Located in what is sometimes referred to as the heart of Europe and as the seat of many European and international institutions, Brussels has also become home to numerous important organizations and projects.
Business Angels Belgium is one of the many networks which provides business support and smart early stage financing. In order to familiarize Brussels Express’s readers with the concept of a business angel as well as the work of Business Angels Belgium, I have conducted an exclusive interview with Claire Munck, the CEO and administrator of BE Angels.
Could you please tell our BE readers about Business Angels Belgium? What is the impact of your association and business angeling on women in Belgium?
BA is a business angel network that was created 18 years ago. We bring together entrepreneurs, who are looking for financing opportunities, with business angels who want to invest and support those companies. Business angels are individuals who invest their own money into start-ups.
Over the years, we have supported close to 300 companies in several investment rounds and our members have invested about 45 million Euros in those companies with a leverage effect of 2 to 4; which means that for every Euro invested by a business angel, the company will be able to attract 2 to 4 Euros of co-financing from banks or co-investment funds and the like. This has been the impact, and about 70% of the companies we have invested are still alive and functioning. Today, about 20% of our member base (which is 300 members strong) are women investors.
In 2012, we created the Business Angel Club to help women become business angels and this enabled us to evolve from not having any women business angels to about 20% of our members being women through different mechanisms. The reason why there were not so many women angels was due to several factors:
- We had to change the time of the meetings, as they were too early in the afternoon and did not enable women who are also generally in charge of the family to come back home and get organized to head back out.
- We have diversified the source of deal-flow for our members, so the source of projects in order to have some new sectors in the pool of projects such as social entrepreneurship projects or impact investment projects.
- We have also diversified out selection committee, so we started integrating women in the selection committee.
- We also introduced training programs which were directed towards attracting women investors who prefer to go through courses and learn how to become a BA and then practice after that, rather than learning by doing.
- And finally, we also created investor groups which enabled women to invest smaller amounts in a collective pot of money to invest in a group so as to try and see whether they liked being business angels with a more reasonable amount invested.
What proved to be the most effective tool in increasing the participation of women in angel investing?
The key is communication. Communicating about the angel group is just as important about communicating about role models, profiles of women angels to whom other investors can relate to.
Training is the second most important element, followed by investment solutions that are more tailored towards women investors.
Could you introduce us to the WA4E project? What is your role in it? According to you, what does the project foster in terms of female investment?
The WA4E is a consortium of several countries -such as UK, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal and Belgium- working on the same challenge which is: How do we increase the number of women investors in our angel groups and how do we make that sustainable?
We face the same difficulty and challenge, which is that we all find that there is not a sufficient number of women investors around. The idea was to share the situation of women angel investing in every country and share among ourselves some of the solutions that we have found in our eco-system to help women invest and then work on common tools that we have found appropriate; whether it is to bring women entrepreneurs to apply to business angel groups, so as to raise capital, but to also help women join angel groups and professionalize their approach to investment.
Who is a business angel?
A business angel could be someone who has a career as a manger or a career as an entrepreneur. They have to have a background and most importantly an interest in the entrepreneurial sector. Someone who will be able to dedicate about 5-10% of their wealth to invest in capital in start-ups, this means that there is high-risks involvement and this is money that they can afford to lose. They need to have some time available to help entrepreneurs, even though the time can vary, it is important that as a business angel you join an angel group because you have the willingness to invest but also to provide support through committing your time and your network of contacts.
If you fit the profile we have just discussed or if you are passionate about entrepreneurship BA Belgium organizes several events in Brussels for those who are interested. You are invited to get involved through their website: http://www.beangels.eu/contact/