«Invest in Smart Friends Who Have Integrity»: Advice from Angel Investor

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Ihar Mahaniok, angel investor in NYC, says a warm introduction from an investor will boost your prospects for start-up success. In a video-talk, he gave advice to Lviv’s annual IT Arena event.
Screenshot from IT Arena

Screenshot from IT Arena

By Joe Lindsley 

Thursday 7 October – Ihar Mahaniok, angel investor based in New York, has been coding since he was 12, graduated from the Belarusian State University, spent years at Google and Facebook, and now is managing partner of Geek Ventures, an angel fund that invests in «immigrant founders building amazing scalable products.» Taking questions from the online IT Arena audience, he gave practical ideas on how to approach investors. 

[ Learn more about Geek Ventures here. And you can find Ihar Mahaniok on LinkedIn. ]

What are the personal qualities you desire in a founder?

«Be nice. Responsive to feedback and not dismissive. … Investment is a long-term partnership. [The founder] needs to be both humble and ambitious. This is a very difficult combination. The best CEO is someone who wants to change the world and who has the drive but is also humble enough to know they are not the smartest person in the room. What makes them different or special is not the ability to come up with ideas but the ability to listen or gather and lead the group of very many people.»

What is the earliest stage of the start up to look for investment?

«It could be an idea formulation in the form of a slide deck. It needs custom research, product-market fit. There should be at least two or three people involved. 

«[Then] try to build an mvp [minimum viable product]. If you have an mvp you already show velocity. From an investor perspective, If I don’t invest, we can talk in a month or two. Reach out.»

How do you find start-ups?

«Most of my best introductions were warm introductions, somebody i know who sent me an introduction to a founder. I do invest sometimes in cold reach-outs [but] it’s always easier to evaluate a start-up if you have people in common. I will go on Facebook and LinkedIn see who our mutual friends are. In order to save the step, it will always be good to have someone who can vouch for you, someone who likes you. The best of the best ways is to be introduced by an investor.

«Always start with people you know. Invest in smart friends who have integrity.»

What are your tips for the 30-second elevator pitch?

«The most important [thing to express] is vision and something about the founders. Vision and something about the founder. Everything else is next. If the vision is completely unusual that is enough but most likely that is something I have heard of [and I need to hear about the founders].»

More info about IT Arena

During the first two days, October 7-8, there will be exclusively online lectures within four categories: Business, Product, Technology and Startup. 

On Friday 8 October, the exclusive meeting with Maye Musk a nutritionist, model, and mother of SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk will be streamed on the IT Arena web platform. 

The last day of the conference, Saturday 9 October, is devoted to in-person networking, so the meetups will take place offline in fourteen locations in the city centre, such as Mad’s Bar House and the Leopolis Hotel. The price of the tickets starts from $59 for a Standard, $199 for Senior, and $399 for Executive. 

Note that only the last two provide participants with access to the Afterparty taking place in Venue MAD bar’s house on Friday, 8 pm. Additionally there is a special networking session for executive ticket holders at the same place and time. You can buy tickets and learn more at the IT Arena website

Follow Lviv Now’s Wealth and Democracy page for reports on the panels and discussions. Topics include «Think Quick: Architecture for Real Decision-Making,» «User Obsession,» «Transforming Your Business with Machine Learning,» and «Ten Things We Learned from Running Production Infrastructure at Google.» 

By Joe Lindsley

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Lviv Now is an English-language website for Lviv, Ukraine’s «tech-friendly cultural hub.» It is produced by Tvoe Misto («Your City») media-hub, which also hosts regular problem-solving public forums to benefit the city and its people. 

 



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