 35 entrepreneurs over the last 25 years. And we’re going to come back to that.
Michael Blake: [00:05:16] He is the Angel-in-Residence at Georgia Tech’s Atlanta Technology Development Center. He is also a mentor at the Atlanta Tech Village. He is chairman of the Atlanta High Tech Prayer Breakfast, which is the largest pre-6:00 a.m. start event on the Atlanta calendar. Now, that may be a small list, but it is a big deal. That breakfast is in its 28th year. It is the largest networking event in Atlanta technology, and it is an evangelical outreach. And as an aside, whenever I remember, I’ve been to about three or four of those, and one of them was an executive from Apple. Charlie will remind his name. But he’s an executive from Apple who had to come on and talk, I think, a day or two after Steve Jobs passed away, as I recall. And that was some powerful stuff. That was as raw as it gets.
Michael Blake: [00:06:11] Charlie has helped many community leadership roles during his 40-year career in Atlanta technology including Angel Lounge, which is an offshoot of Startup Lounge that serves to educate current and aspiring angel investors in the Atlanta community. Charlie is married to Kathy for 42 years. They have four children and three grandchildren, with another on the way. They are members of Church of the Apostles in Atlanta. And Charlie is an avid motorcyclist whose current ride is a 2019 BMW R125. Nope, that’s wrong. R1250 RT. Got it. That’s a lot of letters and numbers.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:06:46] That’s what it is, yeah.
Michael Blake: [00:06:48] Charlie, thank you so much for coming on the program. I’ve been looking forward to this since we started talking about it several weeks ago.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:06:53] Same here, Mike. I always love the work that you were doing. We started Angel Lounge as an offshoot, as you said, a startup lounge. I wanted to be a part of what you were doing. You’re saying we’re missing this piece. And that’s where we came up with the idea of Angel Lounge.
Michael Blake: [00:07:06] And I think due to that, I think there’s more capital available in Atlanta than there has been because I think you’re making people feel safer and more confident about making those commitments.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:07:17] Yeah. Angel Lounge, we focused Angel Lounge instead of trying to march more companies in front of people, it took us a while to get to the right formula. But the formula that we’re using is, really, our mission is to just help angel investors or those who are interested in becoming angel investors to help make them better investors by sharing each other’s stories and experience with them.
Michael Blake: [00:07:39] So, I’d like to start this podcast with the basic vocabulary question, because I think not everybody knows what angel investing is. They may think it’s venture capital, but angel investing and venture capital are related, but they’re not quite the same, are they?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:07:53] No, they’re very different. If you think about when we ― venture capital, basically, is mutual funds for high-risk investments, all right. So, if you know how mutual funds work, I mean, you have a mutual fund manager, and he has partners, and they raise money to, then, invest that money for other people in mostly public stocks. Public stocks, things that you can get in and out of pretty quickly. So, they might put in 1% to 5% of their own money into that big mutual fund. So, venture capitalists, the difference between them is they’re investing in companies that are privately held companies. And as privately held companies, you can’t get in and out of them quickly. Once you’re in, you’re in forever, okay.
Michael Blake: [00:08:47] Right. That door makes a loud slamming noise.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:08:48] It does, yeah. It’s all ― so, we’re all excited to get in. And then, next thing we’re doing is looking for exits, and we’re driving along the highway, and there are none. You’re just on there, and you hope you don’t run out of gas till you get to that last exit. So, venture capitalists, hopefully, people put money in venture capitalists, and big pension funds put money there simply because it’s a high-risk, high-reward alternative. So, you’ll find some of these big pension funds who will put in maybe up to 3% to 5% of their total fund into high-risk alternatives, of which venture is one of those.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:09:23] Angel investing, on the other hand, that’s like your own money. So, it’s like running your ― it’s like taking whatever money that you thought you wanted to put into higher risk ventures, whether it be $100,000, or $250,000, or some cases, it could be multiple millions of dollars, and you say, “No, I want to be an angel investor. I want to be on the ground. I want to invest in these early-stage startups. I want to work with these entrepreneurs. And I’m willing to risk my personal fortune on this one segment.” So, you have a lot less people, a lot less company — fewer companies that you’ll be spreading that risk across. And so, that makes the risk even higher as an angel investor versus venture capital.
Michael Blake: [00:10:08] Now, I want to clarify one thing just because you happen to be the guest, it only happens to be called an angel investor because that’s a term of art. It has nothing to do with a religious affiliation. Even though you happen to be very open about your faith, there are plenty of people who aren’t that way that are angel investors, right? There’s not a a Christian element to it, necessarily.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:10:28] There’s no Christian element to it. In fact, the term angel investor goes back to people in New York on Broadway who actually wanted to get their shows funded, their new ideas for Broadway shows. And people would come in, and they would ― very wealthy people would liked the idea, and they would fund the show. And those people were called by the producers of those shows angel investors. And that’s where the term ― that’s the genesis of the term angel investor.
Michael Blake: [00:11:00] I had no idea. I did not know that. And the producers, the people who funded Springtime for Hitler were actually angel investors.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:11:07] Oh, you would bring up that example, but, yes, that’s true. Yeah.
Michael Blake: [00:11:10] Well, my wife is Jewish. She’s a big Mel Brooks fan. And I will say, as an aside, by the way, the funniest six minutes in cinema is Springtime for Hitler. Only Mel Brooks can make the Nazis funny. So, we often hear about friends and family as investors. Do they qualify as angels too, or are they sort of a different animal?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:11:29] No, I would call — friends and family, there’s a term called the 3Fs, okay? Family, friends, and fools, okay, are those very, very early stage investors. And when you’re — when an entrepreneur is raising money, the first thing that he’s raising money around or on, as a foundation, is his credibility. Well, the first people that find the person, the entrepreneur, to be credible, especially if it’s his first time being an entrepreneur, is his family. If his family doesn’t think that he or she could do it, then why should anybody else think they should — they’d be able to do it?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:12:11] So, I think that the first round is always friends and family, because they’re other people that say, “Oh, my God. If Mike Blake is starting this company, and Mike is so smart, and I think he’s going to be able to build something great. I have no idea what his idea is. I don’t know what the market is. I don’t know anything. But I know Mike, and I’ll put money behind Mike.” So, I think they are angels. They’re the — they’ve been called fools, but I think what they’re doing — I know what they’re doing. They’re betting on the individual because they have a very deep and long personal relationship with them.
Michael Blake: [00:12:44] So, you bring something up that I want to make sure that we cover because there’s a timeline of maturity here, right? And that friends and family round, if you will, that investment is really banking on the credibility, which means there isn’t a business yet, right. There’s there’s a hope, an idea, right? A story, I guess-
Charlie Paparelli: [00:13:05] Yeah. Just somebody-
Michael Blake: [00:13:05] … in most cases?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:13:06] Most of the time, somebody will come to you and say, “Yeah, this is something that I’ve been doing. I’ve been working for such and such a company for a while.” These are the kind of people that I’ve gotten — I’m attracted to. “I’ve been working in this industry for a while, working for this company for a while. I’m 35 years old. I’ve been through… ” — either “I developed an expertise as a programmer” or “I developed an expertise as a salesperson,” or whatever. “But I know this industry, and I have this idea, and I brought it to my bosses, and no one’s interested in it. And I just can’t let loose of it. And I really want to start a company around it, but I have no idea how to do that. But I think a lot of people will buy whatever I’m going to build or sell.” And that’s kind of how it gets started.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:13:56] And then, the first place they have to go is they have to go to somebody. So, that’s all they have. They have this story. There’s interest and that they — it’s this passion. It’s, sort of, like a God-given idea they can’t let loose of, but they need to be able to feed — they’re 35. They need to be able to feed their family, and they need to start putting money away for college, and all this for the kids, and everything that we all do. They have houses, cars. They’ve got it all. How do they survive? Well, that’s where the angel comes in and says, “We can help you meet your personal expenses at the beginning while you develop — while you unhook from the corporation and your salary,” which is step one. And then, you start building out this idea.
Michael Blake: [00:14:38] You brought something up. I’m going to deviate from a script here because I think that’s — I think it’s important. That 35-year-old, the most — the iconic entrepreneur is somebody who’s in their 20s. To us, they’re basically kids, right. But they actually don’t start most companies, do they?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:14:57] No. You say iconic. What do you mean the iconic?
Michael Blake: [00:14:59] An iconic. Iconic, like the Mark Zuckerbergs, the Bill Gates of the world, Steve Jobs.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:15:05] Oh, I see what you’re saying, yeah.
Michael Blake: [00:15:05] In some case, they actually drop out of school, so they can start whatever it is they’re going to start. But actually, most entrepreneurs look like that 35-year-old, don’t they?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:15:14] Yeah, I think the statistics proved out that it’s somewhere between 35 and 38. And my statistics actually prove out this companies that were successful for me that I invested in, that’s exactly how old people were. So, they have enough. Really, like when I got out of college, I grew up, my father was a middle — he was a train man on the Jersey Central Railroad for 38 years. When I sat around the dinner table, we didn’t talk about business. In fact, I remember I was the first one in my family, first male in my family to actually get a degree from college. And I was getting an accounting degree, and they told us we need to read The Wall Street Journal. I’m reading The Wall Street Journal, and I didn’t even know what I was reading. It didn’t make any sense to me because I had no context or understanding of basic business.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:16:01] So, it’s really, when you come out of school, what do you know about business? What do you know about building a company? What do you know about the disciplines of building a product, the disciplines of launching a product? How to gain — how to hire people? How to do business reviews or reviews for people? Okay. How to properly give a presentation? You don’t know any of this stuff. You have to learn it. And so, that’s why I think those 15 to 18 years out of college, that’s the foundation where you have to prove out your functional expertise, as well as your management expertise.
Michael Blake: [00:16:38] I think the only thing I knew about business was what I remembered from watching that Michael J. Fox movie, The Secret of My Success. That was pretty much it.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:16:46] I don’t remember that.
Michael Blake: [00:16:47] Yeah, nor does anybody else. That’s-
Charlie Paparelli: [00:16:49] Okay.
Michael Blake: [00:16:49] Yeah. So, let’s, sort of, then, now get into the seat of that person that thinks they’ve got that idea, right, and they’re convinced that idea’s got legs, and the company they’re working for is not going to buy it. They sit down, they take you out to lunch, or they sit down for your own office hours at the ATDC. What do you tell them in terms of they’re if going to embark on a venture — I’m sorry, angel capital raising process, what should that entrepreneur be prepared to do?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:17:21] In order to?
Michael Blake: [00:17:24] To raise capital? I’ve got an idea. I need somebody to write me a bigger check than I can write myself. What is that process going to look like?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:17:34] All right. So, I’m going to speak beyond the friends and family.
Michael Blake: [00:17:37] Yeah.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:17:37] So, friends and family is going to provide that bridge to get you from a weekly payroll or weekly salary, if you will, to being an entrepreneur or starting your own business, in effect, okay. So, now, your future and your family’s future is dependent upon you making money. So, tell me again, what are you looking for in this?
Michael Blake: [00:18:03] I’m just looking for the process of raising angel capital, right. I’ve decided I’m going to raise angel capital. What do those steps look like to get from want to raise angel capital to having a check in the bank?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:18:18] All right. Part of this myth, I mean, you talked about entrepreneurs as folk heroes. And there’s a myth around the folk hero that soon as I come up with an idea, the next step is to actually raise capital, okay? Really, the next step is to start building a business. Capital is attracted to businesses. Capital isn’t just attracted to purely ideas, all right. I look back at Facebook, for example. So, when Zuckerberg — what happened with Zuckerberg, he started Facebook, basically, as a freshman at Harvard, I believe was Harvard.
Michael Blake: [00:18:58] I think so, yeah.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:18:59] Yeah. And, sort of, a nerdy guy, wanted to meet people, introvert. He didn’t want to meet people. He want to meet girls. So, what he did is he put together this little site to have people meet each other over this internet. And it was only open to the freshman class at Harvard. And he started to gain traction because there’s a lot of nerds, I guess, that go to Harvard.
Michael Blake: [00:19:30] I think that’s fair.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:19:31] Yeah. And they don’t-
Michael Blake: [00:19:32] I only drove by Harvard when I lived up in Boston, but I think that’s correct.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:19:35] Yeah, all right. Well, they needed to meet each other. So, they didn’t know how to do it. So, they started doing it over the web, this new medium, if you will. And then from there, it started to kind of take off. So, he met people. He became, sort of, a little bit of a rock star in his freshman class and other people in the college. And Harvard said, “Well, what about us as sophomores, and juniors, and seniors, and all that?” And, of course, we always know that seniors always like to pick up freshmen girls, right? That’s kind of how that works. And so, he opened it up, and it just became for Harvard. And then from Harvard, other people started to contact him, and said, “Hey, we’re at MIT. We want to do the same thing. Can you open it up?” So, he started to open up these silos where they couldn’t talk to each other. You can only talk within your educational institution. And from there, it’s sort of just expanded.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:20:27] At some point, people said — he said, “I need to — this thing is so popular now. I need to kind of get some money here, so I can live on and continue to build it out.” And that’s when he got his first venture capital. And by then, he had exposed — he had expanded to high schools, again, siloed. And when he first got some capital in there, it was probably angel money to start with, is they said to him, “Look, why are you doing this siloed approach? Why don’t you just kind of open it up horizontally to anybody who wants to be part of this?” And that was the beginning of Facebook.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:21:00] And that so — he started to build out the attractiveness of the idea and the business model, and that’s what it was. And he had no idea what the business model was going to be when he started. But later, it came about that it was going to be advertising-based because he had captured all of our data, and he was able to sell it to all of the advertisers.
Michael Blake: [00:21:18] Yeah.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:21:19] It worked out really well for him. But the first step, really, is for these — is to think, “I have to build a business.” Don’t think, “I have to raise capital. I have to build a business.” If you build something that looks like it’s going to be a business, that, actually, there’s some buyers out there for whatever service or product that you’re selling, then an angel investor like myself can come in and say, “It looks like this can turn into a big business,” or “This can turn into a $500,000 business, max,” or “Maybe it’s going to be a $5 million business,” then we can size what type of investment it would require. And then, we could figure out what kind of returns that we might possibly get based on the investment we put in.
Michael Blake: [00:22:00] And you and I, I think, both know and have met entrepreneurs that, I think, I’ve gotten that backwards where their business seems to be raising capital.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:22:09] Yeah.
Michael Blake: [00:22:11] That doesn’t work very well, does it?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:22:12] Yeah. One of the things I worry about in our community and other communities is we don’t celebrate. We don’t seem to celebrate the progress that a company makes in their marketplace. But what the news covers is how much money they raised on the last round. Money doesn’t build companies, people build companies.
Michael Blake: [00:22:34] Yeah.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:22:34] So, we should be celebrating, “Oh, my gosh, they did a deal with AT&T.” That should be the news, not that they raised $50 dollars in the last round at a $200 million valuation.
Michael Blake: [00:22:48] Yeah, I agree with that.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:22:50] Yeah, you’re right. So, the end point, what we celebrate is some milestone in the process as opposed to the business successes themselves.
Michael Blake: [00:23:03] So, to raise money for a small business, angel capital is not necessarily the only game in town. It’s not necessarily the best route to go, right? You could — for example, you might be able to obtain a small business loan, right, or you may be to finance things through credit cards. Can you talk a little bit about what differentiates one opportunity that makes it appropriate for angel capital and what maybe makes another opportunity more appropriate for a small business loan kind of scenario?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:23:34] Yeah. Small business loans and credit cards, they all kind of fall in the same bucket. They’re probably 25% interest type loans.
Michael Blake: [00:23:43] Yeah.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:23:43] So, you’ve got to think of them more like working capital loans. So, I need some — I’m invoicing my — I’m doing a service company, so I’m invoicing my customers. I’ve got a 45 to 60-day, sort of, window before that money comes back in. So. maybe I can use credit cards, and I can use these business loans, if you will, to kind of finance that. But for longtime financing, 25% interest is gonna be quite a burden as you go forward. So, I see those as working capital loans.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:24:17] The angel, the other side is banking. Can I go to a bank and get a loan? Well, if you’ve got enough assets, enough collateral, and enough money in the bank, they’re willing to give you a loan. But most of these people don’t have the credit worthiness to get any meaningful sized loan that’s going to kind of move the needle for the business. So, it forces you into selling stock in your company as opposed to just accumulating debt to kind of go forward. So, with stock, you don’t have debt. You have — you’ve sold off a piece. But, now, you have a partner. And that’s what an angel investor is. They’re a financial partner in the company. So you’ve sold off 30%, or 50%, or whatever the number might be depending upon how early stage you are of your company to this investor who’s now going to be hanging out with you for a very long time.
Michael Blake: [00:25:12] And the timing issue, I think, is so important that an angel investor, if they’re experienced – and not all of them are – understands that doors are slammed shut, and you’re on a highway for a while, right? The bank, maybe they understand the door’s slammed shut, but if you’re going to be on that highway for a long time, that meter runs really quickly, right, as that interest kind of piles up. And it takes cash out of the business. But if you can pay that back fairly quickly, maybe that does make sense. If you have enough cash flow initially to kind of — as you said, as you sell through your inventory or whatnot, maybe it makes sense to do that.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:25:54] Yeah. It depends upon — I guess there’s a couple of things to consider is, what kind of business am I building? If I have to spend a lot of time in order to build out a product, a bank loan is probably not gonna be a good way to go. But if I’m doing a services company, or if I’m a reseller of some type of other products, so I’m really looking to just buy product, and then resell product, bank loans make a heck of a lot of sense because you can keep moving them. You can pay them back, you can take them down, you can do it that way. But if I have this long-term investment that I have to make in order to get set up to build my company, well, bank loans, like you said, accrued interest kind of grows very, very rapidly. And then, you’re kind of under water.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:26:44] The other thing to consider is that, do you know enough about what you’re doing to build a company? So, this is where angels come in too. They’re just not people who come with money, but they come with expertise and network. So, if you could find those kind of what I’ll call smart money angels, then they could bring a lot of value to the business to increase your chances of success and mitigate your risk.
Michael Blake: [00:27:11] I want to drill down on that because I know in your model, I think, your smart money is involved. I think you are involved with a greater degree because you do fewer deals, right? I think, in the intro, I think it said you did 30 deals over 25 years, something of that nature, right?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:27:28] Right.
Michael Blake: [00:27:28] So, you are not — you, yourself, you’re not spreading thin. You are going deep into one or two deals at any given point in time. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that’s, sort of, on the deeper end of the spectrum. Not all angels are as involved on a day-to-day basis as an intimate partner as are you. Is that fair?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:27:50] That’s very fair.
Michael Blake: [00:27:52] And then, there’s a spectrum. And then, on the other side — and I’ll just share with the listeners some insider baseball. We often call those doctor and dentist deals, right? Nothing against doctors or dentists, but there’s a stereotype that they have money but not the experience of being angel investors. Often, they’ll make an investment but not be involved, right.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:28:16] But the other side of the reason that doctors and dentists get involved too is there’s a jealousy that the business guys are making all the money.
Michael Blake: [00:28:26] Okay.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:28:26] So, they want to become a business guy and that becomes an easy, sort of, on-ramp angel investing, but it’s a quick way to kind of lose some of their hard-earned, sort of, cash flow too.
Michael Blake: [00:28:37] Yeah. Yeah. Oh, sure. That’s a great way to lose money, right?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:28:40] Yeah.
Michael Blake: [00:28:40] But as somebody who’s seeking angel capital, right, on the one hand, what you’re offering, you’re offering experience, you’re offering expertise, you’re offering support. The other edge of that sword is I got to share the steering wheel, right? There’s built-in, day-to-day, in-your-face accountability with which not everybody in the world is necessarily comfortable, right? And some capital seekers will say, “You know what? You’re telling me this dumb money is just going to write me $100,000 check, and then not bother me? Great. Where do I sign?” What does that funding seeker not getting right? What are they overlooking or what are — yeah. What are they failing to see because they see that “free money?”
Charlie Paparelli: [00:29:29] Yeah. I have people — I had a call just the other day, in fact, somebody who was saying to me this is their third time, actually, starting a company. And, actually, the first two companies, they had exits. So, they figured they had the formula down, they’re just going to be successful. So, this is a guy that has total exits that were equal to $37 million in exit. So, this is a pretty successful guy in health care, in the health care vertical. And he’s saying to me, “You know and understand. You understand how to price these deals out. I don’t have revenue yet in this one. I do have a lot of experience. I’ve got good track record. I think that people should pay a much higher amount of money as angel investors for the stock than I’m going to sell in this company at this stage.”
Charlie Paparelli: [00:30:16] And I said, “Well, you’ve got a choice. If you want people who are going to come in, who are going to add to the credibility of your new company, your idea, and also lock arms with you for any future, sort of — be of value add for any future funding that you’re going to do,” I said, “you’re going to have to — you’re selling to professional angel investors who are going to be asking for — they’re looking for good returns, and they understand how hard it is to build companies. So, you’re going to be pricing your company lower than you would with inexperienced – the doctors and dentists.” You go to doctors and dentists, and they say, “Oh, well, I’m pricing this brand new company, never raised money before, has no revenue, hasn’t built the product yet. We’re going to price it at $10 million.” Okay. And from the outside, you might say, “Wow, that’s a really good deal, $10 millions because I look at the stock market and all those companies have billion dollar valuations. So, this is a great deal.”
Charlie Paparelli: [00:31:14] Whereas an angel investor would probably say, “What did you raise money on your last deal for that first round?” He said, “Well, they got an outsized return because I priced it at $2 billion pre-money.” And I said, “Well, that’s what it was worth. And they didn’t get a ridiculously high sign.” I said, “What was the returns they got?” He said, “They got a 10-time return on their money.” I said, “So, what? So, what? Why does that bother you? You were a success. You made millions of dollars because of these people that put this money in.” He said, “Well, I think that I could make even more.” I said, “Well, how much more money do you want to make?” And he said, “Well, it’s not about the money. It’s about fairness.” And I said, “Oh, so it’s about greed, but it’s not about the money.” You know what I mean? It’s like a ridiculous conversation. So, I would say-
Michael Blake: [00:32:00] This is why I don’t argue with you, by the way.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:32:02] So, what do you like? Yeah. So, what you’re missing out on if you get what we’ll call as inexperienced money as opposed to using the pejorative term, is you’re missing out on the experience. I mean, I’ve been an entrepreneur in my earliest days. We built companies from scratch. We did exits. I worked for corporations. I know what it is to to build leaders. I know how to hire people. I know to help. I have a network of people I can bring to the company. I can make introductions to executives. That’s very valuable. Well, if you’ve got a doctor, and he’s not going to do any of that, he’s going to call you up and say, “So, what happened last week?”
Michael Blake: [00:32:44] Right.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:32:44] You know.
Michael Blake: [00:32:44] Unless somebody faints at the board meeting, that’s great. But otherwise, he’s not going to bring that much to the table, right?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:32:49] Exactly.
Michael Blake: [00:32:49] So-
Charlie Paparelli: [00:32:49] So, that’s what you miss out.
Michael Blake: [00:32:51] And you said something that I want to touch on because I think this is really important. That 10x return, I don’t think that’s really an outsized return when you consider the risk that’s being taken, right? So, I just posted two days ago on my chart of the day, when you look at venture returns, which is more mature than angel, right, 65% of those deals don’t make their money back, right?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:33:14] Right.
Michael Blake: [00:33:14] So, it’s up to a 1.0x return, which means that’s cash and cash. Best scenario, you get your money back, which means that two-thirds of deals lose money, right?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:33:27] Right.
Michael Blake: [00:33:27] Two-thirds of deals in the S&P 500 do not lose money if you’re just sort of in a broad index, right?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:33:32] Right.
Michael Blake: [00:33:32] So, it’s kind of like drilling for oil that the deals that are successful also kind of got to pay for the deals that weren’t, right? The well that strikes oil also has to pay for the drills you put in that didn’t strike oil.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:33:46] Right.
Michael Blake: [00:33:47] And so, if you’re successful, perhaps you’re thinking, “Boy, you know, 10x returns seems rather greedy.” But from the investor’s standpoint, you got to have that, or you’ve got to have that aspirationally. You have to hit it once in a while or the economics, given the risk and the failure rate, just don’t work out, right?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:34:06] Yes. So, what you wind up with, I think that the average angel that has been doing it for some — let’s say, a 10-year period, I think their returns are somewhere — somebody — this is somebody that presented at Angel Lounge. I think those returns were somewhere around 3% to 6% as an internal rate of return.
Michael Blake: [00:34:26] Oh, my gosh.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:34:26] Well, that’s an awful lot of risk and an awful lot of work, okay, to get those kind of returns. And what happens is when you’re speaking with entrepreneurs, every entrepreneur know his company is going to be a great success, and it’s going to be worth a lot of money. What he doesn’t have is any kind of context to say, “As an angel investor, I’m looking at 20 people that look like you, okay, and I’m seeing — I really understand where the risk is because I’ve talked to people at all different levels. You seem to be the most attractive, but there’s no guarantee that you’re going to be successful.”.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:35:05] That guy I talked about in health care, I said, “You’ve got millions of dollars.” He says — I said, “Why don’t you put your money into this thing if it’s such a good deal?” And he said, “Well, I’ve already put $200,000 in.” And I said, “Well, $200,000 to you is nothing based on the exits that you had. So, you’ve got to be worth more than $15 million.” He goes, “Well, I’m not going to tell you what I’m worth, but you’re not far off.”
Charlie Paparelli: [00:35:28] And then I said, “Well, if this is such a great deal, if it’s so low risk that you’re going to be a success, why would you want to share it with anybody?” And he said, “Well, there’s always a chance that it’s going to fail.” I said, “Well, you didn’t say that in the first 20 minutes of our conversation, you know.” But you see, this is the reality of it. So, I want to take no risk, and I want all the risk to be put on the investors. And I don’t think they should get more than a three-time return if it works.” And I said to him, “Would you invest in that deal?” And he didn’t answer me. But you see, it’s crazy the way these deals get positioned.
Michael Blake: [00:36:06] Well, you know, I think in fairness, it’s sort of in a symmetry of kind of how you look at it. From the entrepreneur’s deal, they have one deal, and that’s it, right? But I want to build on something that you said. Even the deals you invest in, let’s say — I know you don’t do this, but let’s say you’re an angel that’s got money in six deals, right?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:36:26] Yeah.
Michael Blake: [00:36:28] When you put money in those six deals, you didn’t think any of them were going to fail individually. You wouldn’t have put your money in, right? You think that all of them are going to be successful when you put your money in, but you know that four of them are not, or five of them are not, or maybe all six of them are going to lose. You just don’t know which ones.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:36:45] You know, it’s funny that you say that, the four of the six will not be okay. There is such a deep sense of denial. Even me who has been through this that I still think I’ll be six for six. Okay? That’s why we do these deals. You know, I mean, you can’t be an angel investor, and not be idealistic, outsized, idealistic, and outsized hopeful. Otherwise, you wouldn’t do these things.
Michael Blake: [00:37:10] Right.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:37:11] So, that’s what happens.
Michael Blake: [00:37:11] Nobody would ever enlist for the army if they thought they’re the one that’s going to get shot.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:37:15] That’s right. That’s right.
Michael Blake: [00:37:16] You got to have that going in. It just doesn’t make any sense, right? So, how much lead time? I mean, how long do you think — how long does it normally take? Let’s say there’s a successful angel funding process that takes place. As an entrepreneur is thinking about their business plan, how long does that process usually take?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:37:39] Well, it’s a hard question to answer, but if I’d say in general terms, I would say 90 days.
Michael Blake: [00:37:47] Okay.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:37:47] Okay. But it’s highly dependent. If we’re speaking to entrepreneurs and business people here, it’s highly dependent upon the quality of your business. If you are sitting here, and you don’t really have anything, and the idea doesn’t really even solve a clear business problem, you can spend the next two years trying to find the first person that’s going to put money behind that. And in that two years, you’re going to change, change, change, improve, do better until you hit on some business that makes sense based on your expertise. And then, the 90 days will kick in.
Michael Blake: [00:38:23] Right.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:38:23] All right. So, it could be forever to never, okay? Or if you really do, in fact, have something, it could be as quick as 30 days, okay? That happens if you get the first person who has high credibility as an angel in the deal, then it’s a pile-on. Everybody’s got to be in the deal, right, because the credibility went up. If Charlie thinks that Mike has got a really good shot at this, and Charlie’s done a lot of these deals, I’ll put money in that deal. Well, what’s the deal? I don’t even know what it is, but Charlie’s on the deal. I’m going to do the deal. You know, that’s the old thing that we had about the t-shirt for Sig Mosley, right, who was sort of the godfather of angel investing in Atlanta that said “Sig said no.”
Michael Blake: [00:39:08] Yeah.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:39:10] Right? If Sig said no, you were dead.
Michael Blake: [00:39:12] That was already a horse head in your bed, basically.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:39:13] Yeah, exactly. That’s what it was. But if he said yes, everybody wanted in on the deal. They don’t even know what they were investing.
Michael Blake: [00:39:20] Right.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:39:21] That’s the [crosstalk].
Michael Blake: [00:39:22] It could have been alpaca as a service. And if Sig was in, you’re in.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:39:26] That’s it.
Michael Blake: [00:39:26] Now, saddle me up, right.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:39:28] That was it.
Michael Blake: [00:39:29] So, what do you think about angel groups? There are angel groups out there. We have won the Atlanta Technology Angels, which, as my editorializing, some years are great; some years, you don’t quite know where they are. I don’t think you’ve ever been a very active member as an investor of angel groups, if I’m — correct me if I’m wrong, obviously. But do you have an opinion of angel groups as a place for somebody to go to look for capital?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:39:55] Yeah, I think that angel groups have been — angel groups have been through a process here over the last, I would say 20 years. And it’s taken them that long to get to a model that actually works. And what they’re serving is not entrepreneurs. What they’re serving as passive investors. And passive investors, I always say that wealthy — the passive investors are independently wealthy people. And my definition, personal definition of independently wealthy is I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, which means I have complete control over my time. Well, I might say as a wealthy individual, “I want to be an angel investor.” Well, if all of a sudden, I create a relationship with the entrepreneur, and I put money in, and he sees value in me, well, I might start getting calls like on Saturday morning, which is when I play golf, that this guy lost a big deal, and he just has to meet me for breakfast.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:41:00] Well, what happens is we have all these people that want to do it, but they don’t want to put time in. So, they need somebody to kind of represent them. So, what happened is over the years, these models went from sort of loosely-goosey, “Let’s have a meeting and see who wants to invest,” to actually putting putting in paying dues and paying a group of people to actually vet the deals, present the deals, do the due diligence on the deals, put the terms sheets together, negotiate the term sheets, and then present them to these passive investors. That’s where these groups have gone now. So, if you look at AIM, A-I-M-
Michael Blake: [00:41:38] Yeah, familiar with them.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:41:38] Right? Down in Birmingham. And then, you look also at Matt Dunbar Venture South in Greenville, they have adopted that model. It took them a while to get there, but they’ve adopted the model, and it works because it satisfies the needs and interests of the passive angel investors. So, they have these huge networks of people.
Michael Blake: [00:42:02] And they are funding deals. I know AIM would probably be one of the most active angel investors in Georgia, I think.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:42:10] They are one of. In fact, they started a group here in Atlanta.
Michael Blake: [00:42:16] Oh, okay. I didn’t know that.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:42:17] Yeah, they have their own group. And ATA, the Atlanta Technology Angels, like you said, they’ve had their ups and downs. And so, they haven’t quite had the leadership to kind of build something out longer term. So, they have ebbed and flowed, but they’ve been at a few good deals, you know. Even with this sort of loosey-goosey unstructured model that they have.
Michael Blake: [00:42:38] So, I want to ask you a question I get asked a lot. And that is, from your perspective, how much do business plans and financial models matter? Are they overrated? Are they underrated?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:42:52] Well, I’m a very early stage investor.
Michael Blake: [00:42:55] Right.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:42:55] Right? So, for me, they’re not rated, all right? So, what I look for is my business plan, where we kind of get started, is to say, “Let’s do a three-month forecast. Let’s start with how much money you’re going to spend over that three months.”
Michael Blake: [00:43:11] Got it.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:43:11] “And is there any opportunity for any kind of revenue in that time?” So, really, we’re very granular, okay? But to sit here and say, “Well, here’s my five-year plan,” I say, “The first thing we need to do is we need to be able to get to cash-flow positive. Then, we can have a plan going forward. But if we can’t get the cash flow positive, that deficit is going to be make up by investors, and investors are going to be part of this drag on you as you try to kind of go forward.” So, I don’t know.
Michael Blake: [00:43:43] And that’s why you like — I mean, in your model, you like to kind of be the only guy, because I think it’s less of a distraction, right?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:43:50] Well, what I’ve done is always — it’s been me and maybe two or three other guys.
Michael Blake: [00:43:56] Okay.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:43:56] But they’re people that I trust. People don’t even know they exist. But I bring them along in some cases. Like one guy, I invite invested in a sales tax business that was selling to telecom, and there was a sales tax prep business, who I called it the ADP of sales tax. Well, I didn’t know telecom buyers. Well, I brought a fellow that’s a very good friend of mine who was a telecom executive, worked for AT&T, fast track guy. I brought him in. He walked me into two deals. Just walked in. One call, boom, we went in, they bought the stuff. Well, that’s really high value.
Michael Blake: [00:44:31] Yeah.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:44:31] So, he knew telecom, and he knew the buyers. So, I understand how to build companies from scratch, and I understand building leadership teams. He was on the other hand. He was the industry expertise that kind of brought us, and he had network like that. Sometimes, I’ll bring in somebody who’s a sales expert in the particular channel, and that would be another guy to kind of bring along that would be very helpful in the deal. So, everybody I bring along has got to be additive to the deal-
Michael Blake: [00:44:59] Okay.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:44:59] … to mitigate the risk and increase chances of success.
Michael Blake: [00:45:04] All right. So, we’re running out of time, but I have two questions I want to ask before we get you out of here and get you back to doing your angel investing. Three founder traits that turn you on?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:45:16] Three founder traits that turn me on. One is that this is the time for this company to start in this person’s life. So, I look at an idea as an arc, and I look at a person’s life as an arc, okay? So, I look at this intersection between where you are in your life as an entrepreneur, and this idea, and where it is in the marketplace. And if there looks like there’s an intersection, I call that, it’s almost like a God moment. It’s a miracle has happened, okay? It’s not artificial. It’s like it had to happen. And I think if we look back at companies like Apple, and Amazon, and Facebook, those are all those kind of moments. And I’m not saying I’ve ever invested in billion-dollar kind of companies, but that’s what I look for in an entrepreneur because it’s very personal. So, it’s not just, “Oh, I was walking down the street, and I came up with this idea.” It has to fit in their life.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:46:12] Secondly is they have to have — for me, they have to have the industry expertise. So, they are 35. So, they do have expertise in a particular functional area. And they also have a lot of experience in that marketplace. So, they have customers they can call on. They have employees who would like to come along with them because they respect them. So, that mitigates risk.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:46:35] And then, lastly, I look for character. And the character I look for, for me, which has been easy to just look for somebody who has a Christian foundation. And the reason for that is, at least, I know what they are supposed to stand for, all right?
Michael Blake: [00:46:54] I know why you’re saying it like that. Okay.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:46:55] There is some level. We’re all hypocrites, we’re all sinners, okay? But there has to be some level of integrity that we can count on. There’s a reason for your [indiscernible]. I say there’s two types of entrepreneurs. There’s those entrepreneurs who believe that there is a God, and it’s them. And there’s other entrepreneurs who realize there is a God, and it’s not them. I invest in the people who know there’s a God, and it’s not them. So, there’s higher level moral authority effect that speaks into their life. When everything’s going well, everybody’s honest, and everybody’s hard working, and everybody believes in helping the other guy. When things get tough, that’s when the values show up. So, I try to get — that last piece of character is very important to me.
Michael Blake: [00:47:41] That’s a great note to kind of wrap things up on. Can people contact you if they have more questions about this angel investing thing?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:47:50] They could write me. That would work.
Michael Blake: [00:47:52] How would they write you?
Charlie Paparelli: [00:47:53] They could send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Blake: [00:47:57] Okay.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:47:58] But sign up for the blog at paparelli.com.
Michael Blake: [00:48:03] Yeah.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:48:03] That would be great.
Michael Blake: [00:48:04] Do sign up for it. I kid you not, when it comes out, I read it. I don’t — I can’t remember the last time. It was late. It may have been late once or twice. And when it is, I miss it. So, keep doing. I’m very glad that you do it. It’s very inspirational.
Charlie Paparelli: [00:48:16] Thank you for your support.
Michael Blake: [00:48:16] So, that’s going to wrap it up for today’s program. I’d like to thank Charlie Paparelli so much for joining us and sharing his expertise with us today. We’ll be exploring a new topic each week. So, please tune in, so that when you’re faced with your next business decision, you have clear vision when making it. If you enjoy this podcast, please consider leaving a review with your favorite podcasts aggregator. It helps people find us, so that we can help them. Once again, this is Mike Blake. Our sponsor’s Brady Ware & Company. And this has been the Decision Vision Podcast.