EP 208 – Maaike Doyer and Hester Spiegel-vdSteenhoven – Founders of Epic Angels – We Attract Founders by What We Can Give Back

by | Jun 18, 2022

The Asia Tech Podcast was more than excited to have Maaike Doyer and Hester Spiegel-vdSteenhoven, the Founders of Epic Angels on the show.  Epic Angels is a network of female executives and operators who have built and expanded companies in all parts of the world.
Some of the topics we discussed:
  • Starting their careers with corporate roles
  • What they learned and why they decided to start their own businesses
  • Female entrepreneurship, and being female in the corporate world
  • The importance of having female role models
  • Democratizing angel investing
  • Expanding the number and impact of female investors
  • Diversity and quality of EA’s angels is a key strength
Other titles we considered for this episode:
  1. I Like Complex Projects
  2. The Concept of Hypergrowth Does Not Exist in Corporates
  3. Building Diversity From the Start
  4. Adding Value at an Early Stage
  5. Creating a Community Where Angel Investors Can Learn
This episode was produced by Isabelle Goh.

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:30
Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia tech Podcast. Today we are joined by Maaike Doyer and Hester Spiegel, the Founders of Epic Angels. Thank you both so much for coming on the show today. How are you both doing?

Maaike Doyer 0:49
Very good. Thank you, Michael, for having us today.

Hester Spiegel 0:51
Very well. Thank you, Michael.

Michael Waitze 0:55
Yeah, I think I was telling Hester, before you got on the call that I did this very whimsical recording yesterday. I don’t know. It’s just great to deal with people that have a sense of humor and are smiling. I’ve got a lot of people that aren’t Anyway, before we get into the main part of our conversation, let’s give our listeners a little bit of both of your backgrounds for context. Hester, why don’t we start with you?

Hester Spiegel 1:15
Yeah, sure. Thanks again for having us. So a little bit about my background. So I am an investor in education entrepreneur. Previous to becoming an entrepreneur, I had a 15 year international career with PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deutsche Bank, in Amsterdam, London and Frankfurt. Then I pivoted career and became Germany’s country head for a global edtech company called 42. So as in four into, which is very modern education system, as well as a coding school and I set up two campuses from scratch to funding to successful launch. That was in 2019 2020. And that is really when I decided to leave the corporate and the banking world and continue in the startup scene. And now here in Singapore live here since and 2020. Oh, wow, have a few roles here. So I’m a venture partner at case invest, which is a Singapore based VC firm focusing on Learning Innovations, an investor, board advisor and mentor for startup founders with a focus on attack. I’m a trainer and executive coach for bankers and corporate leaders who want to stay relevant and understand tech entrepreneurship, and all the elements that drive the new economy, and update the leadership style. And of course, co founder of epic angels, our women owned angel investment network that aims to give women the confidence to invest.

Michael Waitze 2:43
Awesome. Maaike, how about you?

Maaike Doyer 2:46
Yes. So I’m, I’m from Netherlands as well. And I have this passion for numbers. Math was my favorite topic already when I was a little girl. And I even went on and studied that. I also quickly learned that like, I don’t want to be sitting behind my laptop and doing smart things. I want to be more in the front and being out there. So I joined to the Big Four consultancy companies been been at a at a few of those. And the last one was at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where it was an m&a And that’s actually where Hester and I work together as well. We still call it in our previous life long time ago, and really feels like it was a complete different life. And when I was at these big four companies, you know, working on strategy, working on m&a strategy for many large corporates, wrote amazing business plans. But what often happens, you know, these, these business plans just end up somewhere in a drawer gathering dust and like that, that should be done in a different way. So together with another colleague, from from PwC, we we stepped out and we he came up with this is models, Inc, another company consultancy company, small boutique firm. And when business model saying we are actually the producer of the book, this is model generation, which is the business model canvas book, and I think most entrepreneurs that are listening to this podcast will know the business model canvas. And so we launched the book thinking like oh, we can sell 10,000 copies, it’s going to be super excited. Well, that turned out to be a couple of million in the ends. But that was the start of our company. And we were really helping corporates how to innovate like startups. So super fun how to do it in a complete different way applying design thinking. Our company started to grow started to expand. My official role became the CFO of the of the company and also doing the work with with companies was helping a lot of accelerator programs. So helping a lot of startups as well with their business models. And one day I was on the plane all the time. We’re like, Hey, what did we open up and The United States as well. And we knew that that one of us had some had to be the one to go there. And I was just ended up to be the lucky one, to go to the United States to set up our company over there. My husband actually quit his job. And together, we went to San Francisco, where I started this is what was it? Yeah, I was. And I really excited that he actually did that. And so we went there as a startup ourselves, basically, because even though you’ve been successful in the Netherlands, doing that, on the other side of the ocean, doesn’t guarantee anything. So set him up there in San Francisco, and later on also in New York. But there was a certain moment in my life, I was like, I’m actually done being in consultants. That happened and I made.

Michael Waitze 5:47
What I really want to know here, right is in both of you kind of said the same thing. You’ve both had corporate careers, so did I. And I talk to entrepreneurs every single day. And a lot of them have like a three year corporate career or a four year corporate career, and they just wake up one day and say, nevermind, I’m just going to be an entrepreneur. You know, I took me 20 Something years to figure out that I hated working for somebody else. And I just like cut it off. Right now, I was lucky, because the industry I was in was like literally going down really fast. So there was an impetus for me to do it. But I’m curious why, like amongst the three of us, and maybe we start with you has to like why did it take us so long to figure out? There was other stuff that we were good at doing, but we could do it on our own? Do you know what I mean?

Hester Spiegel 6:36
Yeah, I exactly know what you mean. why it took so long for me is that I actually enjoyed every day, good for hate liked my work as such, right? I was leading teams, I was leading global projects. I like complex projects, right, and working with people to get it done. And I could do that every day. So it was a challenging environment every day. But there was a fundamental thing missing, which was putting the energy in things that I find matter. So that I do what I think is is good, how to apply my strengths. And also on a higher level, the purpose, maybe shouldn’t say this, but the companies I worked for deep down inside, I couldn’t care less if they were successful or not. Right. But every day, life was good. I enjoyed my colleagues and the work. So I think that is the answer to your question for me, like, why did it take so long? What made the actual change? What made me change, I think had a lot to do with me, having children, I think certain things become less important once you have kids, right? I think women with children who they are the main care giver for have a healthy sense of relativity, something that becomes really a lot less important is ego. Now I think all of us know that ego is very present in corporate life, I started to find it a huge distractor and very dominating factor in interactions in a very male dominated environment like Deutsche Bank. So that was a big accelerator in me pursuing other opportunities. Then, the opening came when I attended a conference at a secondary school about tech and education that hit me on an emotional level. And that is where the purpose gap was filled. And this is how it all started my career switch.

Michael Waitze 8:33
I worked at Deutsche Bank as well for a few years. So I completely understand the environment. Maaike, I want to come back to you for a second, right, because again, both of you said something very similar. You go to corporates and try to help them get into innovation, right, whether from a consulting standpoint or just kind of embedding yourself. But there seems to be a natural tension they’re writing and again, tell me where I’m wrong. Right? These gigantic organizations are trying to act like startups and then in reverse startups are trying to interact with gigantic organizations that have a massively different timeline. How do you square those circles? I’ll start with you, Micah.

Maaike Doyer 9:10
I mean, that’s, it’s super funny. I think the biggest issue in these corporates is the sense of urgency. Most of the people that work there, you know, you’ll you’ll get your salary paid by the end of the month, regardless of what you do. And that doesn’t help innovation. I mean, I’ve done so many innovation projects to meet with these project teams, and there’s always one or two of these entrepreneurial folks in there that really get it and want to move forward. You know, by the time you really get something done, that is that is quite difficult.

Michael Waitze 9:42
So but how do you fix that? Right? Because there’s this massive mindset difference. So I talked about this a lot, right? I went on vacation once I think it was 2011, or no way or 2008 or 2009. With a guy who was much older than I was and he had been an entrepreneur his whole life and at the time I was working for Goldman Sachs. It’s true. We were sitting around the pool just like chit chatting. And he turned to me and said, Hey, he goes when you’re on vacation, do you get paid? Like he honestly didn’t know. You’re laughing? Right? But I wasn’t 100% sure he wasn’t trying to punk me because it just seemed like a noxious question. Of course, I get paid. Right? But that’s how different the mindset is, you know, like, people always ask me, what did you do over the weekend? Oh, what’s the difference between a Saturday and a Tuesday kind of thing? So that’s my real question is when you’re dealing with these big institutions, right? When you go back to a company like PWC, and you’re trying to help them through this innovation process? What do you do? What do you tell them?

Hester Spiegel 10:43
It’s make them experience it. I think that is key. And as as Maaike said, there are certain things that are not part of daily life. Not even the whole career, if you’re in a corporate, two things being the concept of hyper growth is just not existing in corporates. That idea that feeling what is it to pursue it, that is new to corporate leaders. The other thing is costs, right? The the focus on keeping your cost down, always, that is also not not present those two things you will have to experience otherwise, you don’t understand that combined with what Maaike has said, like there’s no sense of urgency because you can just go home, do your thing, come back to work tomorrow. And you know, you get your paycheck at the end of the month, regardless what you do today or tomorrow. So that combined, I think it makes it very difficult for corporates and bankers to really understand what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. And one thing I’m working on now is to do reverse internships. So to make them learn by doing it. So that cuts two sides. So one, for example, work a lot with bankers, they like me talking to them, because I can relate to the banking world, right. But I do get this this reaction, like, oh, I don’t want to go back to this world. But how it works, that they are good at something that many founders like, which is financial planning, right? founders are created, they’re creating something, and then they have to come up with a financial planning, which often proves difficult. Bankers, on the other hand, have a need to understand daily life of tech entrepreneurship to get acquainted with high growth with cost, management, etc. So reverse internships in the sense of just a couple of hours a week. But do it, get your hands dirty, roll up your sleeves and do it. And then they can say to their future clients who they eagerly want to build relationships with? Or I’ve been in the startup, right? Which gives a very different feeling. If you try to build a relationship with a tech entrepreneur, if you can say you have been part of a startup.

Michael Waitze 12:47
Maaike, did you want to say something? Yeah, no,

Maaike Doyer 12:49
I think I mean, reverse engineering is super important. So when I was in San Francisco, we often have teams from large corporates coming over to San Francisco to Silicon Valley. And we in the lead, we did boot camps with that, like how to be an entrepreneur. So they were out of their corporate life, we actually disconnected them from the corporate emails, we created new email accounts for them, like for these few weeks, you are really focusing on this. So you need to come up with something new. Also, your daily unlimited budget is also gone, you’re now on a startup budget. So you can’t go for steak and wine every night. Because that just won’t fit. And so it was was not just the work, but the whole living and feeling of it. And it’s the other thing, when when these corporates come up with large ideas, I always ask the question, why don’t you put your own money in here? If I ask you to put 50% of your savings in this idea. And you can see the minute you ask the question, you see it on their face, like whether they are not are in? And if there’s a little hesitation on that. Okay, I can see some hesitation. So then why will your boss put the money in there? No. But that is, and that is something that is just very critical, as Esther said, as well as to feel it and really experience it. Like what does it mean to be not nervous? Because you have to take risk. Nothing is certain. I mean, in large companies, it’s about execution, you know, what’s going to happen, startups is all about the search, and it’s about the uncertainty and you need to be able to deal with that. And, and not everyone is equipped to do that, which is okay, by the way,

Michael Waitze 14:22
it is okay. And you bring up so this is so interesting to me, right? And I remember at Goldman Sachs and even again, when I was at Macquarie securities, this guy would say like, You got to take the risk and start a new business and in retrospect, I look back and think, where was the risk? You don’t I mean, it’s like McDonald’s announcing a new style of hamburger. You know, people are gonna buy it because they’re already coming into the store and they want the fries like it’s the same idea. We knew there was a franchise they’re building another part of the franchise, as long as it was close enough to the rest of the other franchise was really easy. I want to get back to something that Hester said earlier though, and there are so many things to this idea of just experiencing yourself, I think this reverse internship is, and I have not heard that term. It’s such a gigantic idea. And again, let me give you something that happened to me I get years ago, this guy named Peter Kennedy, who ran Berta media in Bangkok actually showed up at Arden Capital One summer and said, I just want to intern here. And literally spent the whole summer with the rest of the interns who were, I think students then at the Kellogg School of Management and in Chicago, and he spent the whole summer there too, in it, and then went out and started an investment business. It was a fascinating experience, more people should definitely do this. Definitely. But as you’re you said before, I want to get this quote, right. After having kids, you got this sort of healthy sense of relativity. I love these little phrases that you said, and tell me if I say it wrong. But I love these little phrases that people say in passing, sorry, go ahead. It feels like you want to say something?

Hester Spiegel 15:57
No, I don’t. I’m listening to you. Okay, it’s kind of come next.

Michael Waitze 15:59
No, because I love this. It’s like, all these things change, right? And you get this healthy sense of relativity. But there’s this whole wider world right? of investing and stuff you do. I want to talk about epic angels. Right. And, you know, Maaike, and I love this. You said your husband quit his job and followed you to San Francisco. And my first reaction was, wow, which is again, it’s embarrassing for me, right? Because it’s like, Well, shouldn’t that just be the way it works kind of thing? Right? Because, you know, when I moved to Hong Kong for my job at Goldman, my wife followed me. Nobody really thought that was abnormal. But there’s a whole bunch of this stuff that’s happening in the investment world that is, needs to be normalized. Can we talk about the way you to think about this, maybe the founding of epic angels, and that philosophy around how it’s going to change the way the investment world looks at female investors, female entrepreneurs, female startup founders, all that kind of stuff. So maybe we will start with you on this one as well.

Hester Spiegel 17:03
Yeah, if I may react to your reaction, please. It makes me think yesterday, I got an article forwarded by Jesse Draper, you know, the daughter of Tim Draper, venture capitalist. She wrote an article with a title investing in women isn’t a fucking charity. I love it, dude. When you say like, wow, cool. Like my ex husband followed her to San Francisco. Wow, it feels like this charity. Right? It is? Not it’s not. It was not his charity project.

Michael Waitze 17:34
No, no, no, no, but it’s not sorry, go ahead. This is conditioning. And again, if we were sitting around a table, I would I would tell you this, like, this type of thing, this type of conversation is really important. Because I consider myself open minded. I consider myself like progressive, and yet still in the back of my brain society has conditioned me to believe Wow. So if if even someone like I am still has that thought, it’s a bad sign. Go ahead.

Hester Spiegel 18:04
No, I think the key difference, and I mean, Maaike is that it was her whole idea right application, so she can talk more about it later. But I think the whole idea that we tried to do is that we with epic angels, we do not try to take the effort and bolt something on to an institution that is not there yet, right? So we don’t try to build on diversity on a very male dominated institution being venture capitalism. Venture capital, right, we are just doing it our way. And we change the execution as we are doing it.

Michael Waitze 18:38
So I love the phraseology, because it’s almost like mirroring. I often say if you listen to a whole bunch of my episodes, I always say you cannot bolt diversity on not just has to be there for it has to be there already.

Hester Spiegel 18:55
But needs to change, right? I think there’s a certain physics in a group changes if one out of one out of seven. So 15% is different. So if there is a group of eight male and one female enters the group, the group as such does not change. Whereas if the group is is six, and one female enters the group changes as such. So unless until we have reached that number, nothing is going to change. So we’re not going to put any effort in changing that and, you know, convincing men to fund women, which is doing it using the same logic, but via women

Michael Waitze 19:35
investors, what’s the mathematical basis for the 15%?

Hester Spiegel 19:40
I don’t know I’m not a mathematician. I rely on articles of research. That’s

Michael Waitze 19:46
okay. That’s what I want to know. That’s what I want to know. Maaike, do you want to jump in and talk about the founding of epic angels and maybe also, just the philosophy around the funding? And the way you guys look at it

Maaike Doyer 19:59
So I mean, when when I moved to Silicon Valley, as you can imagine investment is pretty mainstream. It’s, it’s almost as easy as getting a coffee, right? To do angel investing. It’s, it’s everywhere. And it’s it’s so normal, you know, it’s just not, it’s just not even a big thing. And when I moved to Singapore a year and a half ago, I was a little shocked to see how angel investing is perceived as something more elite. I see that ticket sizes are pretty high. I mean, I even noticed was like, I invested in a couple of startups and that people look at you like, Oh, you must be like crazy rich, because you’ve invested in more than one. Okay, don’t don’t know how that works. And then when I started to further dive in, and also I wanted to continue my angel investment journey. So I knocked on a few doors of Soma, some other groups around like, oh, wow, it really seems to be a bit more of a special thing. I don’t know if that’s needed. And the other thing that I noticed when I moved here was there’s so many amazing women here in Singapore, I don’t know how that is. Turns out, actually, Singapore has the highest percentage of female CEOs in the world, as a as a country. So maybe that has something to do with it. But I don’t know, there were so many great women here. And I’m passionate about finance. It’s it’s my personal thing, maybe even in our household, I’m the one definitely running, running our assets. And I mean, was a CFO, etc. So it’s just my natural thing. But every time when you speak with women, you feel some hesitation. I’m like, How’s this possible? There’s these power women that run massive companies, but they’re not really active with investing and just in general, like, how come that even there, I mean, I also note for myself, there is something there where, where women tend to be a little bit more risk averse or mean, the positive way of seeing it is risk aware, it means it’s just a bit of a fact. So and I noticed myself as well, when when I write that check for that startup, you still doubt even though I know I’m qualified to really review that startup with my background in everything, and I’ve seen so many pitch decks, you know, I’m, I really feel qualified. But still, there’s this doubt. So with that assumption, we we started with this small group of ladies here with with Hester and two other founding founding members, with the four of us with the idea, like, you know, what, if we just all four of us, if we look at the deal, even if the others don’t invest, that’s okay. But at least we get that perspective, we feel more confidence when we put our money forward to do this. So that was, that was the initial quad like, let’s just let’s just get together. Let’s just do this.

Michael Waitze 22:49
Do you think there’s a generational aspect to this as well? I want to go back to when you said you loved math, right? Yeah, math was my favorite topic. Was that easy for you to do as a young lady in the Netherlands? Or were people like, Wow, I can’t believe there’s an because at the time you were a girl, so I’m gonna use the term girl. But is it okay for a girl to study? Like, was there any kind of resistance? Or was that just normally accepted? Right? The reason why I ask is because now that you’ve done that, and now that you’ve become the CFO, I’m just interested, if you think there’s a generational difference that your daughter will look at you that Hester’s children will look at her and just think this is all okay, it’s all normalized now, because my mom did this thing. Where do you just think it’s a DNA thing that just goes back and says, you know, this difference between risk awareness and risk aversion? I’m really curious what your view is on this.

Maaike Doyer 23:45
Funnily enough, I’ve never seen it as being different with that, even though when I went to university there were only two ladies in my class in one year, so definitely, you are an exception. Funny enough. I never felt it was an exception. I don’t know. Like, no, we all

Michael Waitze 24:03
knew it though. Right? Like you still remember there was only one other lady there.

Maaike Doyer 24:07
Jets rivets. But funny enough. I didn’t really notice that difference. I don’t know what that is. I’ve never really felt that way. It’s like, oh, you know, it’s different than we need to fight for that. It’s just like, No, I just like Matt. So this is what I do. And I but I do agree with you. There’s definitely this generation, although, I mean, last Monday, I was teaching 413 year old girls, which by the way, is a thing it’s super fun. So you see here in Singapore, you have these girls high schools. And that’s where I was doing this guest lecture and then like, wow, there’s still girls schools. And even there I ask the questions like, Why did you pick them always curious? Like why is there this girl school? And it was like, Yeah, because it’s always been there so I miss that. Wasn’t So short yet that. So you still see, it still is happening at the separation? And I don’t know if we should do that.

Hester Spiegel 25:09
Yeah. So if that role model, that being a role model and having a role model makes a difference, regardless of the generation when, if these girls see my kids, they’re like, they will remember this right? When you’re 13, it will, they will remember. And on a smaller scale, I mean, my mom has always worked for me, it was normal. And I’m very conscious that I am. That my kids, two boys think it’s normal that I work. Yeah. And friends who’ve had moms who stayed at home, they do think differently about this. So I think role model is very, very important.

Michael Waitze 25:49
So you have Singapore, where both of you live now, right? That has the highest percentage of female CEOs in the world, which is an incredible statistic. But it means that there’s some means I presume that something cultural is going on there where society is just like fine, who who’s the most qualified? She is she’s the CEO kind of thing. She’s gonna have sons and daughters as well. And they’re gonna then start investing. Remember, her mom, I’m guessing probably wasn’t a CEO, and wasn’t an angel investor. And, you know, mica, you made this great point of people see you angel investing in more than one or two companies, and they think she must be super rich, that money must be coming from who knows where, like manna from heaven. But the reality is, if you go by you’re in Silicon Valley. And if you were doing angel investing type of stuff there, you must have run into Jason Calacanis. And if not, you’ve definitely read his book, angel investing. You know, he’s, he’s been successful, in a way, it doesn’t matter. But he makes some very good points. The first thing is, you don’t need a ton of money to be an angel investor. And actually, if you’re really smart at the beginning, you only invest like $5,000 or $10,000, because that’s essentially your lunch money, right? But if you put in 100 grand when you first start angel investing, you’re gonna lose it.

Maaike Doyer 27:08
That’s the whole thing, right? It’s Angel Investing by nature is super risky.

Michael Waitze 27:15
It’s the riskiest investing. Sorry, go ahead.

Maaike Doyer 27:18
It is. So never put all your money into angel investing, or you have to diversify. And angel investing is just one of those brackets and how you diversify your personal portfolio. And I would say, like five, maybe 10 percents, and that’s probably what you should put in Angel Investing of your assets. And that philosophy in the winter in Silicon Valley is really common. You definitely don’t invest more than a couple of $1,000 in a startup. Why would you? Because, first of all, I mean, Hester. And I always joke when he cutter, it’s like, something’s like a kid in a candy store. There’s so many amazing startup. Well, how do you choose, you know, and you just simply cannot put 100k? In all of them. That’s absolutely not an option, no matter how much money you have. So because there’s just so many of them. So you have to you have to be careful, and especially angel investing is so early on. So you better put small money in in the first rounds, and then see, okay, how are they doing for this year, year and a half? Okay, now to go for the next rounds. All right. Can I participate in the follow on rounds? Maybe then I’ll increase my money. And because I can see, hey, there’s there’s something happening here. I like what I’ve seen in the past periods. Let’s double down on this one.

Michael Waitze 28:31
So I want to know, Hester, maybe you can tell me this. I always want to be a fly on the wall, right? Because I want to listen to a conversation. In a way. It’s like quantum physics and tell me again, I’m not a quantum physicist, I’m wrong. But just by being there, you impact the what’s happening. So I want to be a fly on the wall, when you as a team are having a conversation with your potential new angel investors thinking like, just feel so risky, or I don’t know enough about or that’s not something we’ve done before? Like, what does it take to get somebody over the line? Do you know what I mean? And again, I want to give you an example from my own life, right? Like, how do you convince somebody to jump off that cliff the first time because it does feel really scary, and no one they hit the water, they’re still alive, and then make them want to go back up on that cliff and jump again has to go for

Hester Spiegel 29:21
oh, this is brilliant as you raise this, because that’s exactly standing on that cliff and then having a couple of suited men around you is not going to make you jump faster. So this is exactly our purpose with epic angels. We want to make it accessible and more comfortable to start angel investing. So we make it possible to lower the ticket size to indeed that 5k As you were mentioning, so we have a construction that we make that possible which is difficult in Singapore because of the construction with when you become a public company. The ticket sizes are usually relatively high compared to the US. So we You have thought of a way to make it accessible by lowering ticket sizes. So for women to start dipping their toe in, right before they jump off the cliff, they can actually dip their toe in and see, okay, okay, let’s see how this goes. And this is how they grow the comfort, how they actually come to the investment decision is funny, actually, now we have some experience over a year experience with different types of women, right? It is a rational conversation for a very long time we discuss so we’re very we allow very hands on right you can be as hands on as you want, we allow access to the founders found a cause, etc. So they have full information. That’s not with every network the case, by the way, but we find that important for our angels who liked this. So it’s very rational, they understand the founder, they look at the data room, and we talk about it. We have meetings, we talk about it, what do you think we get different perspectives on the table? And then it becomes emotional, then it clicks? Or it doesn’t? Right? So it can be a very good deal great found that ticks all the boxes, but no, other say yes, I’m in, I’m fully in. It’s just where you come from, it’s a gut feel it is your past experiences, your passions, your beliefs, makes that the investment decision in the end?

Michael Waitze 31:17
And do you find that once you get somebody in? Do you know what I mean, after they make that first investment after they jump off the cliff the first time after they tip their toe in the water dip their toe in the water? That they inevitably come back for more? Or do you think they just get super scared or it’s like I’m out? Go ahead?

Hester Spiegel 31:37
Well, there’s not an immediate feedback. In that sense. It is gone. In the best case, your money is gone for five to 10 years if you haven’t lost it in the next six months. So the the absence of a feedback loop, I think, works in our favor and exists and therefore the process is what matters. And the process is just, it’s great to have a community to invest in to be able to discuss, be able to make better investment decisions and enjoy a community of like minded women.

Michael Waitze 32:08
Do you feel like sometimes you sorry, Maaike, go ahead.

Maaike Doyer 32:11
Yeah, but I would like to add to that as well, which links back to the previous part of our conversation where we were talking about the difference between corporates and startups. That’s what we also see in the angel investors, which I don’t think has anything to do with with men, women, it’s more like, Hey, are you coming from a corporate background? So meaning you work your whole life into a corporate? You’re looking for more certainty, right? Because then you’re already looking at all those financials that are in the data room when Hester and I look at it right. You know, we glance that so like, there’s a roughly make sense that we understand the key assumptions that they’ve made. Do we agree with that? Yes, or No? Okay, good. Because we know that no matter how much time the startup spent on the financial planning, it’s going to be different, always guarantees. But people in corporate life tend to be very fixated on it. So you see that in the angel investors as well, if they’re coming from the corporate background, you look for more certainty versus I’ve been in a startup, I know how it works, that’s fine. I trust that this founder will find his way through. But something that’s what

Michael Waitze 33:10
do you do feel like you also need to explain remember, we talked about this earlier that if you build a funnel for investing, and if angel investing is at the top of the funnel, right in like Series C, and series D is at the bottom, that if you’re doing angel investing, and you’re asking about traction, and like financial returns already, do you feel like you’re you may as well be on Mars, because if you’re angel investing, you’re not angel investing in a series D company, most likely. And at the angel investment stage, where the most risk is, is where the most experimentation is, I mean, I always say if you’re an angel investor, you’re not investing in a company, you’re investing in an experiment. But how do you explain that to people that have never done it before? Right, where you can say, like, you can look in the data room, but the daily room is just like, three people going, I think this is going to work.

Maaike Doyer 33:59
Yeah, I mean, there are a couple of things, of course, you can look at as an angel investor, because even though of course, that revenue isn’t there yet. Validation and real response from the market is critical at every stage of a startup. I mean, we’ve sometimes seen startups, they have beautiful plans. And then I’m like, Guys, you’re just sitting inside of the building, focusing on your products. I don’t know if I’m confident with that. Versus startups where they also don’t have traction, but they’re continuously outside. They’re, they’re interacting with your customers. They’re going for that feedback in a continuous loop. I have more faith in those type of startups. So those are the kinds of things you can look for. Because there is there are differences, of course between startups.

Michael Waitze 34:43
Hester, do you feel like sometimes if you’re trying to get women to be more of the angel investors in Singapore, right, we talked about this idea of being the most CEOs in the world or in Singapore is there and maybe this As for both of you as well, do you feel like you have to explain to them how to explain to their partners, that they’re going to take some money that they haven’t used previously to then invest in some of these startups? You’re laughing? But I’m just curious.

Hester Spiegel 35:13
I typically No, I mean, the women that we are attracting and that we want to attract have their own backyard.

Maaike Doyer 35:23
You have to be an investor, right? Yeah.

Michael Waitze 35:26
Do you to be an angel investor?

Maaike Doyer 35:29
Yes, you have to be an accredited investor. So to the women that’s that sign up for abig. Angels, they are accredited investors, which means they need to earn that money or have those assets according to the Singaporean regulation.

Michael Waitze 35:42
And what determines what an accredited investor is in Singapore.

Maaike Doyer 35:46
In Singapore, you need to have either a salary of 300k Singh dollars, or assets of a million Singh dollars plus, okay. So it’s quite a quite serious, which means that immediately, because we always joke a little like, we don’t want trailing spouses, I think that’s not what our network is looking for. We really want women who are making you know, are in a good executive positions themselves who understand what it means to be a leader that’s run by a company, whether it’s corporate or startup. And that accredited investor regulation actually helps with that. Because immediately, it filters, filters.

Hester Spiegel 36:23
And why we find it important to is because we attract founders by what we can give back to them. So it goes much further than financial support. Also, our angels are mostly not in it for the financial return. It is giving back, right, using your own experience, and to give back to younger founders help them build their company with knowledge that you’ve gained along the way in your career. That is, that is how we add value to founders, not only with the money.

Michael Waitze 36:55
So does that mean that a lot of the people that participate in epic angels are also founders themselves?

Hester Spiegel 37:01
Yep. Yep, we have a few.

Michael Waitze 37:04
Because I mean, I can tell you pretty clearly that for me, and we talked about this right? When I left my corporate roles at the end of 2011. I felt like I knew a lot about starting businesses, right? Because I’ve done and you feel free to laugh. You don’t have to just smile at this. But I feel like I know a real lot about starting businesses from scratch, because I’d done it at Goldman Sachs or at Morgan Stanley. Yeah, please feel free to laugh out loud. You can see in the cadence of my voice, I’m waiting for the laughter. But what I learned over time is I actually knew nothing about it. Right. And I wonder sometimes, if you see this as well, where somebody who’s had a very successful corporate career, so has made themselves into an accredited investor feels like they have the knowledge to then give guidance. I don’t want to say advice, because it’s the wrong word, but guidance to somebody who’s building something from scratch. And I feel like those two things are just like living in a parallel universe. What do you I

Hester Spiegel 38:01
tend to disagree? Because they are to a certain level, yes, some parts will never touch because corporate life and startup life is fundamentally different. On the other hand, building a small company has many similar topics as a building of beer company. For example, if you have had a 1015 plus corporate career, you have gotten to understand people. So if there’s founders that have difficulty finding a co founder, which is often key to survival, and getting funding, hiring a co founder or hiring a product manager, you can actually help a lot by just the people skills that you have gained during a corporate career, things like business models, you have come to understand, probably if a business model is sensible or not. Financial Planning again, that is something that many founders lack that probably you can help with with a corporate career. So partly, I agree, some some things will never ever touch other things, you can actually be helpful to younger founders who are building a company.

Michael Waitze 39:01
I understand my good looks like you want to say something. Yeah, I

Maaike Doyer 39:05
also think and maybe that might be one of the differentiators as well between the male and a female investors that we see. There’s a lot of curiosity as well that I see with our female investors that we really want to learn and want to make that startup successful. So yes, we’ll do everything, of course to share the knowledge and share network with that startup to make that startup successful. But at the same time, it’s also an offer just so excited and we want to be part of that journey in a way so there’s a lot of curiosity that might be a little bit more with with female investors.

Hester Spiegel 39:38
It’s the learning part also from RSI, right? I often joke that I am the mentor but I I actually believe that I learned more right because being an angel investor and a mentor and advisor helped me stay up to date with the latest technology right in the mindset of our future leaders, which is one of the parts that I personally enjoy most of angel investing.

Michael Waitze 39:58
I completely agree with you How do you get access to the best deals? Right? If you’re new? In any environment, how do you get access to the best deals, one of the things we’ve seen out here is that, you know, you see a lot of sort of tie cvcs, allocate 100 million $150 million to their venture capital business, send somebody to Silicon Valley, and just rock up and say, I’ve got 100 and something million dollars, I want to invest in the best deals, and everybody in Silicon Valley just looks at them and says, We’ve got like a $5 billion fund. Right? So they kind of get the scraps, how do you make sure that you’re getting access to the best deals, and that your partners in your angel investment group also get access to the best deals?

Maaike Doyer 40:44
What was really funny when we just started? Well, first of all, when our focus is accelerators a lot, because if we have the connections, partnerships with accelerators, you will see and hear about many, many startups, and they will fit you because there’s a lot of partnerships happening in this scene. But it was really funny when we when we just started, we noticed that we got a lot of inbounds for startups. And that was very specific, because then they set the reason why because of course, you get always a lot of inbound. But this was very specific inbound, because they said, We want female investors. We are either female founder ourselves, or we’re having a product that was focused on women as well. We only have men on our cap table. That’s not possible. We want female investors. So we we’ve seen a couple of cases where some of those good startups actually reached out because through there’s a lot of crap that you get every day, but as some real good ones that are actively looking like I don’t want just men on my cap table, I want women so I’m gonna reach out to Africa angels. So that’s, it’s been a good development.

Michael Waitze 41:53
Do you think, though, that this is part of a secular change that’s taking place in the investment world where it’s becoming an in the founding world, right as well, where it’s becoming self aware, right, because even five years ago, I don’t think that would have happened, but were founders themselves are saying male or female, or just listening to the din of the conversation going on in the startup world and saying, hey, you know what, instead of waiting for the investors to come to us, we can actually choose our investors too. And if we believe that diversity cannot be bolted on later, and I want to get back to this concept, because I have a philosophy around this, right? That we should then proactively look for the types of investors that we want, as opposed for waiting for them to come to us. And I’ll tell you why I think this, I think you could have 10 of the most progressive men in the world, right? I believe this and they can build something from scratch, and then think, Wait, we need to have diversity here. And then they try to get other people from a more diverse community in and they invite them one by one into that room, that virtual room and those people walk in and say, I don’t want to be in that. Like, I know you want me here. But I don’t even feel comfortable here from the beginning. Because there’s nobody else like I am here. But if you started from the beginning, and just have a diverse community, it’s easier to get other people that are different from the people that are in there from the beginning, because they can look around and say, Well, yeah, no one liked me. zener but nobody in the room looks the same as well. Does that make sense?

Hester Spiegel 43:23
Yeah, absolutely. Oh, and your point is that you should start building diversity early on, in order to beginning on this? Yes. I

Michael Waitze 43:31
mean, from scratch. Yeah, exactly.

Hester Spiegel 43:33
Yeah. Yeah. Because that’s how you grow. Right. I think your fundaments is deciding how you can grow and how you will grow, which people you attract. And talent is the key factor right at early stage companies is an in Southeast Asia, I think it’s increasingly different. It’s difficult. It’s more difficult than in Europe or in the US, I believe,

Michael Waitze 44:00
to find what kind of talent though

Hester Spiegel 44:03
I don’t know, I felt I don’t know if you had the same experience Mica. But when I came here, it was like, oh, that’s fresh blood on the island. Right. So that came from left and right and left from left to right. And this is kind of the fresh blood hunt like, Oh, let’s see what this is. And that I haven’t experienced I mean, I’ve moved from Amsterdam to London to Germany, and then here, I’ve never experienced that anywhere else. So that made me think that the search for talent is even more difficult here in Singapore.

Maaike Doyer 44:38
Well, I mean, when I was in San Francisco, I can tell you that talent 100 Silicon Valley is is a nightmare. I think it’s every region has its own issues of talent in general as an issue and especially these days, I don’t know what’s happening. It’s just it’s everywhere.

Michael Waitze 44:57
So entire companies in Silicon Valley like to Hiring right are being built around this idea that there’s not enough engineering talent in the United States. And even if it is there, it’s very expensive, right? So they’re trying to create this hiring arbitrage, right? By hiring engineers outside of the US, and yet allowing them to or enabling them to live remotely. I’m curious what the two of you think about this, though, a little bit off topic, right. But what was his name, Brian Chesky, recently announced in the United States that you can live anywhere now. Right, and still get paid the same salary so that they’re not going to and he was a little bit too specific for me, because he said, You can live anywhere in the United States, and will still pay you the same salary. But to be fair, the cost of living in Arkansas is very different than the cost of living in New York or in San Francisco, which is also different in Chicago. But do you feel like this hunt for talent is now going to change this arbitrage, where the value of an engineer in Vietnam is not going to be $50,000. If that engineer was living in the US, we would make in 225. But that those things are going to the they’re going to revert to some kind of mean, which is higher for the person in Vietnam as an example, and lower for the person in Silicon Valley. Does that make sense?

Maaike Doyer 46:18
I think what you what you see happening indeed, especially with the past two years that how everyone is going to go remote. There are quite some companies in Silicon Valley that said, if you no longer have your address here, right, right, you’re actually gonna get a pay cut. And I think that that makes sense. So I’m not so sure that that will work out. But yes, you can work from almost everywhere.

Michael Waitze 46:44
But my question is, you’re gonna get a pay cut, right? Yes. But if it’s going to revert to the mean, that mean is definitely not $50,000. So does that mean that as people can become remote, but the search for talent is still hard? That at some point, a company like Turing is not going to be necessary, right? Because the access to talent is going to be global? Because one of the things that Turing offers is they say, Look, we can get you a developer in Vietnam, who has a PhD from MIT, right in computer science, but wanted to go home for 50 grand, whereas the same person would start at 175 or 225. In Silicon Valley, or in New York, regardless of cost of living. Yeah. I think those things are going to revert to the mean, I’m curious what you both think, again, because you’ve lived all over the world, right?

Maaike Doyer 47:32
You see it shifting with everything, and definitely in, in larger cities, definitely in global jobs like tech jobs that you can do from everywhere. Absolutely. I think that’s when you saw that in India. And that started with 2030 years ago already, where there was a lot of the offshoring happening, and where you can just see that salaries are increasing and increasing every year, much faster than anywhere else. Right. Because everyone bills toward that same mean, yeah.

Hester Spiegel 48:04
I think it will take a long time to for really to equalize to a level playing field, because there’s always two people who will keep the favorable side of, you know, having different regimes intact. However, remote working has become so normal, if you cannot demand being an employer, from your employees to stay in one place. That is just that there, I think a paradigm shift has taken place. So I think that’s very important first step that has been taken. Now, I think the standardization and the regulation, such as, as tax. Maaike and I were talking about it earlier this week, needs to catch up, right with this concept. How does that work? If you travel? If you live somewhere else? How does your your where you pay your income tax versus your passport? How does it all work out? So again, this side of the world needs to catch up, I think and provide some frameworks.

Michael Waitze 49:00
What is the relationship? So Michael mentioned earlier, this relationship with accelerator programs, you mentioned Kaizen vest earlier in the context of educational investment, and you are being a venture partner there. So this is seems like part of that way to get access to great deals. You should know that we had Sandeep and Jeju on one of our other shows really great, really team of people. Yeah, I reached out to them, because I just thought what they were doing was amazing. Yeah, I’m curious how that relationship works, particularly in the context of the rest of the accelerator relationships that you maintain right?

Hester Spiegel 49:32
Now, Kaizen fest is investing in later stage companies, right. So typically late series A or Series B and onwards, however, and that is also due to just the character of these two men is that they get engaged with founders quite early on right in their in their early stage, so that they can then they actually already add value at quite an early stage. But for them, it’s a way to get to know the founders and if they are you No may have the right material to really get far. So yeah, it’s more the other way around. So because of my work with epic angels and my work as a mentor at various accelerators in the universities, I get deals on my radar that are early stage that I kind of bring forward to Sandeep and Jay, to saying, look, look what has come on the market in the future of learning and work. And then sometimes they have a conversation and the connection is made.

Maaike Doyer 50:28
And I also think, like, for example, at this moment, we’re looking like, Hey, we’re looking into Southeast Asia, we’re not seeing that many deals yet from Vietnam, even though we know that the startup scene is growing, but somehow, we’re not receiving the deals yet. So we need to work on that. So what we’ve been actively done, we reached out to a couple of VCs accelerator programs in the region. And as a result, I’m now going to be an entrepreneur in residence for enpower, which is a female founder focused accelerator program, Vietnam that’s gonna run this summer. So I’m going to be actively part of that, as well as entrepreneur residence to help some of these startups, business modeling, for example, but also how to get funding and these type of topics. And with that, of course, we want to increase our access to to to the best deals out there.

Michael Waitze 51:18
Okay, I’m gonna let you both go. What’s the best way to get in touch with you? Micah Doyle has to Spiegel the founders of epic angels. This was amazing. Mica go first, what’s the best way for people to get in touch with you?

Unknown Speaker 51:29
LinkedIn is really good. Or go to our website, EpicAngelNetwork.com. If you want to join us as an investor, you can sign on there but also if you’re a startup and you want to share your pitch deck with us saying websites

Unknown Speaker 51:46
saying LinkedIn always good. Got a bit of a long last name but I hope with Hester Spiegel, you get there. Otherwise, by Epic Angels were very approachable. whichever button you click on the website, it comes with Maaike and I, India on the other end. So yeah, yeah, please, if you’re curious to find out more, starting angel investing dipping your toe in, very happy to tell more about it in short composition.

Michael Waitze 52:13
Thank you both very much. Thanks for having us. Thank you.


Follow Michael Waitze and the Asia Tech Podcast here:

Facebook – Michael Waitze

Facebook – Asia Tech Podcast

LinkedIn – Michael Waitze

Twitter – Michael Waitze

Latest Episodes:

EP 324 – Creating a Canon for Progress: Empowering Global Entrepreneurs with Essential Knowledge – Tamara Winter – Commissioning Editor of Stripe Press

EP 324 – Creating a Canon for Progress: Empowering Global Entrepreneurs with Essential Knowledge – Tamara Winter – Commissioning Editor of Stripe Press

“Well, we think of this catalog as, ideally, a kind of cannon for progress, both in a very sort of explicit sense when it comes to, again, growing the GDP of the internet, making it much easier for people who have very ambitious ideas about a company they want to build to do that, and in an easier way than they might have to do if they were just trying to figure out everything themselves. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.” – Tamara Winter

read more
EP 323 – Building Businesses and Breaking Barriers: A Global Entrepreneurial Odyssey – Meenah Tariq – CEO of Metric

EP 323 – Building Businesses and Breaking Barriers: A Global Entrepreneurial Odyssey – Meenah Tariq – CEO of Metric

In this episode of the Asia Tech Podcast, ⁠Meenah Tariq⁠, CEO of ⁠Metric⁠ and an experienced entrepreneur with deep roots in emerging markets, shared her journey and the lessons she’s learned along the way. Meenah discussed her early introduction to entrepreneurship in Pakistan, beginning with childhood ventures that sparked a lifelong passion for business.

read more
EP 322 – Stripe’s Strategy Shift: How Open Payment Systems Benefit Primer – Gabriel Le Roux – co-Founder and CEO of Primer

EP 322 – Stripe’s Strategy Shift: How Open Payment Systems Benefit Primer – Gabriel Le Roux – co-Founder and CEO of Primer

“What we are saying is, hey, right now you have this unified infrastructure that allows you to do payment experimentation. And guess what, if you want to try and test different services, now you have access to an app store of services, you go in, in the Primer dashboard, they can just like toggle on and off, like the services you want to use. You can add test them, AB testing in the world of payments is simply impossible, right?”—

The Asia Tech Podcast welcomed Gabriel Le Roux, a co-Founder and the CEO of ⁠Primer⁠ back to the show for a quick catch up. Gabriel had written a post on how Stripe’s new openness would change the payment space and I wanted to record about it.

read more