Profile of Brazilian angel investors – who they are, what motivates them

Last week we interviewed Cassio Spina, the founder of Anjos do Brasil, the largest angel association in Brazil. Cassio shared with us his thoughts about what it means to be an angel investor in Brazil and gave very useful tips for people who are interested to get involved in angel investing. Following on that interview, we would like to share some more data about the current profile of angel investors in Brazil.

Anjos do Brasil say that in 2013, 6.450 individuals made angel investments in Brazilian startups, providing them R$619m for growth. That means each of these investors contributed on average R$96k (c.US$43k) to their local startup ecosystem. Overall, angel investment in Brazil increased by 25% compared to 2012 and everyone hopes that trend will continue, given the important role that angel investors play in the startup ecosystem.

The high number of angel investors cited by Anjos do Brasil does not mean all of those people are actually angel investors. Dealbook.co, a crowd sourced resource for tech deals in Brazil, suggests this number to be closer to 200. People involved closely in the local ecosystem say the number of experienced active angels is much lower.

What’s the profile of the average Brazilian angel investor? Well, it should be no surprise that most of them are men. In fact, around 98% of them. The average angel investor in Brazil is 44 years old, most of them are professionals or entrepreneurs, although rarely in tech. This is because startup ecosystem is still young and there are not many people with relevant experience and profile, such as entrepreneurs with successful exits, who could become professional angel investors, . However, some of the successful angel investors in Brazil are foreigners such as Fabrice Grinda or Florian Otto, founder of Groupon Brazil.

Anjos do Brasil data suggests that most of people who made angel investments in 2013 devote around 20% of their time to startups. It shouldn’t be a surprise that they only make on average a bit more than two investments per year. Nevertheless, they look into the future with optimism, planning to almost double this number in the next two years.

The startup ecosystem of Brazil still lacks transparency and it’s hard to keep track of what successful entrepreneurs are currently working on. Therefore, for angels with limited time available to investing, it is difficult to have a good enough deal flow to make more investments. There are more problems still. Brazilian angels cite high taxes and a difficult legal environment as an important barrier to invest more. One of the biggest problems relates to a risk of investor’s liability, as highlighted in the World Startup Wiki for Brasil. Basically, if a portfolio company fails and does not have enough assets to repay all creditors, the government will look to collect the debt from the angel investors and founders. Angels that invest in limited companies (Limitadas, or LTDAs) are the most at risk.  For S/As, the local equivalent of a C Corp, it’s much more difficult to collect from shareholders, although shareholders with board seats in S/As may possibly be liable.  For those reasons, a lot of angel investors prefer to set up a foreign structure and use it as a vehicle to invest in Brazilian companies. That is both complicated and costly, so acts as a deterrent to many people thinking to start investing in startups.

What motivates Brazilian angel investors? Obviously, they hope for good returns on their investment. Interest rates in Brazil are falling, stock market is under-performing and real estate prices are peaking, so alternative investments such as startups are becoming more attractive for a large group of people. Many of them also want to apply their experience and expertise to new ventures, looking for personal satisfaction from growing new businesses. Others are excited to help grow a company that is solving problems they care about. Finally, there seem to be also patriotic motivations among a number of investors, who think it is important for Brazilian economy to promote these kind of businesses and they want to participate in that. Most of angel investors are interested in investing in IT (75%), mobile (50%), health (44%), e-commerce (42%) and entertainment (35%) startups.

We would like to thank Cassio Spina and Joao Kepler from Anjos do Brasil, as well as Drew Beaurline from Construct for sharing the data and insights with us.

 

Obrazek

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Angel investing in Brazil – tips for beginners

As we found out from speaking with Igor Mascarenhas and Andre Barrence about the Brazilian startup ecosystem, a number of active Brazilian angel investors is rising. To find out more about angel investing, we have caught up with Cassio Spina, who is an angel investors and a founder of Anjos do Brasil, the largest association of angel investors in Brazil.

Cassio SpinaGood morning Cassio, thank you very much for finding time in your busy schedule to talk to us. More and more people seem to be excited about opportunities to invest in startups. You are an experienced angel investor. What personally attracts you the most about it? 

I am really happy to see that more and more people want to invest in startups. This is very good for the Brazilian startup ecosystem. As far as my motives go, there are two sides to this. The most important is the fact that I simply like being involved in creating new companies. There is just so much pleasure seeing a startup grow and knowing that I contributed to it with money and advice. The second aspect is financial. Startups are types of small businesses that can grow very big in fairly short time, so there is a huge opportunity for good returns on investment.

What return do you aim for when investing in a startup?

There are some projects with a great return (50x the initial investment), but there are not many of those. That’s why in the US they are referred to as unicorns. On the other hand, let’s not forget that not all startups are successful and you end up making a loss on many investments. What I can realistically expect is a return of 5-10 times on my initial investment, which should cover the losses and still make me good money.

How does a typical day of a professional angel investor like yourself look like? 

There are many activities I need to do pretty much every day and they can be divided into two types: sourcing new deals and taking care of my portfolio startups. Almost every day I evaluate new startup investment opportunities that are presented to me, often listening to pitches from enObrazektrepreneurs. I also speak a lot with entrepreneurs from startups, in which I have already invested, helping them whenever they have questions or need advice. I tend to be in touch with each of these startups every few weeks, to see how they are doing. My focus is always on helping them grow their business.

These are the things I really like doing, but there are many other I am not a fan of. That includes dealing with Brazilian bureaucracy, reviewing contracts, or resolving conflicts between startup founders. All of this is a part of my role too.

Could you give some advice to someone who is interested to start investing in startups? What are the most important features of angel investor?

In simple terms, the role of a business angel is to add value to the startup. Obviously, one way of doing this is through their financial investment, but the role of advisor and mentor can be even more important. The combination of both is called “smart money” and angel investor who can provide that needs to have relevant professional experience, knowledge and contacts in the area in which the startup operates. Good set of soft skills is also very important. I would emphasize an open approach and collaborative attitude. Also, an angel investor must be ready to accept risk and the fact it’s the founders who need to deliver. You just can’t be overly controlling and tell the founders what they need to do.

Can anyone become an angel investor?

I think everybody should have a chance to invest in startups, but it takes time to become ready to lead your own investment. First of all, you need to learn well how the process of angel investing works. The devil is as always in the details. Only with that you can start to recognize which of the opportunities presented to you may turn into valuable deals. It all comes with time and experience, as there are many things that need to be considered and looked at. A good way to start is to connect with experienced angels and gain experience while investing with them. Also, in this way you can reduce your risk and build foundation to become more successful later.

What kinds of startups do you like investing in? Is it possible to find startups with great investment potential in Brazil? 

Oh yes, there are many great startups in Brazil and I am always on a lookout for opportunities. Since I have lots of experience in technology I usually invest in startups with this kind of products.

How do you perform due diligence to find a great startup? What do you look for in particular?

At this stage you invest primarily in people, so the most important for me is the entrepreneur’s profile. I work only with people who I believe can take the project to the next level and who have the capacity to transform their companies into successful businesses.

Then I look at the opportunity. There needs to be a big problem that they solve and the solution proposed has to be both innovative and difficult to copy. I am looking for startups that can build a competitive advantage to raise entry barriers for competitors that will want to enter later. Finally, I look at how big the market is and if it can be monetized.

Do you think investment in startups can be as accessible to individuals as investing on the stock exchange? 

Angel investing is not yet popular in Brazil, but I think it should be exactly like you say. However, for it to happen, we need first to inform these new potential investors about opportunities in startup investing and teach them about the process. It takes time and the investment has to be easy enough to execute for novices. I would also welcome changes in law. We need better regulations protecting investors and create a friendlier environment to invest, something like they have in the UK or the US.

What is your most successful investment?”

I am proud of ZOEMOB. They offer individuals and families the means to help protect, monitor and remotely manage personal information and details that may have a significant impact on their personal and professional lives and on their relationships. It’s a great team and I feel there was a clear need for their product.