April 30th, 2019

From Mentee to Investor: One Angel Academy Graduate's Journey

From Mentee to Investor: an Angel Academy Graduate’s Journey

Growing up in the Silicon Valley during the tech boom of the 1990s, Tara MacLean became aware of investing as if by osmosis. Tara, who’s been working for a tech startup in the personal media space since her senior year at Harvard University in 2014, is currently a Product Manager at MacLean Engineering. And in March, Tara wrote her first check and officially became an angel investor.

Tara was initially drawn to angel investing because she was inspired by other women starting their own businesses — she saw the potential for using her own capital to support these women in their entrepreneurial endeavors.   

“I was attracted to angel investing through attending conferences for women in technology and hearing about women starting their own businesses,” she said in an interview for the Female Funders blog.

Mind the Gap

“I saw that there was a big gap in money that was spent on men’s companies versus money that was spent on women’s companies. This seemed like one of those cyclical problems where people continue doing what they know, and without women as angel investors, female-founded companies were not going to get the same rate of investment.”

Tara is a member of Female Funders’ Angel Academy, where she was paired up with an investor mentor whose advice as Tara progressed along the path to making that first early-stage investment has been invaluable.

“My relationship with my mentor, Angela, has been really great!” she recalls. “She has so much to offer and knows this world way better than I do.”

The Importance of Mentorship

The mentor she speaks highly of is Angela Tran Kingyens, General Partner in Vision One Ventures, an early-stage investment fund based in San Francisco, California. Vision One is focused on companies that are able to leverage network effects at scale, i.e. the largest internet companies — like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple.

During Tara and Angela’s monthly meetings, they discuss things like Y Combinator’s Demo Day, in which Tara participated this year. “Being able to talk with someone who has a lot of experience helped eliminate some of the anxiety I felt about not having the 10,000 hours of [investing] practice I would have liked,” says Tara. “Angela is the one who encouraged me to apply to be an investor at Demo Day.”

Demo Day is an invite-only event where active and accredited investors hear pitches and network with startups, founders, other top-tier investors, corporate strategists, and press.

For Tara, the biggest obstacle to overcome was getting comfortable with the process. “I like to be comfortable doing something before I do it in real-life,” she says.

“I’ve played sports my whole life and in sports you train in game-like situations a lot, so when the game comes you’ve done all those actions before. This was very different. There was no repetitive practice that went into it.”

Angel Investing: Some Practical Advice

What’s the best way to get comfortable? Angela Tran Kingyens has some practical advice for all new angel investors.

“Start looking at an industry where you have domain expertise, this will help you convince someone to take your money,” she says.

“Also, look for an industry where you have a strong passion, this will help you convey your enthusiasm and keep you motivated,” she adds.

Angela also advises investors to “Develop your own thesis on the world, and see if the company you are thinking about investing in is aligned with it.” If it’s a values match, then you should have the conviction to back the founder.

Fresh from her experience in the Angel Academy mentorship program, Tara is on a roll!

“I actually recently wrote my first two checks!” she enthuses. (The are both biotech innovators.)

Next Stop: Innovation Station

Tara is approaching her future as an angel investor with hope and conviction. “I’m thrilled that I can contribute in this way in order to help the world grow, and advance in a way that I hope is beneficial and impactful.”

Ready to strengthen your own investment journey? Get matched with an investor mentor during the next cohort of Angel Academy.