Andy Ayim is an angel investor with a passion for supporting underrepresented founders. In his decade-long career in product management and consultancy, he has picked up expert knowledge on what makes a successful entrepreneur, and now teaches these lessons to business owners looking to scale. We spoke to Andy about the steps he took to get here.
You’ve always been involved in the start-up and entrepreneurship world. Can you tell us a bit about your career path up to now?
I started my career in 2010 after graduating from Brunel University and taking three months to go backpacking across South America and think about what career I wanted to go into. Over a decade later, I’ve been very fortunate to have been blessed with a career that has seen me travel and work mostly with international businesses as a trusted advisor. The commonality across all the roles I have worked in, from Management Consulting to Product Management, is that all these roles are about learning fast, empathising with customers, nurturing relationships and offering strategic advice to leadership to enable them to make smarter decisions.
I started my first business with my brother and a few friends, called Mixtape Madness, back in 2010, working most evenings and weekends to get it off the ground. Last year, I led the Backstage London Accelerator programme investing in underrepresented founders as well as joined the Obama Foundation EU Emerging Leaders programme and being voted as Top 100 BAME Leader in Tech in the FT.
Today, I run The Angel Investing School, which trains professionals from all backgrounds on how to get started with investing in startups. I also run a Productized Consultancy that creates Product Playbooks for large corporates in highly regulated industries and enables them to set up new Product teams to work with agility and create products that customers love.
At what point did you decide that you wanted to be an angel investor?
In 2015, I moved to San Fransisco for work and my primary role was to build a new business unit that connected with VCs in Silicon Valley and connected their portfolio companies to corporates in the UK and across Africa. It provided me with incredible exposure to the startup and investing ecosystem, enabling me to witness the incredible wealth creation opportunity presented through investing in tech companies. This inspired me to develop an investment thesis, invest in startups and participate on their journey hopefully as they grow.
I run The Angel Investing School, which trains professionals from all backgrounds on how to get started with investing in startups.
A massive congratulations to you for the launch of The Angel Investing School! Why is it important that more people learn how to invest?
Venture Capital is an opaque industry and angel investing is equally something most professionals don’t know how to get started with. My goal is to widen participation so that professionals from all backgrounds are empowered and equipped to get started with investing in startups.
Some people believe you need large sums of money, whereas the true value add comes from being responsive, filling knowledge gaps and helping out as an extension of the startups team.
What was your first ever investment?
My first few investments were actually into mutual funds, public stocks and residential property. However, core to my investing strategy was (and still is) about diversification across industry, geography and asset class.
With that in mind my first investment was in a startup called Andron Engineering in 2014, which repaired engineering equipment across Africa.
I was passionate about companies in Africa, and knowing what I now know, my due diligence at the time was poor. I was led by passion and the opportunity to participate in a deal in Africa. The startup failed a year later as it had contract risk with a small number of suppliers who couldn’t fulfil payments within the agreed payment terms, which caused the startup to burn through their cash in the bank.
The most rewarding thing about having skin in the game and learning by doing is that you learn fast – and I certainly did!
Great investors provide businesses with more than just capital. What would you say that you bring to the table as an angel and what level of involvement do you have in the businesses you’ve invested in?
First and foremost, I am committed to playing the long game and nurturing long-term relationships with the founders regardless of the outcome. In doing so, I see my value-add in three ways:
Filling knowledge gaps such as helping the founding team navigate selling into corporates
Business Development from introductions to customers, partners, suppliers and investors
Responsiveness to small things like ‘Asks’ in an investor update email.
A lot of your professional experience is in product management. How do you know when you’ve got a great product? Is product development ever really finished?
Starting a startup is both a chaotic art and experimental science. Product management is the most efficient form of marketing as great product experiences lead to organic growth through word-of-mouth referrals and high retention as customers keep coming back.
Product discovery and development is a continuous learning and feedback cycle that ends only when a product has been sunset.
I want to see more black-owned businesses achieve £500k+ profit and grow beyond the UK
You’re incredibly proud of your culture and heritage, and you’re an avid supporter of black-owned businesses. Is it fair to say that this is your niche as an investor as well?
I love helping people from the culture turn earned income into passive income. That’s less about how I invest my money and more holistically about how I choose to invest my time.
I want to see more black-owned businesses achieve £500k+ profit and grow beyond the UK, and I want to support those journeys in any way can.
What drives you?
God first, then family, and finally my commitment to playing the long game but living in the present, as it’s a gift.