One of our ambitions at the MIC Brussels is to empower girls and women in entrepreneurship and IT. During the next weeks, through the series of portraits “Women, IT & Entrepreneurship”, we will bring in the spotlight inspiring key-actresses of these worlds. We are dedicated to have more women take the step and become successful IT entrepreneurs!
Cindy Naegel : The investor’s perspective
Elected «Business Angel of the year» by the BeAngels network, Cindy Naegel is an entrepreneur and private investor who dedicates her passion for entrepreneurship by financially and humanly supporting startups. She started to invest in 2006 and, since then, has discovered new horizons in many fields.
The project leaders are keys for the success of a startup
Cindy Naegel confesses that investing in young startups is a way to stay updated in various fields. Evolutions in various sectors, especially the digital ones, take space. “Being in the forefront of these new products and services – especially of the technological evolution – is important to me.” More than that, encouraging fresh projects brings her a lot in human terms. “That’s what matters: bringing the entrepreneurs in the spotlight.”
“The project leaders are key for the success of a startup.” Thanks to her HR profile, she analyses the quality of a project beyond its figures. Understanding the dynamic within a startup can lead to a better judgement of the possible outcomes. “First, the rest of the team can step up when one of the members needs a break. Secondly, the members can match their hard and soft skills. In a team of entrepreneurs, you need a manager, a leader, a listener, a product manager, … You cannot find all these traits in one person.”
The risk of being too perfectionist
What step do you need to take before persuading a Business Angel? “You first need to convince the Friends, Family and Fools. They are the easiest to convince but, when they are financially committed to the project, the entrepreneur is liable to them and to the project more generally.”
Regarding the lower rate of women presenting their projects to her, she confesses that there is typically a different approach between the male and the female project leaders. “A woman will sell her product based on real facts while a man may try to sell you a ticket to Mars when he just built a bike with some gadgets. I am aware of that and I will listen to her in another way that I do with a man”
Being too perfectionist can be an obstacle in entrepreneurship. “They never feel ready to take the first step. Many men are also perfectionist but they eventually jump. Women tend to wait more. It is a real handicap.”
The Rising Tide, an initiative for women investors
Regarding the investors, the ratio men-women is also unbalanced. Cindy Naegel explains that disparity by the aversion risk – that women tend to show more than their counterpart.
Last year, she took part in the first edition of a program called the Rising Tide, which aims to reduce the gender gap between investors. Through that initiative, they gathered 99 women investors and showed the all investment process. “I insisted we should not only invest in female startups. The main reason is simply that it would be a financial aberration! More than 80% of the startups worldwide are led by men.”
Every investment is a new adventure that mixes instinct, knowledge, and learning. Cindy Naegel insists on the fact that, at BeAngels, they are mostly looking for innovation. As for herself, in addition of that fundamental factor, she seeks various types of investments: placements in which she strongly believes, where she can be an added value to the project; group investments that are supported by a collegial approach and smaller investments that are more of a “pay to play” type of options.
“Don’t do it alone” is her best advice. “The best projects are quickly taken. You must take your decisions fast and will thus need a lot of experience. I have always counted on a joint approach where I could bring the soft skills expertise and ask for a financial profile to join me. We almost always invest as duo. You also need to diversify of course. Finally, I cannot stress enough the importance of building a strong strategy: how much you want to invest; how long do you want to invest and what can you bring to the startup”. As for her, she sees her role of investor as her contribution to the evolution of ideas.