37 ANGELS TALKS WITH Dawn Kikel
Dawn Kikel is a serial entrepreneur and an active angel investor. Her diverse career includes stints in banking, publishing, and technology with experience prelaunch through IPO. Currently, Dawn is the Founder and President of Arcadia Home, a luxury brand of contemporary eco friendly artisan made products sold to the upper end of the retail spectrum. Prior to founding Arcadia Home, Dawn was involved in several internet startups including TheStreet.com and worked at Institutional Investor as the Publisher of Infrastructure Finance Magazine. She is a graduate of Columbia Business School and Tufts University and currently lives and works in Brooklyn. You can connect with Dawn here.
As an investor
How did you get into Angel Investing?
I made my first angel investment in 2004 which was a company that was started by someone I knew from my web 1.0 days. I invested in the company and introduced him to one of his co-founders. That investment has changed a lot over the past 11 years, and it's slated to go public this year. I'm looking forward to the day they become publicly traded.
What inspired you to become a member of 37 Angels?
After thinking about doing another start up a couple of years ago, I decided after a bit of soul searching that I would rather help other entrepreneurs with their companies instead. I was interested in joining a group of angels for the due diligence process and for the camaraderie. I looked at a few options, and when I read about 37 Angels, I was inspired by what Angela Lee was trying to achieve. I loved the idea of an angel group of women encouraging the growth in the number of women investors as its basic premise. It is a fantastic group of dynamic and interesting women.
What are some of the key characteristics you look for when investing?
I am sector agnostic and many industries interest me so it is probably easier to say what I am not interested in. I don’t invest in CPG or biotech. As for the things that I look for, I need to be interested in following an investment for a number of years since quick exits are unlikely in angel investing. I've seen many companies that probably would have been fine investments, but I wasn’t sufficiently interested in what they were doing to make them part of my portfolio. Also, I need to have confidence that the founders have a real problem they are trying to solve and to be convinced that the they can accomplish their goals. Finally, I want to see that the founders have a focus on the customer and aren’t developing a product in a vacuum.
What types of traits do you look for in founders?
In addition to the obvious traits of intelligence and confidence, I also look for tenacity, sense of purpose, and sales skills. I think sales skills are particularly important.
What mistakes do entrepreneurs make when pitching to angel investors?
Not talking about an exit. Angel investing isn't philanthropy. We invest to make money, and we only make money with an exit. Also, saying that the start up has no competitors is a mistake I occasionally see. All companies have competitors. Saying that there are no competitors tells me that you haven't thought enough about the customer and their needs.
What advice would you give to women who are interested in angel investing but haven't taken the leap?
After making sure they qualify as an accredited investor, I would suggest they attend a few pitch days. I would also encourage people to consider doing the 37 Angels Boot Camp. It's a fantastic introduction to angel investing and helps you build a set of skills that are important in evaluating any angel investment.
What are some of the biggest lessons you've learned as an angel investor?
Pay close attention to the documentation. There is a lot of variety in “standard” notes.
What do you feel are some characteristics an angel investor should possess?
Curiosity, patience, and an interest in helping entrepreneurs move toward their goals.
As an Individual
What does success mean for you?
Spending your days doing things you feel really passionate about and having balance in your life.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken?
People are surprised by the different industries I have worked in, so I suppose conventional wisdom would point to the many careers I have had as the biggest risk. Also, after my last startup and before I started my current company, I decided to take a year off without any plan for what I would do next. That was a great gift I was fortunate to be able to give myself, and I would encourage anyone who can make that same leap to do so as well. Spending time without any responsibilities or an overbooked calendar is an amazing experience.
Where have you traveled that's most impressed you?
Two trips stand out in my mind. One was a trip we took in the mid 90s to Uzbekistan - driving part of the old silk route with my friend Jenny Emerson, also a fellow 37 Angels member, when there was no tourist infrastructure and the car we had broke down constantly. Two foreign women traveling alone in a place where women didn’t spend too much time outside of their homes and being in a place without any other tourists is probably a pretty rare event these days.
Another trip was more recent. I went to Bhutan with my husband 5 years ago. Bhutan was unlike any other place I had ever traveled. A pristine place of incredible natural beauty that still felt somewhat isolated in the world. Television was introduced in Bhutan in 1999. One of the things I was most struck by was the lack of shopping opportunities. I am not really a big shopper but the lack of anything that you see in most places like the typical t-shirt or handicraft shop was surprising. Since no one was trying to sell us anything the many conversations and interactions we had with the Bhutanese never had any hint of commerce attached. Of course, I am eager to see some changes there that will give the people more opportunities but that experience was unusual.
What super power do you wish you had?
What super power do you have?
What’s your favorite app and why?
Duolingo. Improving my Spanish skills a few minutes at a time.