Project Kazimierz presents Peter Cowley, with Richard Lucas and Sam Cook. Peter discusses angel investing and how
he came to be the UK Angel Investor of the Year in 2014. Richard and Peter talk about the different ventures
they’ve invested in. They also break down why Peter is much better at it. Finally, Sam looks into growing his
business, while Peter and Richard explain what success means to them.
Mentions and links:
investor of the year, 2014
- Arachnys, due diligence
- Ready Steady
Table of contents:
- 00:47 Sam’s introduces to the show
- 02:16 Richard discusses how he and Peter met
- 04:04 Peter, the Cambridge businessman, discloses his location
- 06:54 Peter introduces himself
Investing in the Spirit of an Entrepreneur
- 10:57 Defining one’s success
- 14:40 What brings people to angel investing
- 22:04 The entrepreneurial journey
- 24:52 Choosing people to associate with
- 26:23 Developing an entrepreneurial community
- 28:49 Discussing Peter’s life coach/span>
Judging the Market
- 29:48 Monetization of technology
- 32:30 Finding new problems and inventing different solutions
- 38:41 Recommendations to eastern European startups
- 41:27 Opposition of the Silicon Valley narrative
Doing Your Investment Research
- 44:26 How to not get Peter to invest in you
- 46:55 Type of angel investors to attract
- 48:31 Properly finding your references
- 51:11 Entrepreneur-investor relationship
Value of Outside Resources
- 55:44 The foreigner impact
- 56:57 Building international trading centers
Ending the Show Right
- 59:40 Proving Peter is somewhere else
- 01:00:53 Sam’s wrap-up
- 01:02:19 Richard’s quick recap
Hello again, Project Kazimierz, my name is Sam Cook and I’m here again as always with my
Richard Lucas. Richard, how are you doing?
Good evening, it might be morning, wherever you’re listening, so I’ll just say hi.
Richard and I are enjoying a beautiful summer evening in Krakow, Poland – base of both of
today, talking to Peter Cowley from… He’s the UK Angel investor of the year.
Cambridge based technology
personal and corporate Angel investor, charity share trustee
mentor and non-executive director and, says
parenthesis “dad”. Really, Peter, one of the reasons
Richard suggests that we talk to Peter is to talk
obsession with Silicon Valley and
maybe and break a little bit of that obsession with a discussion with
from Cambridge in
the UK, which has a huge amount of venture capital expertise, Angel investor and also
multi-billion dollar technology companies, so with that I’m going to hand over to Richard here,
to do a
introduction of this friend here – Peter.
Okay, I think I met Peter for the first time after a Pembroke College, Cambridge dinner in,
think it was “The
in Bene’t st.
It was the home of DNA, wasn’t it?
The home of DNA, talk about that…
For anyone, who had the privilege or the good fortune to study in Cambridge University in
– “The Eagle”
something, that everyone knows, but it’s interesting, the way we met, that I’ve
been in contact
with a company
Arachness in London and thought that I’d like to meet Peter … I
called up Arachness and said
knowing full-well that he wasn’t and they said “No,
he’s in Cambridge” and I said “Oh, great,
how should I get
touch??” and they said “Call him”, so I
called Peter and said I’m on my way to Cambridge, I
you’re around and you
called me back very soon and the situation we met and we met after a
and it’s a sign for anyone listening anywhere on the planet, that you’ve met an Angel
investor. If a
you up, you might end up having your first meeting at 10:30 in the evening in a Cambridge
bar, but as a
that, Peter invested in “Vantage power” and then I invested in “Syndicate room” and rather than
who Peter is, it would be, perhaps better… And this was 3-4 years ago, wasn’t it, Peter?
It was, probably 4 years ago.
Okay, and perhaps, as well as introducing yourself as the Cambridge businessman, why don’t
Where I’m right now – at the moment, I’m actually in the outs, lays off, just sitting in a
at the Mont Blanc in the distance, but I don’t was quite your question, was it? You
I’m in life, I
Actually, it’s quite interesting for people listening, to know that a Cambridge based
investor… it might
motivating for people.
He’s been somewhat successful, right?
She said to the guy, who’s a part… , that he’s been somewhat more successful than me so far.
That’s one of the things about the Angel investor – you always hang out with people, who’re
Exactly, yes! This guy sold his company around 17 years ago to JEC (Jersey Electric Company)?
the UK for $4.5
in cash. I would just point out, that, in case he ever listens to this
podcast, it had floated
on NASDAQ and he
relatively small, but still big enough percentage of
You don’t need many percentage points of $4.5 billion… to be quite happy, right?
Anyway, I just spent a week with my wife, just wandering across the Med. coast of France,
so we’ve managed to find a house in the mountains, about 45 mins from the
sea and about 45 mins
from the skiing
Pyrenees, so that’s my little bit of my success so far as
an Angel investor.
What you’re doing is, you see, you’re doing your bit for the French economy
I should be down in Greece.
Exactly, you should be down in Greece, helping out…
Or Portugal, or Italy, or whatever. Anyway, so I’m heading out from here to see my son,
lives in Geneva and
fit in a meeting with a potential investor, quite large potential
investor about a deal I’m
leading at the
is an IRT deal, which you know nothing about,
Richard, which I’m not going to tell about at the
rounds are already over 4.
Last time you told me that, I barged in on “Syndicate room”.
You did, successfully, you probably had about a 5x, haven’t you, because you went in early?
I got in… Peter always does better than anyone else. So, not quite as good as he did, but
did get into
room quite early and I feel that was your thank you for “Vantage power”.
Oh, yeah, Vantage power, lots of stuff going on in there, that you don’t even know about,
you’re only a
shareholder. But we’re not online, so… Where do you want me to start?
Give yourself the 1 or 2 minute bio, so people know roughly… just start with that.
Okay. I’m very open with my investments and my background in life. Actually, the people who
actually did some TD on me and found I was Angel of the year in the UK and
they were really quite
how would they out-negotiate. Which was actually the case.
We negotiated harder than we probably
another story. My background – engineer in
Computer Science in Cambridge, then joined the corporates in
on microcomputers, which
was in the mid 70’s, which just shows how old I am. From that, I joined a small
Bavaria, so I
spent 5 years in sub-Bavaria, just north of Innsbruck, working initially with one company,
off to another company and I did my first stratup there, back in ’81 – rugged computer equipment for the
Was that Gerkom?
There was Gerkom – “Geraete und Komputers”, or German computers – based in Gerzen. And that
that and then Matthew, who lives in Geneva, that I’m seeing in a couple of
days, was born 31 years ago,
desire to come back in the UK and started “CamData” which I
still have, after 30 years, it’s had its ups
which is a technology company, it’s just a
lifestyle business, I really enjoy running it. Came back to
the UK, I
going to skip a whole stack of
things, but I’ve set up a dozen businesses over the years, mainly in
and proxy development has made more money so far, than technology. I’ve also been heavily
social enterprise over the last 15 years, or so… and things happen in life, I ended up
after 25 years away and then got re-embedded in the Cambridge system, which took a
while and my first
Angel investing was… I was mentoring a guy who’d done CS in Cambridge
and decided to co-found a little
company, turned into a product company, that was later sold
to a Cambridge company called Red Cape,
people, privately owned and he went on to
better things, because he sold the company and gone to Y
States, Silicon Valley had
to come in in this conversation and then sold his business to LinkedIn, then
write books on data, etc, but that gave me an appetite for Angel investing and I got to
owns this flat better – Robert Samson and we moved on to join the Cambridge Angels, lots happened in
which got me to be Angel of the Year, which is not based on exit success, it’s based
on one’s activity,
willingness to promote, to teach, etc in Angel investing. The previous Angel
investor, Rajat, I’ve known
Cambridge graduate, taught me lots about, do you know him
I haven’t met him.
No, he as an investor in Arachness, but not in Vantage power. And then I moved on, I’m on the
the Angel co-fund, which has 100 million of govt./tax money co-investing in Angel
deals. I’m a fellow of
Business School in Cambridge, dot-dot-dot, it’s all on my website.
We have show notes, or, like, links, that go out with the podcast and when we publish this
back to your website. As you say, you’re very transparent and it’s very
detailed. One thing, that I
interesting to focus on is the fact, that you said, that
you’re Angel investor of the year, not because
successful and you’re also at my humble age of 49,
but I haven’t made it yet. Last weekend I was lucky
Lviv in Ukraine and I was doing a
workshop and I was talking about Richard and Morris McDonald and Ray
the chain from
the McDonald was 52 years old, when he started and the question of what one means by
because so many people have so many different definitions and do you feel that your
of you? The place in France, the definition. The beauty of this podcast is that this might be
13 year old in Zimbabwe, or a 79 year old in Azerbaijan.
We’ve got a lot of Vietnam listeners for some reason.
We get the data of where people listen, but imagine being listened to by someone who has
you are or what your life is like and what your definition of success is. Because you’re
fun, there’s a reason, right?
Absolutely – yes. What is success? The journey is the most interesting part of it. I mean, at
Angels, is that we don’t lose all that money.
My comment here is, that the basic criteria of business success is if you’ve got more money
But, in the meantime, investing in illiquid, not quoted shares means your money is tied up,
your money out. It’s completely different for any other form of soft
markets or banks, or bonds,
money’s in – that’s it. You’re just going to wait.
You’ll have to wait a dozen years or more, before
out. It goes back to the phrase I
said early on. You’ll lose money before you make money, unless you’re
lucky. I’m 60, in about
10 weeks time, actually, so I’ve spent some time, actually, wondering where I’m
assisted by a wonderful life coach – Katy, who no doubt will listen to this.
You better be careful what you say.
Exactly. She’s used to this and you saw that blog the other day, she got mentioned in that. Or
didn’t. I’m aiming for 65 as a round number and working towards something in
that time. Now, what that
look like I
don’t know, but I do know, absolutely, that I’ll enjoy the
whole of the journey through the next 5
years, as I
the last 5, 10, 15, 20 years. So, success
isn’t necessarily monetary. It’s the enjoyment out of helping
businesses, not just the people, that
one helps on the way, but also the businesses themselves, the
challenges, that one
goes through on those journeys.
Peter, one of the things, that I’m really interested in, you and Richard are sitting here,
between Angel investors and I’m early in my business career, where I’m
still working on my own company,
looking at investing in the future, after a potential success
in the business – would be a great future,
Polish entrepreneur scene is very young,
especially in terms of investors and Richard is well known here
one of the original
investors in the Krakow business scene and someone, who people give a lot of credit
they’ve given him the money back yet for helping found this business scene here. So, what led you in
Angel investor, because Angel Investor of the Year doesn’t necessarily bestow financial rewards and
probably quite risky and stressful form of investment. Why would go into that. I’d
love to have a
that with you and Richard about the motivations.
When I was in Ukraine last weekend, 8 days ago, on the 13th of July 2015, we have to also be
someone might be listening 100 years from now. It’s also possible, that they
might have other things to
their times and countries named after you, Peter, and your
legacy… I have, like, 3 watch words: have
and be useful and I think Angel investing
isn’t always fun, doesn’t always make money, but if you’re
at it, you won’t achieve any
of those things, but there’s a sense, that if you run your own business,
this is a
deploying the experience you’ve got in a way, that’s much, much more useful, that simply giving
aid business, when it was one of the less happy times in my life was when I was working for PA
consultancy, which was co-owned by PA Consulting Group, doing aid work in Eastern
Europe. We were giving
there was absolutely no capital to implement any advice we were
giving and the nice thing about Angel
on the one hand you’re giving people
something, that they desperately need – which is money, but you’re
advice, which you hope they’re going to take. Advice without money isn’t much use. It’s
know-how and money without advice is also pretty dangerous. At least there’s the hope, that it
to use what you know, as well as use what you’ve made.
Yeah, you got to bear in mind, that Angel investing means a lot of different things and I was
on a panel
discussing exactly this at the UK Business Angels Association on a
conference, where I had to hand over
successor, there was a guy actually – Michael Blakely
King, I didn’t know Michael Blakely.
You introduced me to him, the Sainsbury’s Michael, yeah?
Yes, exactly, I did introduce him you to, was about some retails thing, wasn’t it, yeah. There
a very quick history lesson, the term “angel” came from the 1850’s, 1860’s,
which came from people,
They put money upfront, so the stage could be… could have
the props on it, the theater could be rented
could be paid, until it became live. Once it
was live and it was a success, then they would get their
times, and if it wasn’t –
it would be closed in a week or two and they would lose their money. Those
which was 150 years ago, moved forward now. We’re business Angels and they’re really 3 sorts of
it’s the Angels like you and I, Richard, who put lots of effort in, we enjoy what we’re doing, we sit
connect, we advise and so on. There’s a certain soft of passive Angels, who hang around the active
they won’t do it face to face to meet the entrepreneurs and then of course – in the
last 2 years, 3
and these people will have probably no contact whatsoever with the
entrepreneurs, all the “Duke Dillons”
and they’re putting in money, but they’re still
important to the ecosystem, I don’t know where I’m going
I think we migrated the question of what’s your motivation to a discussion about what’s an
with migration, but it’s a good job to stick to “Today program” and the Today
Program, for those, that
know is the
mainstream national radio channel, where you have 55 secs to
get across your combined wisdom, we don’t
pressure, but the question, coming back to
what your motivation was, I talked about mine and I
crowdfunding, whether it’s Syndicate Room or Crowdcube or any of the other crowdfunding
call themselves an Angel, but that’s a little like saying what’s an entrepreneur, an entrepreneur
selling bananas in the Hive st., right?
Yes, now I remember the question. You answered your part of it and mine is identical to yours,
because we really enjoy it, we do it for the fun, we’ve just got one of the moments,
we’ve always got
we’ve always got ones around. We’ve got 28 down rounds, that’re
going round by email, that’s not much
invested 60% and it comes down as 3% in the next
They say it’s like tearing up five time notes in a hell storm, right?
Yes, but the ups are excellent. Growing businesses without actually having an executive role,
you come in as an Angel, or a non-exec director, you don’t do this every day.
There’s an awful lot of
have to see and having had 25-35 years of grief to some extent
running businesses more or less, that’s
compared to having to fire a lot people or sack
a customer or something and being slightly distanced
from it is
being more enjoyable, that
being in there with the … of the business.
in Krakow and 7 hours ago I was firing someone. Given the time lag, he’s probably
me on the Project Kazimierz podcast, but it’s a stress, in fact, he took it very well, but you
entrepreneur, I think the image of the entrepreneur, based on watching the Hollywood movies, they
lot of the
nasty stuff. You regard your entrepreneurship journey as one of trial and
tribulation. Did you have any
Yes, I had lots of happy moments, I made lots of lifelong friends – not just my staff, but
I’ve had lots of successes, but I’ve also had some pretty nasty failures
as well. When CamData
bust, I had
30 people there back in 1991, because of the UK
recession. Not sure where the listener was, but
interest rates in the UK
went up to 17% and all … were switched off throughout all industries –
really mentally tough. I resurrected the business and it’s stayed very small since then,
Another example is where I was building 3 houses speculatively, borrowing huge
of directions, including credit cards and everything – then 9/11
happened. 9/11 – what’s
world end up at this point? There was
nothing one could do about it, instead of just hope and as
everything recovered in the
UK and we carried on and sold those houses, but of course, there’s
certainly don’t want to make a list of those, but it’s all part of life, isn’t it?
The way I see it is that, this is my personal story and I don’t think, that it necessarily
I think it’s worth, people are listening to this, the hero startup
entrepreneurs is quite
it’s well worth puncturing to some extent –
this is a life, where your work is more important to
it’s your business, you’re
a shareholder in the business, you can’t just drop it when you go
would be very stupid. Given how many hours of our day, weekend, month and year in our life we
better, a better way to live, to be more engaged with what you do, than not, so
if it’s a bit different. Do you find, Peter, that it makes you hard for you to engage
don’t like, that it’s quite hard to put yourself in the shoes of
someone who has a regular job,
Absolutely. I don’t mix with many of these sorts of people and never have done.
So, if you’re one of those people out there listening, Peter isn’t going to be your friend.
But one chooses one’s friends.
Yeah, but not necessarily they choose you.
Maybe. Certainly the family, you can’t choose. That’s not a jibe at any particular family
mine. So, of
I’ve got friends from university, the way you’ve got, Richard. We’ve
been through standard
Boring, ordinary, dull.
Exactly, I’m thinking about a particular one.
I’ll send him a link.
He’s made some great stuff in architectural work, including the Tate Modern, so he’s done lots
life, he joined a company when he was 22 or something and now he’s retiring at 62, so
same company. So, I struggle to relate to those people. I
surround myself with the Angels,
had entrepreneurial careers or the
entrepreneurs themselves, so those are the people I mix with,
One of the other people we interviewed already for this podcast – Ela Madej, I think her
We were chatting about this issue and had the idea of entrepreneurial
Kibutz or entrepreneurial
like us will live in a commune and it turns out it
already exists, this has started happening in
first time, when it really hit me
was when I was talking about annual holidays and here in
there’s a very
generous social, like in
Communism, where you get 23-26 days of paid holiday here, plus Poland
those, listening 2000 years from now – religion was something, that existed at this time.
was, we were discussing this and I was saying, that it’s crazy – you call it a year’s salary and
salary here in Poland – 26 paid days of holiday plus 14 saints days. They ought to call it a
crazy – you pay for the year and you only get 10 months and they looked at
me like I was
suggest, that the annual holiday it’s something,
that’s quite unfair?”, but right now I’m really
directors on vacation right now and
it’s very difficult to run my business with holiday.
Yes. I don’t know how big your company is, I don’t remember. You probably told me, but there’s
people, where the entrepreneur will start to struggle with that, whether
it’s a management team
have the same motivation as the entrepreneur, the
entrepreneurial founders and that happens
But I, personally, for all
the years I’ve been around have not experienced that and I’m not
in a company, that’s got 100 people.
You should talk to your life coaches about that. What’s your life coach called?
Katie. Katie Tuncer. She has a very interesting story, I’ll tell you very briefly. Caius
McKinsey’s performance coach for the met police in London, interesting stories there and she
industry in the UK, not for the sports men, but for the management. And
in the meantime she had
“Ready Steady Moms” in which I got involved and
me helping her, she noticed there was something
life – I
refused to say no to
anything, she’s got me saying no.
I think we should talk to her mother, because I suspect we have a strong genetic connection.
really work, but I always say that one of the reasons my life looks the way it does is I keep
of strange proposals. Let’s try and draw the spec towards technology,
because I think the point
to give people valuable lessons about what sort
of things are worth doing, clearly in an ideal
between what the investor
wants and what the entrepreneur is doing. When you’re considering an
who’s listening – go to petercowley.org.
Org, .com is the Peter Cowley, that brought “Big Brother” into the UK.
Okay, petercowley.org, which makes you sound like the United Nations.
It’s for charitable reasons, that’s why.
petercowley.org, I don’t know why you pealed with laughter at .org, but when you’re looking
technology as a
and without going into the spreadsheets and the cashflow projections, what
are the things, that
you to make you feel excited, interested, like this
might be something, that would work. Let’s
Okay. Obviously the people would come first, but we ignore the people. It’s the technology
the disruption they’re going to cause in the market, assuming the
market exists, or the market
That’s what matters. The technology is
unlikely to excite me at that point. It will start to,
a bit of
particularly when I’ve met the people, but it’s not that, really that matters, it’s if
a monetizable product, which is very European, I know, this is probably my German
and UK, if you go to Silicon Valley, they don’t look at monetization at all, they look at
You just back something and know or not know and assume, that monetization will appear if
to. But if
look at WhatsApp, it was about a 40x revenue, bad example, probably,
because there won’t be many
around, but I
need to see they will at some point in the first
n years, where n is a pretty small number, be
customers and it’s probably less
than 1 for that and then some sort of break-even, that’s
isn’t required any longer, except to really speed up growth. So, it’s the market
although I really tend to fall in love with technology, occasionally, which I
Says the market… For me it’s the problem, because when I lose money, I assume other
feel, that I’m in a small minority, where people have the same
problems as me, but one thing
– how on
Earth is it going to make money and I
was actually looking at a business plan, it wasn’t even a
it was a
Point presentation, describing some combination between shopping and the lottery,
was that on one hand you could buy tickets for the national lottery, on the other hand you have
going to marry up the experience of buying a lottery ticket with the experience of being
happen… If they wanted to win the lottery, they wouldn’t be happy with getting a
Amazon you wouldn’t be happy hoping, that someone might win a toaster, but there’s a sense of
… where some will be thrilled to have a solution.
Have you noticed, that these problems are getting more than you’d find now? There’s an awful
floating around. The power of the internet, or the hardware solutions, which I
then other applications will come out, but I’m just seeing
the same old loyalty type solution in
something that’s improving the ability for
an e-commerce shop to understand it’s customers
etc. That’s a very
different thing to crack and there are a lot of people working on it, bit
similar type ideas floating around.
I totally agree, I think… and again this is something, that’s really valuable for people
be aware just how small subset of global problems we experience here,
but I noticed, that people
ideas tend to be deeply exposed to a niche. 3 or 4
days ago, I was talking to a guy, who does AC
power stations and they were
having problems with their documentation – how you document your
crazy, we have plotters, these big A1 plotters printing out descriptions of what you
keeping track of who’s got which diagrams and you’ve got these engineers on fabulously high
the nuclear power station and you really don’t want them carrying the wrong diagram and once
business partner, not a startup guy with a business idea. But you think, this guy actually
people, how to do maintenance in nuclear power stations, I bet there
really are problems there
many people trying to solve them, whereas if
you’re a regular consumer business, like people
or Orscheln there’s any
number of people exposed to problems, then the chances no one working on
Yeah. Having said, there’s still a market, I believe, not all companies need to global. If
Eastern Europe, comprised of 7-10 countries, that’s just in those countries, that
will be good
decent sized business in many areas. Something that’s specific.
One doesn’t have to think
Potentially, taking and copying something, that’s
already in the States and dropping … the
technology and the team and dropping the
idea even into Poland, will be a decent business you’ve
that and we
made of that. You
made money from handheld barcode scanners. You made quite a lot of money of
Still working on it, right?
It is certainly the case, that I’m making money, it’s certainly the case, that I didn’t
Exactly, there’s a business there, so …
No, no, but… I don’t know if you had that back in February, for anyone listening in the
into the lead entrepreneurship role of being the CEO of the barcode systems company and
ourselves, but one of the challenges of that business, from a
fundamentals point of view, is
products, we have the pleasure and
privilege and joy of being partners with global corporations
Zebra, both of
which’s revenue stretch into the tens of billions and they’re important as
but our business model is very dependent on other people’s business models, which is
people might have heard of a company called Zynga, which made a game called Farmville and Zynga
successful within the Facebook ecosystem, but once Facebook changed it’s rules, Zynga was
think there are a lot of business, that have a tremendous dependency
on other businesses and I
years ago, I have the insight, it’s very
important to have something, that you’re good at,
Yeah, that’s right. Defense ability, yeah.
Peter, one of the things… you mention in there, that you don’t need to be global to make a
to Krakow or Poland a few years ago in Bitspiration and one of the things, that struck me
tremendous aspirations of the business here to reach a global market.
We’ve seen that with some
Krakow with Innovation Nest and some of the
other ones. While you say you don’t need to go
have a good
business, what would you
recommend, that Eastern European, Central European businesses do and
of your earlier comments show, that maybe things are getting a little bit stagnant in terms
Yeah, well first of all one’s got to decide how big you want the business to be and not
or another Google, so if you as an individual, a team are looking for car changing,
amounts of money on an exit. For most people it would be life changing as an
investor you may need a smaller amount. They ought to look at it in terms of their like. Are
business, that they could pass on to their children or grandchildren, etc or are they wanting
want to exit within a number of years – you’ll have to say yes to that, if you
want an Angel
build a lifestyle business, because Angels will run away
tomorrow. Say, it sells for 50 million
have revenues of 20-30M euros at that
point, how fare are the boundaries of the country, that
need to be, if at
all. It’s not always going for the stars. Go for something you want to achieve
life. And many entrepreneurs, that are 25 or 35 will almost certainly become serial
10, maybe 15 years maximum, if it’s successful to that business, before moving on to
to grow a billion dollar business in that time, to have a
massive difference in your lifestyle.
for a billion dollar business, the
chances are you’re going to fail even more than for a 50
It’s brilliant. I think, that such an interesting perspective, because of the Silicon Valley
Do you know the phrase “the unicorn”?
Of course I do
The unicorn is a startup, that’s worth more than a billion dollars for anyone listening, who
recently came across that and was a little suspicious it was a bad nightmare and we’re a bit
what people have heard already, but I certainly think, that from my point of view, the point
business is to
customers happy and make money and if along the way you reach a situation,
where you reach a
100 million or a billion or tens of billions or hundreds
of billions, good for you, but it’s by
you’ve got happy customers and
you’re making 5 mill pounds a year profit from my perspective –
Exactly, yeah. In fact, that’s what I was saying earlier on, you might have not heard
you do want
lifestyle business, one you could be running for 10 or 15-20 years,
it’s difficult to
cause they usually want to capital exit. Having
said that, there are Angels out there,
Angels Investors, who’ll just want
the dividend, a regular income from a business. So,
don’t just want
to see an exit occurring, but there aren’t that many of them in the UK.
Yeah, my American business partner Kevin Fountoukidis, I don’t know if I told you, but
as Argos Multilingual, where we acquired a company in the States, bigger than we are and
always says: “When you’re making a profit you’ve always got options” and I think
that. If you end up with more money, than you started with,
you’re not on that
in a few years time.
Yes, exactly. Having cash also means you don’t have to raise money at times you
to, which is
with the journeys of these … At Arachness we’ve been
lucky, that we’ve always raised
money on the
have been down rounds, but I’ve
got plenty of examples around, though none appeared in
other companies, that’s looking like a down round in one of my other
in terms of learning and one of the disadvantages in terms of just the size
activity happening – good and bad.
Okay, I think we’re going to wrap this soon, but I’d love to share with our listeners
founder. If you think about things that really, really annoy you about people
considering investing in, or you have invested in and you wish you
people aren’t particularly good at
expressing their emotions, but when it’s not face to
– this is
to say the 3
or 4 things you shouldn’t do if you want to really, really annoy…
Yeah, maybe not. I could probably condense those into 2 – one is lying. Being found out
during the process of doing DD can be really, it would almost certainly lose my
instance, where there was patent, and they were so similar –
this is a cryptographic
that they hadn’t bothered to tell us.
Now, it could be argued, that this was part of the
that out in the
beginning. And then the other big one is being able to listen. It’s so
have heard of something called pivoting, which is where a business changes
isn’t going through 360 degrees, but there’s a change of direction. It’s so
will listen to the older grey and white, white haired people, the wise
specifically. Listen to the customers and then change directions to what the
customers need, so
of emotional intelligence and not having any or much arrogance. But having
be very single minded, they need to bulldoze their ways through things if they’re
I’d also give… All the people listening here, either potential or existing
the lying and being able to listen to your Angel investors. You can think, if
me $25 000,
with him being a liar and having no interpersonal skills,
but you’ll regret it within
an investor on your board, who’s a
liar or who can’t listen, because it’s worse than a
Exactly, yes. You can dissolve a marriage but you cannot dissolve the contract you have
and the entrepreneur. And you’re exactly right. Doing the DD average. This one
meet the guy, in fact this second guy now in Geneva in
couple of days time. They did a
amount of DD
more than I thought, I gave them 3
names, including Vantage Power… including Alex from
around and they had
a look, because it’s all on my website. They went around and picked
up on me, before they’d even talk to me. Very, very important, that’s what I’m
potential co-investors. So, it’s not just me and the entrepreneurs.
It’s me and the rest
know what it’s like when things get tough. I’ve
got to understand how badly some people
circumstances, as well as you can – work
You’ve led to a point, which is well worth people noting, which is taking references in
good idea is to ask someone here, considering investing in, as someone who knows you
for a number of years. With him I can take a reference and sometimes the body
before they’ve even responded. You see the weird eye
movements and they think they’ve
rumbled and I
can’t possibly name him online, but
there was somebody, who claimed they had hundreds of
startups and I
some examples and
I’m 49 year old and this guy was 30 and I can’t say I’ve done hundreds
And I was
curious, I asked him for a CV and I said I want him to work in one of my startups and
during the job
asked him: “How many salespeople report to you?” and he said: “Hundreds.” The idea of
It’s beyond ludacris. I said: “Well, how many sales did you handle this day?” He said
then I said “What was your conversion rate?” and “How many of those proposals
lead to an
offer” and he
“Ten”, so it
was complete nonsense and he was lying, but apart from
the two issues you’ve made of
that annoys me, which isn’t a
dealbreaker is the entrepreneur who believes, that the
done in my
in his business and he imagines, that in a drop of a hat, I can be in his
of days or hours and I think there’s a kind of subconscious negative emotion
investors get him an unfair deal, because all they’ve done is put in
the money and
done all the
revenge they want you to come into their office by
2pm next Thursday, which you can’t
possible do. Maybe
locally here in Poland and your
investees in the UK don’t behave like that, but do you
ought to be available more than you are?
No, no. I’m surprised you say that, Richard. Maybe I make sure, that those rules are put
feel that I’m so busy – they don’t ask me. But no, there’s hardly any time I feel
too hard to do things. Alex Shey from Vantage Power had to
remind me today to answer an
email in the
but I’m on
a holiday at the moment, so no, I
haven’t met that, Richard. I’m sorry that you have.
I think, that there’s also a lesson to be learned and I’m not sure how to share this
Angel investor. Do you think you’re a professional all along, or the presses of doing
representing Marshalls, it’s not called Marshalls group, is it Martlet?
Martlet is the brand, which is the investment off of the balance sheet of the Marshalls
office, but it comes off the corporate balance sheet. It’s called Martlet.
Because there’s one way of doing it, which is my way, which I’m not sure I recommend,
other way of doing it is by bringing professionals, who tell you what to do
you as being
professional Angel investor, because somehow I see outcome in
terms of those wonderful
Vantage Power board meetings, where I wish I
could show them to other people to show
how they ought
because it all seems very
well organized, but was it learning by doing, or did
No, well. The Angel investing I think… I’ve probably done my 10 000 hours now. And
They say if you pick up a violin you’ll play it well in 10 000 hours.
That’s Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outsiders”, isn’t it? That’s where the 10 000 hour …
Okay, yes. You’re more learned than I am, Richard.
But you’re richer than I am, so…
Far from it … That’s nothing to do with it, it’s not about doing well, it’s
the end of the podcast thinks, that you need to be
wealthy to be an Angel investor or
… That isn’t the case at all.
I must get that across. You do it for fun.
I think the answer is you have to be like Peter Cowley, right?
Do it my way, exactly.
Angel of the Year, Angel of the Year.
But, coming back to the 10 000 hours.
I’m obviously somewhat older than you, I’ve set up loads of businesses, possibly
you and I’ve
involved in charities in a very big way, I’ve been a chairman of
5 charities and we
a couple of
done just stuff with people and businesses
and routes of businesses for so long in so
management side. On the side of the Angel investing… just time and the
coming today, for instance, you know… None of which I’ll probably look at. It’s just
time ,just throwing time at it and what must rev off from that is learning and
Yes, I’d say, it’s something, that I didn’t recognize, when I was in my early twenties
got experience is someone you don’t agree with and even if you don’t share
insights, you can still learn a lot from hanging out with
people with experience,
even as you
you become aware of processes
you’re not aware of for example.
Exactly, yeah. Just mix with the right people, you point out the Cambridge Angels. I’ve
Cambridge Angels. 40%… probably 2/3rds of those had technology entrepreneurial exit
learned in the
5-6 years I’ve been involved there was so much. You’re the Godfather of
much, Richard, but you must be teaching all sack of
other people, but imagine if there
10, 20… 60
Well, I think there’s also the role of the foreigner here in Poland is more significant.
for sucking in talent from all over the world and I think it’s something Cambridge can
to non-British ideas, particularly at times like this, but I think foreigners
they deserve and there’s an economic impact. Just
because we bring in a certain global
denied, thanks to Communism and
the bad things that came with it, so I think we get
deserve. I don’t know if you agree with that, Sam.
I think we definitely get a lot more credit than we should, but at the same
providing a key
here, in terms of bringing best practices and
outlooks from places like Cambridge and
Silicon Valley and
Actually, Peter, that’s one question… I think we’ve gone beyond, we had a break in the
difficulty, but, Peter, do you have much contact with foreigners in Cambridge?
Yeah, absolutely, tremendous amount of foreigners. Students, who come over, post grads,
Cambridge, either because they’ve decided it’s the place to be based, because of
in London as well, if you take Vantage Power, I think it’s
a boardup on the wall now. I
think half the
Power board is not from the UK, over
half the staff of Arachness isn’t from the UK. My
who’re not UK people.
Certainly, from my perspective, it’s something I keep on ramming home, historically
international trading centers and I think this combination of right-wing free
bundled together and I’m certainly a free marketeer, I’m
but I think
about a startup and entrepreneurship
community is how almost everyone sees the value of
whatever technology. It’s just like you don’t think in national terms
anymore, do you?
Not at all. Not in my working life, working as an entrepreneur, an Angel. I probably
bridge in Cambridge, but
You’d never play bridge with a Pole, right?
Why, are they known for doing it a different way or something?
Actually, my daughter, Helena, who’s now 18… when she was 13-15 went to a lower
specialization, it’s the only school in Poland, that specialized in bridge and so they
she’s on holiday in Croatia right now, but I think she’d be mortified to know,
bridge with her, because she’s Polish.
She’s so good, I guess.
Actually, she wasn’t part of the bridge specialization. She’s very good at magic and
about playing card games with magicians, that’s a bad way to go.
here in Krakow, which is the same in France with your view of
Mont Blanc. Is Mont
at night. Can you see it?
You cannot see it, no. At the moment, I can’t see the moon, actually. No, I can’t
sorry. Not from
Can you give us any other personal detail, to make sure people realize we’re not
at the same
Um, what can I say? I have shorts on, it’s been a lovely day, my wife’s upstairs,
when this is
finish, so she could come back down to bed. What else I’m going to tell you… I’ve
outside. Not that there isn’t somewhere do plug it in to charge it up here
France. What else you want
I think that’s just 3 pieces of information you could’ve possibly made up.
Especially the wife waiting for you.
As you know, I’m long divorced, but I hope in 10 years time. I can make a very
mark, but I
just… I’ll hand over to Sam to wrap this up.
Peter, thank you very much for the insights, I think, that anyone who’s in the
top investors are looking for, not necessarily at the VC stage, but
the Angel investor
think Poland definitely needs to develop, I think
this is great insights and I think
also your ideas on
should be as an entrepreneur
and thinking first about your marketplace and what
problem you’re solving
thanks again for joining us and Richard, thank you again as always for
bringing in your
finally – thank you Project Kazimierz listener for investing your own time, whether
market is, but also one of our other 80+ countries around the world, that
this show, I hope
insightful for you, in terms of one of the world’s top Angel
in the UK, Angel
– Peter Cowley. Things you should be
doing in terms of growing your business, so
thanks again for
forward to seeing you on another episode, Project Kazimierz.
Yes, good night and remember if you’re not live on air and you can’t listen, then
can’t get in touch
if you are listening and you tell the truth and you have a great
business idea, get
in touch with Peter.
Richard, take them to our website, not all at once, please!
Okay, good night then.
Good night. Thanks very much.
31st Oct 2015
Gareth Mitchell & Bill Thompson
10th Sep 2015
9th Sep 2015
Peter Cowley: Angel Investor
of The Year (Episode 16)
27th Aug 2015
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