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Business Angel Stories with Elias Chbeir


About yourself

Current Roles: C-Level Consultant in biopharma, Co-Founder of Skilon.com, Founder of Elias.lu, Board Member of Blockpulse.eu, LBAN Board Director. Hails from: Born in Lebanon, moved to Belgium 30 years ago.

Education: Master’s in Computer Science + MBA.

First Job: Started my own company in the Music Industry.

Work Attire: Business Casual.

Hobbies: Music, Hiking.


Most admired entrepreneur or investor, and why:

Elon Musk is an entrepreneur who believes in himself and in his passion. He left Stanford university only 2 days after he joined it to pursue a business career where he became a billionaire in less than 5 years. He also dares to go where others did not (SpaceX, Hyperloop) and to say what he thinks even if not everyone might like it.

How did you begin angel investing?

How did you get started with angel investing?

I was looking for new challenges in my career, and to inspire others and/or get inspired. I was at a point where I would either create my own start-up or invest in one. I started with the latter.


What was your first angel investment?

A friend invested in a Brussels-based start-up creating a mobile app for event management. I thought it was an exciting opportunity, so that was my first investment.


What was your most meaningful investment?

The most meaningful investment, whether financially or in terms of effort, was co-founding Skilon (https://skilon.com).

In 2018, I had an idea to change current long and expensive recruitment process. The idea is simple: an online platform where candidates take tests (for free) to prove their skills and recruiters will find skilled candidates much faster (for affordable fees). Skilon is online in its pre-release version since a few months.


What is your almost unmentionable secret as an investor?

Don’t panic!

When you become a BA, one of the first things you must overcome is your fear of losing your investment. Never invest more than you are willing to lose and do your own research as well.

You & LBAN

Why did you decide to join LBAN?

I always wanted to do or be part of something that can change our world for the better. This means being involved in financial, mobility or environmental solutions. Somehow days went by and I did not take that challenge so one day I said, “now is the time”. This is how I thought of checking out LBAN.


What benefits did you find in LBAN?

I am interested in different domains, not only in one specific area. LBAN offers the possibility to invest in early stage start-ups, whether in the blockchain area, governance, sustainability, artificial intelligence, food waste management, mobility, etc… Investing in such early-stages start-ups is not only financial matter, as it allows a Business Angel to be part of the game, bringing its experience and expertise.


Being part of LBAN is also being part of a family where I always learn from other Business Angels, understand a different point of view on things, co-invest with other BAs, and being able to give back to new BAs what I received when I joined a few years ago.

Investing

How do you find the companies for investments as a business angel? Which ways works best for you?

There is not one specific way that I prefer, but it is always my decision at the end to invest and I do not get influenced easily. Sometimes it is through fairs that I participate in, some other times by getting a warm introduction from another Business Angel, and often by doing my own research on a topic that interests me.


How do you evaluate deals? What are your investment criteria and the qualities you are looking for?

That really depends and there is not one set of rules carved in stone. However, this is the question I ask myself:

- Is there a real market and need? And what is the business added value vs. competition?

If convinced, then I will look at:

- Team experience and commitment

- Business model and marketing strategy


Considering being a generalist rather than a specialist, are you looking for some reasonable metrics which helps you to decide on a particular investment?

Most often yes, but it also happens that I follow my gut feeling.


Your Investments

Can you explain the motivation behind your investments?

· Solving a problem which I find important: a start-up is solving a problem that I wanted to solve or desired to see it solved (e.g., plastic waste, food waste, energy consumption…).

· Sentimental: I love the idea AND the team, and feel excited to be part of the game. Thus, if I like 3 ideas and want to invest only in 1 of them, then this part can make a difference in my final selection.


As a business angel, how do you support and help start-ups accelerate further?

· Throughout my career, I often found myself in situations where I had to fix complex problems. I have accumulated experience and got quite good at it. So, I support start-ups in making things move forward when they are blocked.

· I have a large network, in, as well as outside of Luxembourg. I try to widen the potential of an idea into real cases and in different markets, if possible.


Tips & Advice


What were your lessons learned from previous investments?

Most important lesson is to do my own research so that my decision will not be influenced by others.


Do you have any advice for new angel investors?

Ask yourself why you want to invest. Do you want to be a part of an adventure? If yes, what would be your role and added value in that journey?


Which are the most important qualities of a good business angel?

Be passionate about your investment. Invest your time, not just your money.


In your opinion, is it better to become a business angel investor or rather invest in a VC fund?

I think that really depends if you want to have a role that is beyond just the financial one.


Do you have any other piece of advice?

Whatever you do, let it have a meaning for this and the next generations to come.


Thank you very much for such insights! It was a pleasure speaking with you.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview. It was a pleasure to share this and I hope it will be an interesting read for others.

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