Learn more about investments’ magic formulas and how to accelerate a startup successfully.
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Wil Benton is a Co-Founder & Director of Metta, the startup-supporting business, an angel investor with 35+ investments, and a regular mentor for a variety of startups.
Over the last 5 years, Wil has personally worked with more than 70 early-stage technology businesses and has helped invest over £4m.
He’s also diverse in his hobbies - the creation of chart-topping record labels and award-winning digital publications speak for themselves.
Wil kindly agreed to answer a few of our questions and share his incredible experience with Apptension. As a result, today, you can learn more about investments’ magic formulas, how to accelerate a startup successfully, and most importantly, ‘What makes a good and a bad investor.’ Let’s dive right into it.
Nat: What is happening in the industry at the moment? How are you managing to follow it up?
Wil: We're thankfully through some of the worst impacts of the pandemic, the industry's settled into our new way of working, and there's been an interesting uptick in investment activity (and capital available). A lot is going on, so keeping on top of it all can feel a bit like a challenge at times! I try to keep up with many conversations with industry colleagues, follow the regular newsletters/ Twitter accounts, etc. I guess you could say I'm a networker, so doing what I can through my network is usually how I try to follow things.
Nat: Your career path looks impressive. Over so many achievements, projects, and roles you had in your career, what's your main role at the moment?
Wil: Thanks! I'm co-founder and director at Metta. We facilitate transformative innovation as a force for good with startups, industry, and governments. I'm also an active angel investor (~35 investments to date), Venture Partner at Aerospace Xelerated, The Boeing Company's global startup accelerator program, and I run a few record labels in my spare time.
“Always be selling!”
Nat: I know, it might sound like a very standard question, but still. What are the main factors and criteria for choosing and investing in startups, your "sweet spot"? And do you have your own "magic formula"?
Wil: I generally tend to invest in the early stages, where my experience as a founder is. At a pre-/seed stage, I look for a great founding team (who are open to advice and feedback/ constructive criticism) working on something new and defensible; ideally, they're building something with experience in the market. A large target market's the second most important thing I look for. Then, the product is generally last as it usually changes as the idea and team evolve into a business ready to scale.
Nat: You've supported numerous startups. And general statistics are brutal; 90% of startups will never make it. What does it take to be in the 10% of startups that are not failing?
Wil: Know what you're doing, why you're doing it, and who you're doing it for. That should be your laser focus. Be good at asking for help, listening to advice, and always be selling!
Nat: Once the startup is on board, what is your duty in terms of supporting them, and what's still on the company itself?
Wil: During an accelerator program, I work with the startups in each cohort around investment and networking. I also act as a mentor alongside the rest of the program team to support the founders through the accelerator itself and beyond. We act as impartial advisors, providing guidance that the founders can choose to act upon (or not) based on our experience designing and delivering accelerator programs (or as founders ourselves). We offer program perks from a broad range of startup providers (Amazon, Digital Ocean, Stripe, Hubspot, etc.) to help optimize the teams, their products, and their way of doing business. Our job is to help train the teams to make their own decisions and have the skills/ experience to make decisions better than before joining a program. We don't do the work for them; we help them learn how to do it better themselves!
I take a similar approach with my investments (where/ when I'm actively involved).
“We don't do the work for them; we help them to learn how to do it better themselves!”
Nat: What issues/troubles are you going through while cooperating with startups? Do you get help from your Partners aside? What kind of Partners are you working with?
Wil: We do what we can as a program team (as do I personally on the investment front) to find startups and entrepreneurs that want to work with us, so we avoid any issues working with the startups when a program starts. For issues the startups face, the tech market is stupidly competitive from a hiring point of view at the moment, so people power and being able to compete with the bigger/ more established competitors (or just Facebook and Google). There's lots of capital floating around at the moment, so helping startups navigate funding from the right investor is another area of focus.
I'm fortunate to work with an amazing team and lots of great partners from across various industries. We do what we can from a collaborative - instead of competitive - working environment, so always keen to develop novel partnerships. Feel free to reach out if that's of interest!
Nat: What are the qualities of a Good Investor, what are of a Bad Investor?
Wil: A good investor knows their place, is open with their network and advice, and helps their investees to reach that next step. Head to Landscape to read the reviews of what makes a bad investor.
Nat: If you met 10 years old Wil, what would you tell him?
Wil: Enjoy the journey, and don't be scared to see where you end up!
“Enjoy the journey, and don't be scared to see where you end up!”
Your biggest regret?
Not knowing when to pull the plug.
Your best investment?
There are a few I'm pretty pleased with! Check out Guardian Angel.
If I had a 2mln $, what would you suggest I do with it?
Invest 4/5 in sensible things, play with the rest.
Investor or DJ?
A vinyl player or digital?
Digital, just for ease of use/ transport!
Small underground club or a big stadium to play in?
Small club, big sound system.