Maaike Doyer: Women Investor Syndicates, Diversification Strategies & Investor Risk Management - E319

· Angel Investor,Southeast Asia,Europe,Start-up,USA


“What you see with the rise of technology in general, more and more people are stepping into the venture capital world, the private equity world, no matter how you like to call it. Just what you saw on the stock exchange, a few years ago, if you wanted to buy shares, you have to go to a banker and they have to set up an account for you. And you could only buy full shares, probably only with a minimum pretty high amounts. Right now, for $5, I can buy a partial Amazon share if I want to. But all the platforms and the technology that's out there. I see the same trend happening in angel investing, as well in the whole world of VC and private equity where it's becoming much more accessible, again, because of the rise of technology. People are becoming more knowledgeable. People want to diversify their portfolio. There's more wealth, in general, happening. So I can see that's going to be the future where it definitely is going to be more accessible and democratized, if you will, for everyone out there.” - Maaike Doyer

“Sometimes, I get asked if it’s safer to just buy real estate? Don't stop buying real estate. I don't think you should do angel investing instead of something else. It's more about the diversification of your whole portfolio, and you really need to have a passion for the startup ecosystem.That's always part of being an angel investor, and of course, with the financial return. So in general, my recommendation is no more than 5% of your total portfolio will be put in angel investing. If you're really seasoned and you're doing this for a couple of years, you might increase it up to 10%, but no more than that. Make sure that you have your other investment portfolios there and you are making all those smart decisions, because angel investing is very risky. If you get a home run, it's a big one. You can really go big, but you can also lose everything, so you need to be aware of that.” - Maaike Doyer

“If I compare the startup ecosystems with each other, Europe is retired. Overall, people’s lives are too good. I'm generalizing, but there's no sense of urgency, and they rather have a corporate job. In the Netherlands, people don't even want to have stock options when they work for a startup. In the United States, it's all about the American Dream. The country is massive and the whole market that you have at hand is impressive, but it looks internal, and they struggle to look beyond their own border and to look outside of the US. In Southeast Asia, I see it more as the juveniles turning into adolescence and you see a couple of real rising stars, and people who are really reveling. It's entrepreneurship. It's GDP growth. That's definitely coming from this region in the next couple of years. More than 50% of global GDP will be in Asia. I can also feel that the rise of the middle class brings so much more opportunity than I've seen in any other parts of the world.” - Maaike Doyer

Maaike Doyer, Founder and Managing Partner of Epic Angels, and Jeremy Au discuss three main points:

1. Diversifying Investments with Female Representation: Maaike shares her journey in building Epic Angels, a female investor syndicate focused on diversifying investments in the Asia-Pacific region. They invest not only in female founders but also in teams that have female representation. She also shares how Epic Angels educates and onboards new female investors, helping them understand the region, optimizing asset allocation, and fostering an appreciation for diverse investment opportunities

2. Risk Awareness and Mindset: They underscore the critical importance of risk awareness in angel investing. Maaike highlights that the first step in managing risk is recognizing it. She emphasizes the need for investors, regardless of gender, to be acutely aware of the risks associated with their investments. She explains that acceptance of uncertainty, embracing a long-term perspective, emotional resilience, and a commitment to continuous learning are important in derisking in investing. They also talk about how investors should prioritize diversification, align decisions with their risk tolerance, and have contingency plans for unexpected events.

3. Personal Moments of Bravery and Optimism: Maaike shares her journey from her move to Southeast Asia from Europe. She talks about her experiences and learnings, underlining the significant differences between countries and regions and the unique challenges and opportunities they present. She also discusses her optimism and hope for Southeast Asia's growth compared to Europe's slower prospects.

They also touch on founder-investor dynamics, transparency, and the challenges and opportunities presented by the Southeast Asian startup ecosystem, the role of mentorship in startups, importance of exit strategies, and the increasing accessibility and democratization of angel investing due to technological advancements.

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Jeremy Au: (02:06)

Hey, Maaike, really excited to have you in the show. You are building out Epic Angels, uh, which is a network of female executives and operators who are looking to build out and become the largest female-only angel network in Asia. So excited to have you on the show and hear your insights for everyone there. Could you introduce yourself real quick?

Maaike Doyer: (02:24)

Yes, so Maaike, born in the Netherlands, moved to San Francisco about eight years ago where I brought my company and further expanded. Three years ago, I did an exit there and that was my move to Singapore. Where I indeed started Epic Angels, but next to that, I'm also a professor at SMU, where I teach at university about business modeling, entrepreneurship, part of Design Singapore, which is an EDB initiative. I'm on the board there as well. So really trying to integrate in the whole of Southeast Asia.

Jeremy Au: (02:57)

Amazing. And how did you first enter world, say, of entrepreneurship in terms of thinking about it, supporting it, advising it?

Maaike Doyer: (03:04)

That's probably been, now, like, 18, 20 years ago. Wow, that gives away how old I am, right?

Jeremy Au: (03:11)

From those early days in, you know, Arthur Andersen and those consulting and advisory and accounting days.

Maaike Doyer: (03:17)

I mean, I've been I've I started my career and I studied Math. I'm a true number person. So indeed, I started my career in those big four corporates, Arthur Andersen, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, quickly moved from accounting into M&A. It's much more fun in the whole world of M&A. You know, it actually matters what you're doing. I think accounting is looking at the past. M&A is definitely more looking at the future and creating the future.

Jeremy Au: (03:41)

All these accounting students out there just crying as they listen to this podcast and wonder about their life.

Maaike Doyer: (03:46)

They should think about, like, make it relevant for the future because looking at the past is just so boring. mean, but you need to learn from it, of course, to be ready for that future. And I think what I quickly realized as well in those big fours, mean, I wrote so many business plans and then you're having these board meetings. You're producing these beautiful papers and everyone's wonderful. That's a beautiful business plan, but nothing really changes. So that for me was a call like, Hey, I want to do things in a different way. And together with a colleague of mine, Patrick, we stepped out and we started a company Business Models, Inc. We're actually the producer of the business model generation book, the famous Business Model Canvas.

I think most startup entrepreneurs definitely are familiar with the business model canvas. So we brought that book alive and that's also been my start in the whole startup world. I've been part of many accelerator programs, been helping startups creating their business model, thinking about their business model strategy, helping them with their pitch decks, et cetera. So that's been quite a long time ago now.

Jeremy Au: (04:46)

And how is it that you made your way to Singapore, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines? How did that happen as well?

Maaike Doyer: (04:53)

I'm still wondering that as well. I got a message from a friend earlier today and she's like, well, I can't believe what you've been doing for the past three years and where you are already within the whole region. And I think I'm by nature, a very curious person. So I love to just jump in head first and then see where that takes me and really explore instead of coming in with an opinion immediately or thinking like, Hey, this is how it works somewhere else, but really dive in, explore and just embrace that whole opportunity and really learn from that.

Jeremy Au: (05:25)

So, you know, I think one thing that you had was that, you know, you had a point of view about Southeast Asia and you wanted to share about that with a lot of the folks who are curious about angel investing and being part of Southeast Asia ecosystem. So could you share a little bit about your thoughts from your travels and perspectives in comparing ecosystems?

Maaike Doyer: (05:42)

So, lived in Europe, United States and San Francisco and now here in Singapore. If I compare the startup ecosystems with each other, I always say uh, Europe is retired. I think overall people, their lives are too good. They lost a sense of urgency. And again, I'm generalizing obviously, but they are, just there's no sense of urgency, but they rather have a corporate job. For example, in the Netherlands, people don't even want to have stock options when they work for a startup. They just don't want to. And even if you look at the regulation, it doesn't even support it. And ESOP is literally not even possible within the Dutch ecosystem. It's very weird, right? If you think about that.

And if you compare that with, for example, the United States, there, of course, it's all about the American Dream. Think big. The country is massive and immediately the whole market that you have at hand by starting in the United States is impressive. But I also feel that the United States just looks internal, struggles to look beyond their own border and to look outside of the US. I feel here in, in Asia, Southeast Asia, I see it more as the juveniles turning into adolescence and you see a couple of real rising stars, a couple of people like, okay, they're really reveling. Where is that going to go to? It can go either way. And I love that. It's entrepreneurship. It's a GDP growth. That's definitely kind of, come from this region in the next couple of years. Global GDP, more than 50 percent will be in Asia. As I really can feel that this growth opportunity that's there, the rise of the middle class that brings so much more opportunity than I've seen in any other parts of the world.

Jeremy Au: (07:16)

I think that's an interesting dynamic, which is that I think there's this perspective of Europe, and obviously Southeast Asia, and let's talk a little bit about that growth. You think there's a differential in that growth rate? What do you think drives that from your perspective?

Maaike Doyer: (07:28)

I think it's just overall the GDP growth of all the individual countries, the economic growth, it's the rise of the middle class. People are earning more money because automatically if there's so much disparity between the different regions the more richer countries will outsource some of the activities to the countries where labor is just simply cheaper and automatically that will bring more economic growth into those regions. So that has been helping in the past couple of years to really, that rise of, again, of that middle class together with the digitization where Asia could jump immediately to that next level, whereas Europe, United States still struggles from all these antique systems that they still have, and it's still not making the change, where in Asia, you can just leapfrog and immediately move forward. So I think that combination is really great to see.

Jeremy Au: (08:20)

Yeah, I think it reminded me when I was doing my business school, I had this French professor, and he was doing macroeconomics and it was very much like put together this case study, he was talking about Singapore and he was like, you know, in a little smug tone, he was like, how did Singapore, a former crown colony of the British, which was several times richer than Singapore. Why is it that over the past 50 years and now Singapore is richer than the UK? And there was a little bit of laughs around the place and obviously, we had a kind of discussion, but it was interesting to see. It's not just a function of Asia's growth, but also, I think, a slowdown of growth in Europe. So I think it's an interesting contrast of stories of, they say governance is one, but also economy and in terms of what needs to be done. And what's interesting is that you are looking to build out angel investing, so you build out Epic Angels. Could you share a little bit more about why you decided to build this and why you decided to build this approach?

Maaike Doyer: (09:06)

Yes. So when I was living in San Francisco, I mean I was also there helping many startups with their business models, with their fundings. It was very active in the ecosystem, accelerated programs, et cetera. I started my own angel investing journey while I was living in San Francisco. I mean because honestly, angel investing of there, it's nothing special. It's like getting a coffee very easy. So when I moved from San Francisco to Asia, I just wanted to continue my own journey. I just did my exit. So I have more time, more money. So like, okay, good. Let's continue this journey. I think this is a very exciting region. Let me explore the opportunities here.

And I knocked on the door of a couple of communities that are out there. But it didn't feel like the way I was used to do angel investing immediately. People were saying, like, no, you have to invest at least 50K in one startup., like 50K. It doesn't matter how much money you have. That's quite a lot to do early stage startup. And, so I was like, I'm not sure I like this system. And I tried a few and it's like, nah, this is just not for me. So I said to three friends of mine, you know what? Let's just do it together. The four of us, I know my way around in the startup ecosystem because I've been always been part of all these accelerator programs. I'll just call them up, do some business model trainings with these startups and really dive into the ecosystem and I'll find those some deals that we can invest in. And literally that's how we got started. We didn't even have a name. It just sort of really happened. Lucky enough, we found an amazing startup right away and we did our first investment in six weeks.

That was an Aroga. That's the number one online pharmacy in Bangladesh. Doing another round right now that we are going into as well. So we're super excited about this specific portfolio company of ours. And so that was our first deal and that started to happen slowly. So we were four women. Obviously more women knocked on our door like, Hey, that's cool, female angel investors. Can I join? But at the same time, startups also knocked on our door. They were saying, we need women on our cap table. We only have men on our cap table. Can you please invest in us? Oh, it's just for women. That didn't work, obviously. So, it took a little while, but in November 21, I decided, you know what? Let's open our doors. And so together with Hester, my business partner, We said, we're going to do this for real. And we really launched Epic Angels to the outside world and allowed other female investors to come in. And today, we have more than 200 female investors.

They're all over the world. Interesting enough, Singapore definitely being the largest group, but the investors are all over the world. But as an angel collective, we only invest in Asia Pacific.

Jeremy Au: (11:30)

Yeah. And, I'm just still curious, you know, you said that the phrase was, we have to have female investors on the cap table. So could you explain from your perspective what the benefits are?

Maaike Doyer: (11:39)

I think it's just a diversity. What you sometimes also see is that if it's female founders only especially, they want us. They're like, you know, we're female founders and we now need to present to this all male boards. We would love to see at least one woman on that board as well. That will help us to understand that at least from our perspective have also a bit more of that mentor role. That's another thing that female founders are looking for. But also the male founders are asking for the same thing. It's really about bringing that diversity, bringing a different perspective in by just making sure that you have a good board representation.

Jeremy Au: (12:12)

And I think you're making certain decisions here, right? So you're making a decision to set up a syndicate, that's one. And two, you made a decision to make that female, in terms of the participants of the syndicate, but I also understand that you're looking not just for female businesses, but all businesses, right? So I'm just kind of curious about that set of dynamics.

Maaike Doyer: (12:29)

Yeah. So I think there's a lot of focus on female founders. And I was like, I Definitely want to do something different. I think there's already enough attention for female founders. When we started, we were like, we invest in everything and everyone doesn't matter. What we quickly learned, however, if that isn't in case it's an all male team. It doesn't work really well with our all female investors, and I think that's just simply human nature, and that's probably also the reason why many female founders are struggling to find funding because they often need to present towards an all male investor team, and my firm belief is if we are getting more female investors, automatically, female funders will get more funding.

We don't even need to focus on that. It's just purely human nature. There's so much uncertainty when you do an angel investment. So you try to hold on to that one little piece of certainty that you recognize, which can be in gender. And that's just, again, like, we can try to fight that, but I think it's just simply human nature for a big part as well. And so that's what we're looking to. So what we did, we pivoted away from we're funding everything. We now say we want to see female leadership, which means it can be female. It can be a male founder. That's totally okay. As long as there's another C level woman on the team, then we're happy.

Jeremy Au: (13:39)

You know, there feels like, there are obviously many syndicates that are out there. So there is, for example, off the top of my head, there's Ascend Angels, there's AngelCentral, both of their founders have been on a BRAVE podcast before, Der Shing, Shao-Ning as well. There are also other folks like Findicate and other female centered, syndicates as well. So how do you think about that differentiation? Is it difference? Is there competition? how does this work? Because I think from many founders perspective, is A versus B versus C, right? I think there's XA network as well. Obviously there's a big one as well.

Maaike Doyer: (14:09)

Yeah, there there are many other networks and some of the angels are actually a member of multiple networks. And I think that's totally fine. We're the only one being women only. And that's our differentiator. What you see because of that is that, especially the learning and the education is more intense, is a little different. I think the type of, the style of communicating is more different with each other. It really became a super strong community and that's personally what I really like about Epic Angels and the way we set it up. We do work together with all those other angel networks that you just mentioned. I feel that is actually the beauty of this industry because it is in all our interest if we actually all would go in and invest into that startup. I think only when you really get to the top, top VC firms, there's a little bit of competition, other than that, for the lead investors, but other than that it's only going to help us have, we've built this partner base of more than 250 partners throughout the region, VC firms, accelerated programs, other angel networks all throughout APAC, and we actively share deals with each other because again, we all want to be that startup that we're investing in. We want that startup to be successful. And so together we can grow the whole ecosystem.

Jeremy Au: (15:17)

And as you think about going from point A to point B, what do you think is the future that you're looking at for Epic Angels?

Maaike Doyer: (15:23)

Right now, we're at 200 at 200 plus angel investors, female angel investors. So there's a lot of room to grow. Uh, What we see is that about half of the angels are people that already did investments before. The other half is completely new. Never done it before. Of course, they are accredited investors, but they just never done it. And they're very curious about it. So our mission is really to get more people into angel investing, really get into that first step. That also means that our ticket sizes are relatively low. I can go as low as two and a half thousand dollars per startup. I think that's a big differentiator as well. And what you see with the rise of technology in general, more and more people are stepping into the venture capital world, the private equity world, no matter how you like to call it. I mean, just what you saw on the stock exchange. A few years ago, if you wanted to buy shares, you have to go to a banker and they have to set up an account for you.

And you could only buy full shares and whatnot. And probably only with a minimum pretty high amounts right now for $5, I can buy a partial Amazon share right now, if I want to. But all the platforms and the technology that's out there, I see the same trend happening in angel investing, as well in the whole world of VC and private equity where it's becoming much more accessible again, because of the rise of technology. People are becoming more knowledgeable. There's the people want to diversify their portfolio. There's more wealth, in general, happening. So I can see that's going to be the future where it definitely is going to be more accessible and democratized, if you will, for everyone out there.

Jeremy Au: (16:55)

And what's interesting is that, as I think through this, what do you think are going to be the obstacles from your perspective? What do you think are going to be the challenges for the syndicate?

Maaike Doyer: (17:02)

Well, of course, the biggest issue with angel investing is how to get to an exit and how to really liquidate your shares that you have. That's of course the beauty. If you go to the stock exchange, of course you might need to accept the loss, but if you want to, you can get rid of those same shares that you just bought just as easy as well. In the private market, that's currently a big issue, but what I've been seeing over the last few years is a big rise of secondary share platforms. More and more marketplaces are getting to the market. The other day, I saw one, was called Stonks, I believe, and they call themselves the Robin Hood of secondaries. And it seems to be popping up everywhere. So that whole challenge of like, how do I actually monetize on my investments? I feel that there's a huge movement that's coming up in the next couple of years.

Jeremy Au: (17:51)

I think that's the interesting part, right? You thought about secondary, so about exit. I think there's traditionally been a problem for angel investors. One aspect that I think about is that, you know, you come in, you're taking on the highest amount of risk at this early stage and I think that's fair. there's a conversation and you make a decision to invest or not to invest. But I think, often, you see is that leader stage investors often kind of like take away the rights of early investors, especially angel investors, right? Especially if there's a pro-rata, uh, and even sometimes information rights. So I thought it was an interesting dynamic where I think, people kind of look at the overall, I guess, paper valuation of the whole company, but not really thinking about the fact that, hey, you know, leader stage VCs, for example, may issue a very large option pool and recompensate the management team in order to dilute the earlier stage investors.

So a lot of these successive rounds of decisions will always end up making angel investing a lot less of what the total stock looks like.

Maaike Doyer: (18:40)

Yeah, I think this whole topic of dilution, it's a pretty complicated topic. I tried the other day to write an article about it to really break it down and like, what is happening? But it is definitely something to watch for. Also, specifically with all the "zombiecorns", right? All the downgrounds that we've been seeing in big tech, angels get a bit more anxious. What's happening here on? And how do I get to an exit? I also think in general, if you look at the number of IPOs and how long it's taken right now for companies to go IPO, I mean, if you look at it, Apple, you know, that it only took them four years to go IPO. Google. It took them six years to go IPO. Whereas Stripe is on the market now for 13 years and still didn't do an IPO, and have massive downgrounds. So as early stage investor, of course, and you're seeing that, like, what's happening here? Because the dilution is still happening and definitely also with downgrounds that are going on iPOs. It's getting less and less. think the simple reason why all these IPOs aren't there is because so much more money got into the venture capital markets. So the need for IPOs, we reduced it ourselves. So we actually created the problem ourselves, I feel, in the venture capital world. But that's a big challenge going forward.

Jeremy Au: (19:49)

And, you know, what do you think are ways for investors, from your perspective, you know, everyone's kind of coming in because if you're an angel investor, you have excess capital. So you're looking to be obviously already accredited. So you're making decisions, you're already investing in open markets, you're investing in real estate, you've invested in maybe some private assets. You've invested in your own lifestyle and education. And then now, you're gonna make a decision about venture capital. right? How would you recommend people to think about that portfolio allocation? How do you think they should be thinking about how to protect the stake of their investments in the private markets?

Maaike Doyer: (20:18)

Sometimes, I get the question, but isn't it more safe if I just buy real estate? Please don't stop buying real estate. I don't think you should do angel investing instead of something else. It's more about the diversification of your whole portfolio. And I think you really You need to have a passion for the startup ecosystem as well. I think that's always part of being an angel investor, but of course, with the financial return. So in general, my recommendation is no more than 5 percent of your total portfolio to put that in angel investing. If you're really seasoned and you're doing this a couple of years, you might increase it up to 10%, but no more than that. Really make sure that you have your other investment portfolios there and are making all those smart decisions because angel investing is very risky. But if it, you get a home run, it's a big one. And you can really go big, but you can also lose everything that, so you're investing in angel investing and you need to be aware of that.

Jeremy Au: (21:09)

Yeah, I was had a fun discussion with Shao-Ning on the previous BRAVE podcast and she was talking about how she has the same discussion and obviously she also works with many female angel investors. And then it was a bit to and fro discussing about sometimes, you know, the handbag collection, the total asset value of that is, you know, can rival some of the pre seed funds that are out there in the ecosystem. I think from that, do you have any points of view about, maybe are there something specific about how you onboard or discuss investing with female investors that are different from how you speak with male angel investors?

Maaike Doyer: (21:40)

I think in general women tend to be more risk aware and sort of a positive way of seeing a bit more risk averse. So needs.

Jeremy Au: (21:49)

I know, I like risk aware because it means that, men are not necessarily more risk loving, which is not a positive thing. It's a risk unaware. There you go.

Maaike Doyer: (21:57)

Exactly, right.

Jeremy Au: (21:58)

I'm going to use that for now. It sounds so much better. I'm not risk conscious.

Maaike Doyer: (22:02)

It's more risk-aware.

Jeremy Au: (22:02)

I'm not a risk manager. I'm risk-aware. Right?

Maaike Doyer: (22:05)

And a way to deal with that feeling of that risk is to get more information. People are like, okay, if I get more information, I can produce at least a feeling of risk because in the end, we're talking about a startup. I mean, if I look at the data room, if I look at the profit and loss and the balance sheet, usually it's just, you know, you and I can probably make a complete different one in five minutes as well. That also looks right. It's just a bunch of assumptions. It's nothing more than that. And when you invest this early stage, you just have to have that trust in the founder and have that belief that this market indeed will evolve the way that the founder is predicting. So what we're really trying to do is educating many women in how do you even look into a data room? If we are about to make a decision, we do data room analysis together with our angels. And we set up a call, we go through it, we take them through just in general. what do you look at on a balance sheet? What do you look at in a P&L? And what we sometimes see is that men are more like, oh, okay. That sounds good. Oh, there, that sounds like a big name or they partner with visa or Hey, they got accepted in Y Combinator. I'll just put my money in without even looking at the numbers. They're just open or maybe like "let's just put the money in" where women are like, "No, I want to see it. I want to get a better feeling of it."

So I think the educational piece is the main difference, in my opinion, and by creating this environment with only women, they feel more open to actually throw in their questions that they have about investing in general or about that deal specifically.

Jeremy Au: (23:36)

Yeah, I mean, let's talk about risk awareness, right? So what do you think is, I think the steps as you work with angel investors, what very concrete, technical things that you think people can do to become more aware of the risk, or measure it accurately?

Maaike Doyer: (23:51)

Yeah, risk measurement is a tough one but I feel, so what you typically see as well, if people just start out, I was like, don't feel any pressure to immediately invest. Just put your nose in there, figure it out. Join. We do a lot of calls with the founders because that founder is in this early stage, you're investing in the founder even more than in the actual value proposition than they offer because we all know that it's going to change. And so, you have to have that firm belief in this founder. One of our angels, she calls it the cupcake test. Like, do I want to share my cupcake with this founder? Yes or no? If it's a

Jeremy Au: (24:25)

The cupcake test. I got to remember this one. I like it. I like Will I share this cupcake with this person? I I heard of the baby test, which is, would you leave my kid with this person? That's what I've heard.

Maaike Doyer: (24:36)

Then still you can leave it maybe with someone, but don't really like that person sharing their cupcake? That's a tough one.

Jeremy Au: (24:41)

I have to like that person. I mean, the question is the difference between liking someone and respecting someone, right? Trusting.

Maaike Doyer: (24:45)

Exactly. Have that trust.

Jeremy Au: (24:47)

A lot of people in my life that I don't like, but I trust them a lot. I mean.

Maaike Doyer: (24:51)

And then you share your cupcake?

Jeremy Au: (24:51)

We just do a lot of business and we just get stuff done.

Maaike Doyer: (24:54)

Yeah. So I think that is one of the biggest elements, really starting to get to know the founder a little bit. So we do many founder calls. We do organize a lot of interactions and possibilities to interact with the founder. Still for the founder, all centralized so that they don't need to speak with people individually, because that would be a nightmare for them, but for the angels to really have the opportunity to join those conversations. So we're not doing that behind the scenes. We're actually doing all those things actively with all the angels. I think that is a very big one. It is also about increasing your knowledge. I recommend to many of our angels become a mentor at many of those accelerator programs, because that will help you, that will educate you to see what's going on in this world. What does good look like? Because you have to get a bit of a feel for that. What's very early stage? What's happening pre seed versus series A? There are many different things happening at that moment. And so we give them guidelines like, this is what you can expect here. This is what you can expect there. So that people have a bit more of a benchmark on what good looks like and that's how we're trying to give them more knowledge so that they can make their own decisions.

Jeremy Au: (25:58)

I think one interesting part is a lot of people want to be mentors for startups, but I think a lot of mentors are pretty bad.

Maaike Doyer: (26:05)

True. Yeah.

Jeremy Au: (26:05)

I feel like half the time, I'm cleaning after some really bad advice because the advice is like, it works with big corporate or it's like, Oh, be nice. Give that person a chance, put them a performance improvement plan for like six months. And I'm like six months, this company has got six months to live. You have a performance improvement plan for six months. The company's gone. So I feel like I'm kind of cleaning up a lot of advice, so I don't know, is there any advice you would give for mentors to not give bad advice or to tighten that loop?

Maaike Doyer: (26:31)

Because being in a corporate world or being an entrepreneur is a whole lot of beast, right? You can't compare the two with each other. I fully agree with you. I think if we talk about the corporate investors, the angel investors that have this corporate job, and there's a lot, because they're like, Ooh, I'm in this corporate job. I would love to leave, but Hey, it's pretty comfy to stay in my corporate job. And so let's not get into the entrepreneurial route, but still let's get involved by being an investor or being a mentor. In that case, I think the biggest benefit there is that you can definitely show what it looks like to scale, because big companies know how to scale. They don't know how to get started. I think that's the biggest issue. So small startups, they know how to start, but not necessarily to scale. So be aware indeed of where that difference is between the corporate world and the startup world as a mentor.

I think the other big plus as a corporate mentor, so to say, is your network. The biggest value of a mentor is in the network. How can you open up your network to the right people for that startup? What is it that the startup really needs? And it might indeed not be you but that might be someone else. And I think that's how you can really help that startup. If it's not so much directly on the business is by making connections from hopefully a business development perspective or any other example that's relevant to them.

Jeremy Au: (27:47)

And I think that relevance is the hard part, right? The self awareness about what's relevant, what's not relevant. I think actually a lot of the advice makes sense when you're at scale, but at that stage is so different from the earliest stages that often founders are going through. You know, the first six months, the first one year. And I think that self awareness is super hard to be aware of at all. But also, I think when somebody is asking you a very good question, you want to answer it. You don't want to say, I don't know, you don't want to say, that's not my wheelhouse. So that's where I feel like, kind of like give bad advice out of good intentions because they want to give an answer instead of no answer. But I don't know. I just feel like I end up personally, I feel like, and I'm a situation where I'm just like, ah, okay. If there's advice you got, what's the advice that you got from someone else? And then. I think the better founders triangulate advice. So they get advice from 234 people and then they kind of like have that judgment to be like, okay, which one applies in this situation because there's no easy answer often.

Maaike Doyer: (28:38)

That's just like, you have to have that connection with that person, their needs. Because even if you would just speak with other startup founders, there's someone's like, I would never do it that way. That's okay. But you have to find that connection and indeed speak with multiple mentors.

Jeremy Au: (28:52)

And on that note, you've seen some startups succeed, go on to the next round over the past three years. Obviously this is early in the syndicates life, but what would you say are things that from your perspective, correlate with negative or failure outcomes from the startups that raise or pitch?

Maaike Doyer: (29:07)

I think what we always look for when we invest is, it's one thing that you can complete this rounds, but how will you complete the next round? Because indeed, especially if you go in this early for angel investors, that's going to be the success, and you can't rely just on angel money because that will only get you that far. You need to get into the venture capital world to really succeed and get to that next level. So we always look for signs in that direction. Sometimes, for example, we invest in startups that some of the VCs are saying. We really love that, but they're just really too early stage for us. But, you know, there is the connection already and they actually recommend that specific startup to us.

So that, for us, is a very good signal, even better. Of course, if they go in already, because I feel that more and more VCs are going in early stage as well. I see a lot of activity happening there. So those four are, for us, real big signs that yes. Okay, if they managed to get some money right now, that's going to help them to raise their next rounds because that's the key thing right now. Of course, the advice at the moment is get profitable or get acquired. What is the thought around that? And I've had many conversations with some startups as well Like, because everyone says, okay, what's your exit scenario? Acquisition. Okay, great. But what do you need to get towards an acquisition? When are you actually an attractive candidate for an acquisition? Because it's easy to just be like, we're going to go for an acquisition. But I feel that in that conversation with the founder, if you really ask them, okay, what kind of KPIs are you looking for? What's the stage? What is it that would make you an attractive acquisition candidates? And some of them are really good. Then they can immediately answer. I actually spoke with that on that company that indeed could acquire us and they told me ABC, that's what we need to have a place. And if a startup founder gives me an answer like that, I was like, okay, good. They are aware of what the game is and what they really need to work on to even get attention for as a potential acquisition candidates. Because I think it's really the route forward and the current climate get acquired or get profitable.

Jeremy Au: (31:08)

And on that note, could you share about a time that you personally have been brave?

Maaike Doyer: (31:11)

Well, probably the bravest was my move from the Netherlands to San Francisco because I went there as an entrepreneur. So I brought the company from the Netherlands to the United States. My husband quit his job. He was working at a bank and he's like, I believe in this. Let me quit my job. So we left. And we went there without an income because as an entrepreneur, of course, if you don't sell anything, you don't have an income. We had savings for just a few months in the bank. There was really nothing there. I think that was pretty brave. I remember that we were in San Francisco. We're almost like, Oh man, we can only afford living in The Tenderloin, I guess.

Jeremy Au: (31:49)

You lived in Tenderloin?

Maaike Doyer: (31:51)

I lived in the TenderNob, as I like to call it, which is.

Jeremy Au: (31:56)

I got to hear what a TenderNob is.

Maaike Doyer: (31:58)

TenderNob, that's Nob Hill, Tenderloin. Nob Hill is the neighborhood north of Tenderloin. So it's called TenderNob. So I was literally on the edge. It was like, yep, because you have to sign this lease for a year. And I'm like, oh man, right? We don't have money. We don't know. And my husband didn't get a job. He didn't even have a work permit yet. And there I was as an entrepreneur, really starting the business from scratch. So that was pretty scary. We clearly survived. We definitely lived the American dream and made it, build it and made it. So that was amazing. That's really an amazing experience. But at that time, it was pretty scary. So when I look back at that, I think that's pretty brave.

Jeremy Au: (32:36)

I can't believe you live for a year plus in the Tenderloin. I'm just saying. I did like one night in the Tenderloin accidentally as a hotel booking with my wife and I.

Maaike Doyer: (32:44)

The Phoenix Hotel, by the way, in the Tenderloin is a super cool hotel if you're looking for one.

Jeremy Au: (32:49)

Now I need google and find out. And on that note, thank you so much, MikeyMaaike coming. I'd love to kind of like summarize the three big takeaways I got from this. First of all, thank you so much for sharing a little bit about what's it like to build a female investor syndicate, where you're not investing in just female founders, but also teams that have some female representation. So I thought it was interesting to hear about what you have done differently in order to diversify and to onboard new female investors in terms of their investing journey to figure out not just the region, but also figure out their asset allocation as well as how to invest.

Secondly, I enjoyed the conversation about, risk. awareness. I think that is such a beautiful word, to talk about risk, right? I think the first step to understanding, imagine risk is, are you even aware of it? And what is the set of information that you need to build out? But also, what is the mindset that you need to have in order to understand, de-risk and get comfortable with the investment at the end of the day. And we talked a little bit about gender in that context, but I think everybody should be risk aware at minimum.

Lastly, Thank you so much for sharing about some of your personal moments of bravery in terms of moving to, America, to moving to Southeast Asia. And I think seeing a little bit about that difference not just between countries, but also I think having that conversation, getting your optimism and hope for Southeast Asia's growth, especially relative to slower growth and prospects. On that note, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Maaike Doyer: (34:05)

Thank you so much, Jeremy, for having me. It was fun.