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Business Angel Stories with Thierry de Poerck


About yourself


Current Roles : Partner international M&A firm, Founder strategy consulting boutique


Hails from : Africa (D.R. Congo) via USA and Belgium


Education : Commercial engineer and Master in Business Administration

First Job : Management Information Systems FCMG

Work Attire : (smart) casual

Hobbies : Philosophy, golf, sailing, scuba diving

Most admired entrepreneur or investor, and why :

Warren Buffet is the only investor I have been mesmerised by for decades because of his visions, his sticky principles, and his long-term view.

Talking about entrepreneur I would rather refer to Frank Cimbali, the main character of the French novelist Paul-Loup Sulitzer, who must face the entire world. Why ? Because I was a teenager when I read the book and back then I was still believing in heroes. Today, being older and a bit more philosophical about it I would say that in general entrepreneurs are heroes too! They wage daily battles, spend endless sleepless nights and feel misunderstood, especially during moments of uncertainty as we are all living today.

Entrepreneurs are often considered lucky, with many disregarding the financial risks they assume, the continued loneliness they experience, the hard decisions they must take, the emotional, physical, mental and/or financial struggle and the general cost of following their passion, eventually impacting those dearest to them, knowing that at any moment they can lose it all.

How did you begin angel investing ?


How did you get involved with angel investing ?

Having a long career path in executive functions in international companies and having led a PME growth through dramatic ups and downs while having been emotionally involved since its outset I felt I had been blessed with loads of diversified experiences and felt I ought to share it with entrepreneurs who would be willing to leverage it.

What was your first angel investment ?

CareGame, a platform aiming at improving gamers’ experience while at the same time contributing to non-for-profit initiatives. The company has pivoted since then.

What was your most meaningful investment ?

It is most probably one I have not yet made. It would be a very successful one, not in terms of financials but that would make the world a better place to live in.

What is your almost unmentionable secret as an investor ?

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

― Warren Buffett



You & LBAN


Why did you decide to join LBAN ?

I am a team player. And if I know my strengths, I am definitely aware of my weaknesses. I quickly figured that it could be a good match. In addition I have always believed that Luxembourg was a great place to do business partly due to the closely-knit networks. Adding a lawyer of professional and systematic approach could only benefit to the greatest number of people.

What benefits did you find in LBAN ?

Beyond access to potential deals coming from all over Europe and exchanging views with experienced and focus persons, I have found friends. Isn’t this the greatest gift of all?



Investing


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

Opportunities often come for my own network and circle of friends. It has pros and cons. Founders have somehow been vetted, there is a more intimate relationship with the start-up and there is first-hand opportunity. However, the investment decision does not follow the more rigorous selection process that we enjoy with LBAN sourced opportunities.

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

The project itself must win my heart: 1)yes! Off course! 2)simplicity 3)velocity. Then looking at the qualities of the founders, the integrity might not be a GO but lack of it, lack of transparency is definitively NO GO.

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

Of course, one needs metrics including comparable in order to make an assessment and an informed decision. Otherwise, it is just an act of faith. Metrics also help you prevent collective illusion phenomena.

Your Investments


Can you explain the motivation behind your investments ?

I have to admit that I have a soft heart for companies with social impact (health, learning, giving hope & dignity) hoping they will break through. For start-ups in other segments, I hope that some of them will allow me to be in a position to invest more in the first ones.

As a business angel, how do you support your portfolio companies ? In which ways do you help start-up further accelerate their growth ?

I am a big fan of efficiency. And if I like spending time and effort trying to square the circle, I resent waste. Interactions between start-ups and BAs should be organised. Whether in a structured way or not, but it should be fluid. I make myself available and request a minimum of material to provide the best possible insights knowing my own limits.



Tips & Advice


What were your lessons learned from previous investments ?

A business angel must be fully convinced by both the project and the founders. One should never believe that things will get better going forward. A BA should really challenge the founders and get the answers she/he needs before making a decision.

Do you have any advice for new angel investors ?

In my mind the most important advice is to beware of the fear of missing out. Then one should check that the founders know where they go before they leave the harbour, because if they don’t the only certainty is that they will land nowhere. And as time is often of essence be cautious of founders who tell you that they will produce "a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant" (Warren Buffet).

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

Be critically positive, be consistent and persistent, focus on goals, be willing to learn, find the right balance between active involvement and healthy distance, have some notion of statistics when it comes to portfolio return.

In your opinion, is it better to become a business angel investor and not just invest in a VC fund ?

Those are two different attitudes, and one should choose according to her/his nature. With the former one gets more emotionally connected, goes through more pain (statistically speaking), is in a position to help, picks up huge experience (Dos and DON’Ts), may feel she/he is part of the success and may eventually expect to collect a higher return on average.

Do you have any other pieces of advice ?

No but if YOU do please do let me know. I am always eager to learn.


Do you have a reading you would strongly recommend ?

Yes, The Cold Start Problem by Andrew Chen is definitely worth reading. By both entrepreneurs and business angels.



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


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