37 ANGELS TALKS WITH LAURA HILL
Laura Hill is founder and principal of Careers in Motion LLC, a firm devoted to helping business professionals and executives attain more rewarding careers. She guides clients in developing their personal brands, making strategic career decisions, and conducting effective job searches. Earlier, she ran a recruiting firm that served dot-coms, led talent management for a wireless startup, was a researcher at Korn/Ferry International, and worked in international banking at JPM Chase. She splits her time between Austin, Texas and New Rochelle, New York and is an avid golfer. She has been a member of 37 Angels since the Fall of 2013. You can connect with Laura here.
As an investor
How did you get into Angel Investing?
It was somewhat by accident. I met one of 37 Angels’ interns at a networking event in 2013. When she told me about the group I was immediately intrigued and decided to check it out. Having been a recruiter during the dot-com and mobile wireless era, I missed being around startups. I’m attracted to the energy, passion, and sense of urgency of the founders and enjoy the intellectual aspects of evaluating startups and contributing to their success.
What inspired you to become a member of 37 Angels?
The boot camp was a main selling feature for me. Knowing the risks of early stage investing, I wanted some knowledge from experts to inform my decisions. Angela’s goal of bringing more women into angel investing also resonated with me.
What are some of the key characteristics you look for when investing?
As we learned in boot camp, I look at the team, product and market. Because there are so many startups to consider, if I’m not totally sold, or don’t have a natural understanding and affinity for the business, I skip it. In a portfolio sense, I strive to have un-correlated investments – unrelated markets, products, sectors, and risk characteristics.
What types of traits do you look for in founders?
Willingness to accept suggestions and be coached is high on my list. The entrepreneurial traits I look for are trend spotting, risk taking, demonstrated pivots, and adaptability. Demonstrated ability to attract, build, and lead others is also critical.
What mistakes do entrepreneurs make when pitching to angel investors?
They have to enable me to understand what they do and why their value proposition is compelling right away. Bold aspirations like “we’re changing the world of something” overreach and don’t resonate with me.
What types of businesses do you feel make for the best investments? Why?
I think we’re all looking for the disruptive startups that are truly unique. I think it’s a good idea, for at least some of your investments, to be the “smart money” – someone who knows the sector and can provide relevant knowledge and/or contacts. Beyond that, I think what constitutes a great investment (other than hind-sight) is unique to the individual investor. I have found that our individual members often have very different points of view on any particular investment; we’re independent thinkers by definition!
What start-ups/VC funds have you invested in (with 37 Angels or otherwise)?
My 37 Angels investments are Hire an Esquire, Shodogg, Skillbridge, Globaloria, Cognotion, Sandstone Diagnostics, and Tribute. I’ve made two investments through Wefunder and recently gotten involved at the Capital Factory in Austin, where I’m seeing some great startups in their accelerator program.
What advice would you give to women who are interested in angel investing but haven’t taken the leap?
I think it’s important to commit to building a portfolio to improve the odds. They should also be willing and able to commit time – unlike buying a security or mutual fund, you can’t outsource the due diligence or buying decisions for angel investments.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned as an angel investor?
So far all my investments are doing ok, with some doing extremely well. I’m sure my chance to learn some lessons will be coming soon enough.
What do you feel are some characteristics an angel investor should possess?
Risk tolerance, business acumen, and interest in new things, especially paradigm shifts.
As an Individual
What does success mean for you?
Using my full potential.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken?
Acquiring a recruiting business in the 1990’s.
What role models have inspired you?
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Building a business and personal brand as a career coach; making a difference in the careers of my clients; becoming a capable public speaker.
Favorite New York Moment:
Celebrating my 50th birthday on a New York harbor boat cruise where the Dalai Lama was hosting his entourage on another level.
What’s your favorite app and why?
LinkedIn: it has transformed the way individuals establish their personal brand and conduct job searches; for employers of professional talent it has become their single most important recruitment tool.