How long have you been doing angel investments and how do you do it?
Ville Oehman, a startup investor and entrepreneur, originally from Finland. I started investing in startups about 10 years ago, first through family business and later privately. My interest has been driven by the love for, and genes of entrepreneurship, and I’m a strong supporter of SMEs as the engine of economy and jobs creation in any country. Entrepreneurs can be successful and create a lot of value for themselves and society without making a billion dollar exit to a multinational PE group.
How did you get into it?
My family background is in healthcare, and I have a technology / business education, so I naturally got into MedTech first, but then evolved to FinTech around 2010 and to cyber security in 2015. I kind of moved towards an active investor role from an operative CEO along the way.
What were you doing before?
I did some consulting before, but I really like the informality of startups. To put it the other way around, I see terrible waste of resources and talent in large organizations, where people focus on optimizing their internal benefits and avoiding mistakes. I like the approach of “don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness if something breaks up”. People need to realize that the biggest risk is if you never take a risk.
What sectors do you like?
Currently, I’m focused on FinTech (bitcoin and blockchain), precious metals (gold and silver), Islamic Finance and cybersecurity (dark web). In my mind, these are all part of the same massive shift in the financial industry. The problem is that FinTech is becoming too hyped a term, with lot of people without any core knowledge cruising around for funding. First, learn what money is and how banks work, then start thinking about opportunities in FinTech.
What are the key criteria when you look at an opportunity?
Right timing, unique technology, positive and empowering change. I’m not really interested in ideas that drive people spending more and more time in front of the TV, or that are based on people feeding every last detail of their privacy to an insurance company via their smartphone. The founding team is an important factor. The need to be able to adapt and change if needed. If you can prototype, do it. If you can bootstrap, do it. If you don’t need money, don’t take it. The founding team needs to have strong sense of a mission.
Where do you find your opportunities?
I read a lot, listed to talks of industry leaders and follow the sectors that I’m naturally interested in, because it’s easier to put in long hours if you are genuinely interested in something. Sometimes I get frustrated if nobody is doing something that I think is waiting to get done, and I launch a venture myself.
What is the main challenge in this activity?
I’ve noticed that many times entrepreneurs don’t actively mobilize their investors to growing the business. Startups should actually require that in addition to funding the investors use their connections for the benefit of the venture. One challenge on the investor side is that many try to make ‘riskless’ investments by offering insane terms in exchange for funding. That ends up killing the entrepreneur spirit that the investor is supposed to cultivate. If you don’t like risk, don’t invest in startups. It’s ok to require a lot from the founders and company, but it’s cheap to trick them to signing draconian terms.
Tell us your memorable experience or success story.
Ten years ago I gave seed funding to my friend who was an ex professional poker player, when he wanted to start a business. Now we are applying for a banking license for the same company in Europe. Big dreams and dedication create value.
What will be your advice for any start-ups that would like to talk to you?
Connect on LinkedIn and send me email. Preferably before you launch the company.