“F.A.I.L. means “First Attempt In Learning” and allows us to view failure in a new way”

The Grid: Tell us about your successes so far with the Women’s Angel Investor Network (WAIN)?

WAIN: Let’s go through some of our statistics. We have invested almost $500K since we formed 3 years ago. We have invested in 6 companies and with one firm, Little Thinking Minds, we invested a second round. We have 30 investors currently and will grow our investor base by another 20 by year end. Our members make an average number of 3 investments. A little over 7% of our current members are a Board Member and/or an Advisory Member with our investee firms.

The Grid: Could you tell us more about the firms that WAIN has invested in and some of their recent successes?

WAIN: Little Thinking Minds has come a long way since 2013, from a company that produced videos, DVDs and Apps for edutainment purposes, to today becoming the number one Arabic subscription program in schools across the MENA region.

Their IReadArabic portal is in over 70 schools, serving over 70,000 children and over 1,500 teachers and the numbers are growing at a staggering rate. This year, the firm will reach the one million dollar revenue mark. The two founders are Lamia Tabbaa and Rama Kayyali.

The Grid: We hear Little Thinking Minds was selected as one of the top 100 startups in the Middle East.

WAIN: Yes, we are really excited about that. They were also invited to attend the WEF this past May at the Dead Sea.

The Grid: You are also invested in NOW Money, the remittance platform.

WAIN: NOW Money, a fintech startup in the Gulf just raised USD1.46Million in funding. Investors included WAIN and Myrisoph Capital. The potential for remittances in the Gulf market are huge. WAIN was one of the first investors and the strong international investor backing supports the fact that we made the right choice in supporting a team with an impressive track-record. And the team includes one female founder, Kat Budd.

Finally, Dharma is a start up with a software programe for NGOs to simplify data collection, management, and analysis and can be used both online and offline. The female founder, Jesse Berns worked for the UN on the ground as a statistician. The program has already been used in some of the most dire crises worldwide, including the recent hurricane Harvey and Irma disasters. We invested very early and now they have raised $14.2 million in a Series A financing from The Rise Fund. Our initial investment has definitely gone up!

The Grid: What has been your experience regarding deal pipeline?

WAIN: We have screened 126 companies over the past 3 years. We genuinely have been overwhelmed by the amazing companies out there. You have to remember that we invest in companies with at least one woman founder/co founder with a significant equity.  Companies are early stage. Whilst our preference is for companies based in the UAE, word has spread of WAIN and we have submissions now from the US, Europe and the MENA region.

I recently read an article stating that the largest growing segment of entrepreneurs are female. So I think we are right on the money regarding our focus in supporting female founders.

The Grid: That’s great. You can add The Grid to that list! How do you deal with the tension of being both an investor (focused on bottomline) and being a mentor to your entrepreneurs?

WAIN: Good questions! I love founders. At the end of the day we invest in Founders. Yes of course we need to believe the service, or product will be sustainable but there is nothing that draws me in more than an entrepreneur’s passion, energy and depth of understanding of their space. And naturally they need to show that their idea is sustainable and scalable.

As an investor, of course I want to make a return. But one reason I became an angel was to actively be able to coach, mentor and work with entrepreneurs.

Everyone has failures. As an entrepreneur, you will have more than your fair share of failures. You need to know when to put your mentor hat on and when to put your investor hat on and most of the time, I would argue the two go hand in hand. F.A.I.L. means “First Attempt In Learning” and allows us to view failure in a new way. This comes from my son’s Middle School Principal who views failure as a ‘productive struggle’ in order to learn and grow as an entrepreneur.

Angels need to understand that your investment may never give you a return and you shouldn’t expect stratospheric returns day one.

I believe, no, I know,  for a fact that our investee firms truly value our belief in them. Not just the money we invested in them, but the time we are giving to collaborate and help them get their firms to the next level.

For example, I am going in this weekend with a few other angels to attend a focus group being held by Amira Rashad the Founder of BulkWhiz and one of our investee companies. She wants to test out some of the companies new tech on us to get our feedback. I know we have firms that wanted our mentoring, more than our money.

This is an extract from an interview with Lucy Chow,  Founding Member and Director, Women’s Angel Investor Network (WAIN)

nterview by May Khizam, Founder & Chief Strategist, The Grid Media Ltd

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