Founder & CEO of Hacker Noon
Disclosure: AngelLoop, the startup to investor communications platform, has previously sponsored Hacker Noon.
Read parts 1, 2 and 3 of this interview: The Entrepreneurial Journey of AngelLoop CEO Igor Feerer, How the Problem of Your Current Business Can Lead To Your Next Business, & What Information Should Founders Share With Their Investors?
David Smooke: Lets talk about the product roadmap. Where do you see it going longer term? And then how you look at what’s coming in the shorter term? And simply, how do you prioritize what to build?
Igor Feerer: Sure, definitely more APIs. We want to automate data capture as much as we can. So, on the founder side, it’s kind of a painful to just ask your teammates to get you the right data sets. So, just with APIs, you just plug and play.
As far the other roadmap items we’re thinking of adding, that just came from talking to users.
We launched the baseline product, and strange enough, we started seeing it being used for other purposes than just updating your investors. Like later stage companies or later stage founders they’ll go and raise 20 million dollars, but they don’t sit back and wait for that money to run out, they start fundraising almost immediately.
And so what we’re seeing a lot of founders do is not only invite their current stakeholders, but they invite prospective investors into the app and just have these touch points with them. So, that actually spurred an idea. We definitely wants to help founders manage their investor pipeline better, so this means introducing a CRM tool to help them tracking should investors, and then when they’re ready to close, just be as easy as pressing a few clicks, sending out all the paperwork, and closing that round.
We want to be a consolidated set of tools. So, definitely cap tables are of interest (for a company). It’s a very static tool, a lot of companies use spreadsheets for it, but just to make it standardized and make it right, we’re building out a cap table with the help of our attorney, a few other advisors who understand the space well so that once you close your round, you can enter in your stakeholder information, we’ll sort it for you, and then you’ll be able to gain access to your cap table anytime you want and just really see it in a very visualized fashion. We’ve actually built it already, it’s just a matter of putting the back end pieces together.
On the other side table as well you have investors who are actively looking for tools to help them manage their post funding relationships, and you know, right now they’re managing it on slack, email, spreadsheets and it’s just they have to hire associates or interns just to go chase after their portfolio companies founded for any relevant data.
So, we kind of want to think of ourselves as a Mixpanel for investors, just plug into your portfolio companies, capture the right data, have the social tools to help you communicate with them better, and really relying on the platform to improve your bottom line.
The APIs for data entry are great to hear…because it is kind of sad to hear stories of these large investment firms having interns running all around filling out spreadsheets. Did you look at spreadsheets as your primary competitor?
I mean, yeah, of course. Emails, spreadsheets, they are definitely a competing force, but again, my motto is:
it doesn’t matter how many resources you have, if you don’t know how to use them correctly, you’ll never have enough.
So, we like to think of AngelLoop as a guide, as a resource, as a roadmap to help you better nurture your investor relationships. Kind of let all the thinking go, but not to mention, we’re a big time-saver. So, the time you spend updating your investors you could be spending actually conversing with them, getting to know them better, maybe sharing a few messages back and forth, but ultimately, your goal is to build these relationships as strong as possible.
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the relationships that really would drive the long term investment. And with the APIs you mentioned earlier, which APIs are they using the most today to get information into the system?
So, we actually integrated Plaid. Plaid helps plug them directly into their bank, their banks sends us their transactions, Plaid reconciles their transactions into cash, revenue, expenses, and it just makes their life a lot easier to streamline that. But we are also building APIs into Mixpanel, Google analytics, different CRMs, so it’ll make life a lot easier for a founder that has … it’s a sizeable team they don’t want to chase after and to get any kind of updates, so it’ll just kind of pull the right data from the right sources.
Can we shift gears a little bit and talk about the revenue model of AngelLoop? How is it progressing and then how do you see kind of the short term revenue versus the long-term revenue in terms of what the revenue stream it?
Certainly. Our business model is a SaaS based model, so companies pay $65 a month to use the platform, investors get it free of charge. The thought process behind that is it’s really important that a company gets all their stakeholders into AngelLoop so if we were to put a fee on the investor side, you wouldn’t get all the investors joining.
As far as revenue goes for AngelLoop, we do have 750 customers. We recently got out of data and put up a pay wall, so we’re seeing that growing about 20% to 30% month over month.
It is a niche market, so it’s not a billion dollar idea, but it’s definitely an idea that’s helpful to our ecosystems.
So, the way I like to think about it is: we’re back office admin for the ecosystem, meaning we help VCs and founders transact information, communicate, collaborate. So, you just look at that overall pie of the money being transacted in our ecosystem, and I think the market is a very small percentage, maybe 5%, so we calculate that this is a 500 million dollar market opportunity and this is just based on the verticals we’re in. So, I definitely see it growing.
Not that many companies are doing post funding relationships. Actually two companies are doing post funding relationships, so it’s still a very small market place, but it’s definitely growing because you’ve got different funding channels opening up crowdfunding,like all these ICOs all of a sudden. But VCs and angels, these are definitely the right kind of stakeholders to help you scale your venture, so we’re in the right place and I think the timing is right as well.
Yeah, it’s definitely good to be in a space where you can clearly see a lot of value left on the table and it’s definitely a cool thing because a lot of times founders are — instead of trying to capture value that’s left on the table — they’re trying to create new value and put it on the table.
Well, look at what’s going on with ICOs, they’re picking up a ton of investors and there’s new type of crypto governance that is being discussed as they wait to help drive business. So ultimately, what you’re doing is relying on people’s advice and feedback and whatever voting rights they have to really help your company succeed. Now, there’s definitely an interest in keeping one person at the helm of the thing, but when they can rely on the resources they have available to give them feedback and ideas, then it’s just kind of supercharges that CEO to do a much better job?
Yeah. So, in terms of other companies in the space, you’ve actually already made an acquisition. In January 2016, you acquired SeederBoard. Could you tell us a bit about that acquisition and how it benefited your company?
Yeah, certainly. So, remember I told you I was looking for a platform to help me manage my investors at TranscribeMe?
Well, I kind of found a platform more or less that would suit my needs. It didn’t have anything on the investors side, it didn’t have any on the social tools, but the CEO of that company at that time, he was doing SeederBoard or he was running SeederBoard for quite some time. I think timing wise he was off a little, but I came in, I said, “Hey Tim, I’m in Silicon Valley, there’s plenty of investors here. Why don’t we work out a deal where SeederBoard would be acquired by AngelLoop and we would scale the business here?” And so that gave birth to AngelLoop, but ultimately, AngelLoop added a whole bunch of other features to really streamline that communication and collaboration that a lot of founders and the investors desired.
Cool. So, it seems like … is that the core initial product?
Yeah, that was the core initial product and no APIs, … it was kind of a shell, if anything. It was a shell, but it was a great idea, there was just a few things that we needed to add to it to make it more UI friendly. And so yeah, it was a pretty interesting acquisition too but me and Tim we still talk, he’s an awesome guy, he helps me out. He works over at Amazon right now and so he’s definitely still in the whole startup ecosystem. But yeah, the SeederBoard acquisition was on point. I has never acquired a company before.
Yeah, neither have I. It sounds like it would be kind of fun… you’re taking this existing thing and then mapping it to your vision, and it’s like maybe you have the skeleton and you build out the rest of the body.
Absolutely, absolutely. I’m not even going to front. That’s exactly what happened.
So, could you tell me a little bit about the rest of your team and what skills you’re prioritizing going forward?
Yeah, certainly. So, I always wanted to work with entrepreneurs like myself.
I thought there’s definitely a lot of value that they can add to other entrepreneurs, and so why build another wheel or, it’s kind of stand on the shoulders giants. Like what we know from our past experiences, what we can offer to our users so they don’t have to repeat the same mistakes. I was looking for folks in the entrepreneurial realm.
I have six people now, all of which have founded a company, sold companies, failed companies, I mean, they definitely have a wealth of experience, but Mike is our product lead. He’s an ex-Green Beret who got into a data, he’s really interested in trying to figure out what makes companies succeed. And the minute he told me that, I’m like, Mike, you got to work with me on this idea. I think there’s plenty of interest from users, but more importantly, there’s a lot of ways we can give back to the community.
Then we have Trevor. Trevor is running our product marketing. He himself is an ex-navy vet. And he’s also started a few companies here, he’s been through a few accelerators. He knows what it is investors are looking for, what it is founders are looking for. So he’s definitely helpful.
And then Aneesh. He’s our CTO. He’s built a handful of platforms like this, so I definitely trust him with the products. Aside from that, he’s built out his own company, so he understands management, leadership, fundraising, and I thought that was going to be key especially when building out a tools that founders need to help them succeed.
Cool. One thing I’ve found, and I’ve been kind of playing around with the product couple of days and just seeing how it works. One of the interesting things I found was definitely the email template, so kind of this idea that whenever you do want to do an update, you’re selecting one of 10 tags or words about what type of update it is, and then you get the base email template.
And I was just curious about how you go about creating content for that? As I tried at some different options it actually worked well — like all right, I want to celebrate something, or I want to talk about cash flow, then you would prompt me with a question to answer. The promopt was framing the discussion … a lot of people just haven’t done it before, as the first time entrepreneurs, and then as repeat entrepreneurs, maybe they’ve done it, but it’s nice to have this template. So, are you building these out from your own experience? And how much is how is customer usage driving these different templates for investor communication?
Yeah, certainly. So, these templates, they’re kind of a roadmap for startup founders to use in order to get what it is that they’re looking for from their investors. And more importantly, they’re nurturing tools.
So, funny enough, we designed our investor update from just looking at the heroes journey storyboard. I mean, give us highlights, give us lowlights, do you have any challenges? Can we help you offer some kudos?
I mean, it was kind of inherently designed to get the founder focused on what it is that they need to discuss, but it’s also designed from more of a persuasive angle so that when investors read it, they’re happy with the outcome, which is they’re seeing the positive things taking place in your company, they’re seeing the negative things, they’re seeing how you’re doing as far as your quantitative performance, but they’re also understanding what it is that you’re looking for them to help you with.
Overall, you can override that template. You can create your own templates, add whatever it is that you want. At TranscribeMe our template kind of shifted over time just because the company started getting bigger. So, it’s definitely flexible enough to help early stage companies all the way round after round after round. Whatever kind of companies manage their investors.
What is the largest company size that’s currently using AngelLoop?
So, we got a series C company. They’ve gone through a whole bunch of rounds. They’ve picked up maybe 70 investors, a handful of them are VCs, so they wanted to take solutions to help manage their angel investors. And what they’re using us for is to really, really leverage their early stage investors because those are the folks that came in early, they had enough trust in the founder to give him a check. And so, there’s a lot of value that they bring to the table. The other VCs that they’ve invited are happy with the tool. They even went ahead and invited more of their portfolio companies to start using the tool, so it’s a nice a viral loop if I may, that’s taking place.
And then shifting gears a little bit to kind of the market landscape, and feel free to redirect these questions as you see fit. But one thing I was definitely curious about is, do you think Angel List should go into investor management?
I think they shouldn’t. I mean, obviously I would say that … No, I mean, I like Naval, I love what he spouts out on Instagram, and Twitter, I love reading his little posts. But just to come back to AngelList, they’re doing an awesome job. They’re helping companies find investors, they are helping companies launch some products, hire more people, and then as far as their syndicates, I think they have some tools, it’s just I don’t want them to go into that business. I’d rather Naval focus on helping companies really grow their company from the pre-funding side of things.
Yeah. It’s good to focus on what you’re good at and they seem to already be making a lot of money.
It’s really a hard thing to answer. I know they have some reporting functionality, it’s just one companies go on there, they’re there for networking purposes, so they may have overlooked a lot of the close funding value-adds as which we definitely bring to the table.