If you're in the process of building any kind of tech startup, you'll be very interested in today's interview with Haig Kayserian. Haig has founded a very unique New York-based angel investment group, focused on helping startups in the web and mobile tech sector. He has some great advice for startups, as well as some insights on what angel investors look for in a new company.
Enjoy the interview!
Through the success you built with your company, KAYWEB Design, you've launched a different kind of angel investment group – KAYWEB Angels. Please tell us about this new venture.
KAYWEB Angels is a New York City-based angel investment company with a difference. The difference is we provide development services in exchange for equity in hot web and mobile startups.
I founded our web design and mobile application development company KAYWEB in Australia 7 years ago. Our journey has seen us deliver over 200 projects to clients, and employ around 20 staff in our four offices, on three continents – Sydney, Melbourne, Manila, and New York.
When we opened our NYC office last year, I was exposed to the city’s startup scene. I found it to be vibrant and abundant with ideas, but unfortunately lacking in engineering talent. My experienced Board and I sought to plug that gap with KAYWEB Angels and our concept of "angel development," which is investing our considerable development services and industry experience in exchange for equity.
It sounds like your focus is in the New York City area. Do you accept applicants from outside New York?
The answer is yes. We chose New York as our launch platform, because we believe it is the world’s greatest hub for ideas. We also believe, through actions taken by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and hundreds of articles we have read, that when it comes to tech, the ratio of ideas to developers is too low to deliver the city's products to market as our industry booms.
Therefore NYC was a logical choice as the launch platform and headquarters of the world’s first "angel developers." We will accept applications from all over the place, but will expect a New York strategy in all our startups.
As an expert in mobile marketing strategy, where do you see that industry going in the next five years? What kinds of advancements in mobile technology can we expect?
Mobiles themselves will get faster, larger in capacity and even more accessible than they are now. The Android and iOS platforms will continue to dominate the first world, and there will definitely be more users of the web via mobile than via laptops and desktops combined. Tablets like the iPad are also considered mobile for me, and I believe there are at least another 4 generations to go before they reach their peak and begin taking over the desktop/laptop space even more than they do now.
This makes it integral for all startups and businesses to have a mobile strategy, like we encourage our KAYWEB Angels investments to do. Businesses will realize more and more that a mobile presence for the sake of a mobile presence is not going to be enough. Apps that do nothing will hopefully stop being a mobile "strategy" used by businesses, and they will move toward creating useful applications, or embedding their brands into useful applications. We are seeing this with some fashion brands embracing augmented reality applications to allow potential customers to virtually "try on" clothes before visiting a store or buying online.
What's the most important piece of advice you can offer young entrepreneurs who are in the early stages of a technology startup?
I definitely encourage young web and mobile entrepreneurs to dream big but act lean in order to remain within their means and maintain as much control over their startup as possible. Receiving funding is great, but receiving it on your terms is even better, as we are seeing with the likes of Facebook and Groupon these days.
This advice is central to the KAYWEB Angels philosophy. We develop a product for entrepreneurs before they get funding from VCs or elsewhere. This ensures a working version of their website or mobile application before they visit a VC, meaning less funding is required, thus less of the company needs to be given away at the early stage.
And of course… ENJOY THE STARTUP RIDE, as it is awesome!
What are the top three factors your organization (or an angel investor in general) looks at when considering investing in a startup?
Our investment strategy and methods revolve around justifying the viability of a business and the person or persons driving it.
The top 3 are:
- the problem and how you are proposing to solve it – this is the traditional elevator pitch, which will define the vision and will help us decide whether we share it or not
- the Financial Roadmap to monetary success – because at the end of the day, that is how business success is measured
- the entrepreneur or entrepreneurs involved – their skills and their passion
We have an experienced Board of Directors – with expertise in areas such as capital raising, legal, leadership and analysis – who help assess all startups who apply for KAYWEB Angels investment.
Are you working on any other interesting projects right now?
We have invested in three New York startups so far; all in stealth so what I can reveal is limited. I can say that whoisgreen.com willÂ revolutionizeÂ "green" industry, burringo.com is the next big thing in New York real estate and doitinperson.com is a social network-themed website and mobile application.
How do you personally define success?
Success is fulfillment – fulfillment in your job or project,Â fulfillmentÂ in your life, andÂ fulfillmentÂ in your bank account!