Priyanka Gill: An Angel's Advice for Entrepreneurs

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Priyanka Gill is an angel investor, lifestyle blogger and journalist based in London.

As an angel investor, Gill is interested in developing niche brands within the lifestyle market, including Bea’s of Bloomsbury, a boutique cake shop, and Fab UK, an online interior décor store, and is continuing to expand her portfolio, most recently with tizaro.com and campanja.com.

As a journalist, she has contributed to international publications such as The Independent and Travel and Leisure and is currently London Correspondent for Tehelka and writes for Hi Blitz! and is a guest blogger for Grazia India. She is also India Editor and Contributing Fashion Editor for UK-based Bond Magazine and Epicurean Life respectively and writes for publications such as The Guardian and Hello Pakistan. Her most recent piece for the Guardian can be read here.

In 2004, Priyanka started her blog, eStylista, which has clocked up an impressive 150,000 hits to date, while her Facebook page has over 4000 ‘Likes’ and, as an active ‘tweeter’, she has some 5000 followers. It is through these forums that she shares personal experiences and insights into the latest trends in fashion, social media, film and book reviews, and the hottest restaurants.

We spoke to Priyanka about her advice for entrepreneurs looking for funding; about the startups and technologies which she's excited about at the moment; and the kind of businesses she'll be investing in next year.

TNW: How did you get involved in venture capital / angel investing?

PG: I have always had an interest in technology and start-ups, so angel investing was a natural step for me.
 
TNW: What kind of companies do you fund?

PG: I focus on emerging luxury and food brands, as well as consumer technology companies. I was an early investor in Llustre, which focused on offering high quality home wares to UK customers – it was recently acquired by Fab.com in one of European technology's fastest-ever acquisitions. 

TNW: What advice would you give women who are considering getting into venture capital / angel investing? What does it take to be a successful venture capitalist/angel investor?

PG:

Do your homework. There is no substitute for it. Ask the right questions and look over the numbers in minute detail.

Also important is to ensure that you have a good rapport with the company’s founders – after all, if all goes well, you will be working with them for a while!

TNW: Why do you think there aren't more women involved in tech venture capital/angel investing and what could be done to encourage more women to get involved in the field?

PG: There also aren't enough women in tech – from engineers to business founders – but things are slowly starting to change. Marissa Mayer now runs Yahoo; Sheryl Sandberg has been a core executive of Facebook, and here in the UK, Joanna Shields helped sell Bebo to AOL, runs Facebook and now runs Tech City. We need more women entrepreneurs to become successful – once they are, they can in turn support other women in business, and hopefully become angel investors.

TNW: Do companies that are successful in bidding for funding tend to have certain key traits in common?

PG: When it comes to my investments, before anything, I look at the product. Ideally, it should be a new, exciting concept – and one which has a sizeable market, at that. Then I look at the team, its collective experience, vision and drive. Other factors, including, but not limited to, customer acquisition costs, industry benchmarks and past performance are all important indicators.

TNW: What is the most common piece of advice that you give to start ups looking for funding? Do you find that male and female founders need the same, or different advice?

PG: I don't really look at the gender of the founder – in the same way I would not look at race or even age. What matters is excellence.

The most important piece of advice is to not become blinded by your own story or your business plan as this can lead to stagnation and a false sense of security.

You need to remain alert, with an ability to react quickly to changes and challenges, so keep an eye on the numbers. If targets are not bring met, something is wrong. Fix it. Quickly. 

TNW: What kind of technology are you most enthusiastic about and why?

PG: Innovation is always exciting. In particular, I am inspired by technology that simplifies life - it's often something nobody ever thought of, but offers something new and subsequently goes on to become indispensable.

TNW: Have you come across any exciting startups recently and what is it about them that appeals to you?

PG: Tizaro (a leading e-commerce company) and Campanja (artificial intelligence-based Internet advertising) are two of my latest investments. Both very exciting and both fill a gap in the market.

TNW: We published an article recently about subscription service startups being the next big thing. What other trends do you predict for the next year or two?

PG: Subscription services are low friction and can grow rapidly. I think for the next year I'm looking at startups able to leverage the large datasets – such as Facebook or Twitter – now available. These connect you to customers like never before. They may not look like business intelligence startups, but companies like Fab, Netflix and LinkedIn have strong business analytics teams that have tremendous insight on what customers actually do. I think this is a huge competitive advantage and difficult to replicate.

TNW: What are your best qualities as an investor? Any insights?

PG: Building a company or product is a lot about execution. Investing is about being patient and supportive, like a good coach. I've seen startups go through the ups and down of building a business, and I'm prepared to work with them to achieve their goals.

TNW: How many investments have you made? Which?

PG: I am averaging 3-4 new investments a year. Recently these have included cupcake business Bea’s of Bloomsbury, Tizaro, Campanja and online design firm Llustre (acquired by Fab).

TNW: How is the quality of the deal flow? What do you want to see more/less?

PG: Deal flow has been good. I invest with a couple of other folks and together we see quite a bit of activity here in London, and increasingly in continental Europe. 

TNW: You are co-investing – with whom?

PG: I co-invest with Hussein Kanji and Rob Kniaz. They are launching their early stage start up fund soon,  so watch this space.

TNW: Any three tips for entrepreneurs you can share, for them to prepare before they meet an investor?

PG:

Do your homework. Make sure you know your pitch and data. Be enthusiastic and sincere.

TNW: What does your day look like?

PG; My day is always eclectic. It begins with taking my kids to school. It could then be followed by a series of meetings, or I might head off to the Kings College library for some research for my MA thesis. I will often end the day with a catch up session with my team from Bea’s of Bloomsbury, discussing, say, its online strategy for its website or new cupcake flavours!  My evenings are often taken up by dinners, charity events or industry events – these are excellent for meeting new people and sparking new ideas. 

TNW: Is there anything we haven’t asked you, but you’d like to share with our community?

PG: Just as it is important for an investor to do their research, startups should also be careful when selecting the best investors for their product – you want somebody on board who doesn’t just support you financially, but who genuinely believes in your product and its potential. Seek out investors who can add value and bring their depth of experience on board.

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