20 Questions With Angela Lee, Founder of 37 Angels

What would you like to promote?

37 Angels is always looking for aspiring angels to take our angel investing bootcamp.  It's a month long program (remote) that includes a 2 day intensive bootcamp where you learn how to source, diligence, and value early stage startups.  At the end of it, you invest in your company and join the 37 Angels network. The next program is May 1-2 in NYC- apply today!

Is this your first business?

I have started 4 companies - a technical consulting company in the late 90's, an education technology company called Career Compass that helped college students navigate their careers, a corporate training company, and now 37 Angels.  

What is the #1 reason for your company's success?

One thing we do really well is adding value for everyone in the ecosystem.  For our investors, it's curating amazing deal flow.  For our aspiring angels, it's creating an educational program that demystifies angel investing.  For our entrepreneurs, it's being transparent, efficient, and easy to work with (check out their testimonials, 75% of which came from companies we turned down).  For other people in the startup ecosystem, it's making quality introductions.  We realized early on that for this to work, we had to add value to everyone in the community.

When did it become a reality that you guys would be successful?

I don't know that any company ever thinks "ok, I'm done, now I'm successful!".  That being said, some indicators along the way were when I introduced myself and people started saying "yup, I've heard of you guys".  It was nice to know that despite very little marketing, that we were top of mind when people thought of an angel investment network. 

Were there any tough times financially in the beginning?

For us the tough times were not about finances - it was more about knowing where to invest our time.  For any early stage startup, there are a million things you could be doing.  The challenge is in picking the 3-5 you're going to actually do that day.  

What is working best for your marketing right now?

What works for us is 100% referrals.  Good people know good people, whether is for investors for our network, entrepreneurs to invest in, or awesome service providers.  

What percentage of your clients find out about you guys this way?

80-90% - the others come through press we have received.

What is your biggest differentiator?

Over and over again, we are told by entrepreneurs that pitch to us that we are easy to work with, transparent, and efficient. One way we do this is that half of our network of investors are former entrepreneurs.  

What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?

Having to turn away a client that would have made us revenue in the short term but that just didn’t fit with what we are trying to build long term.  

What is your morning routine?

I wake up at 6am and I’m in the office by 7:30am.  I either meditate at home before I leave or on the subway ride to work.  Once I’m in the office, I look at my list of 3-5 things that I’m going to accomplish that day (which I compiled the day before) and try to tackle the hardest one first.  For me, this tends to be anything around asking for help or anything around sales.  I try not to check email until 8:30 or 9am (I’m definitely not always successful!).  Also, I try not to respond to email from my mobile phone (because I find that I invariably can’t respond to them all and I just end up closing some emails to reply to later).  When I have short periods of downtime, I try to read (I read 2-3 books a week) or skim headlines on Pulse.

Where is the best place to eat in your city?

What a tough question!  My favorite neighborhood joint is ABA, a great Turkish restaurant by Columbus Circle.  And if I’m in the mood for good sushi, then it’s Yasuda. 

What are your hobbies when you’re not busy?

I love to cook and throw dinner parties.  I almost went to culinary school so food is a big part of my life.  When I travel, I’m all about going to farmer’s markets and checking out local grocery stores.  I find condiments/spices fascinating!  I also love board games and poker though don’t get to play as often as I’d like.  Scuba diving is also a favorite past time.  

What book do you recommend the most?

Again, really tough question.  For the entrepreneurs, read Rework.  For those who don’t know what they want to be when they grow up (and who does?), read How Full Is Your Bucket?

Favorite place to visit?

Barcelona or Taipei.

What business would you love for someone else to start?

A really good time / task management system - such a crowded space, but I still haven’t found one I love.  

What are your favorite startups in or near your city?

37 Angels Portfolio

Do you have any Co-Founders? What do they focus on and what do you focus on?

It’s just me though this is the first time I don’t have a co-founder.  I miss it!

What position did you hire first, was it the right decision?

We hired an investment associate first and it was the right decision.  Then it was a project coordinator/assistant for me, and most recently a community manager.  I feel good about the sequencing of those hires.  

How did you decide on the name for your business?

When we started, 13% of angel investors were women and we wanted to close the gap from 13% to 50% (hence 37 Angels).

What advice do you have for new founders, just beginning?

It’s all about hiring good people - if your gut says someone isn’t a good fit, trust that feeling.  And the interviews are worthless - hire folks after a trial run - that way there is a vetting on both sides.