A plethora of opportunities for new businesses – fuelled by IT and telecoms. Among highlights for 2012: apps for people on the move’s Smartphones; advanced ‘analytics’, enabling organisations to make even more use of search engines for selling; and businesses made possible by the ability of mobile devices to enable people to share and exchange things; but existing Angel organisations are not yet proactive in their support.
Ron Conway, Special Adviser to SV Angel – in the Economist’s “World in 2012” (http://www.economist.com/theworldin/2012) suggests that the continuing rapid growth in Facebook and the social web is seen by Angels as a good opportunity for entrepreneurs with start-ups that attract seed-stage investments. In particular the explosive growth of Smartphones offers all sorts of strong opportunities for providing content related to their users’ context, by offering innovative and engaging experiences for people on the move so that they can get what they want where the want it (eg the LinkedIn page of the person across the table from you; or (suggests another article) onto your glasses the name of the person to whom you are talking, together with their recent postings).
Commerce will also benefit from this trend, says this article in the Economist, since more people are paying for experiences online and experiencing them offline. Merchants finally have access to the tracking and measurability that are key pieces of internet economics (and businesses that help them to do so by means of advanced ‘analytics’ will make good investments). They are thus able to design offers that are tightly contextualised (eg that relate to their profiles of their customers/to where they are/to what their friends are buying/to the brands that they like). Social shopping sites – Groupon derivatives, and social gaming and social experiences that can lead to customers and sales will be another area of interest to Angels. Businesses that make use of user-generated content and personal recommendations will attract entrepreneurs; licensing and spin-offs will be increasingly common avenues for revenue; and video will be an increasingly significant medium.
Another field that is attracting the interest of Angels is peer-to-peer markets and the growth of collaborative consumption. The age of networks and mobile devices has created the opportunity to set up networks for the sharing and exchange of assets as well as information – from cars, to bikes, to skills, to spare space. Zipcar and Rentcycle are given as examples as is the Paris electric car network and a similar scheme in London into which you pitch your own car – both schemes about to be launched.
A few Angels have been co-investors in at least one of the new Accelerators – short intensive innovation programmes that select small groups of teams with promising ideas for new products and then provide them with dramatic challenge and support (see Nesta’s The Startup Factories, 2011 (http://www.nesta.org)); but Angel organisations in the UK have yet to dip their toes into this water. Most see themselves as no more than a passive conduit to enable investors to find business opportunities and vice versa; their involvement in the successful development of their businesses is still negligible.