Every week we talk to a business angel, one of the early-stage investors who collectively inject £1.5bn a year into British start‑up companies. The Sunday Times
Christina Bechhold Russ co-founded the Empire Angels network in New York six years ago. It brings young professionals together to invest in early stage companies across all sectors.
The group’s typical investment size is about $75,000 (£58,000). It has backed restaurant review site The Infatuation, Zoomcar — a self-drive car rental company — and The Prom, a Broadway musical. Russ, 33, moved to Britain this year and will launch a London chapter of Empire Angels next month. She works for Samsung Next Ventures, the South Korean tech giant’s investment arm.
When we set up Empire Angels, there were a lot of angel groups in the US that had been around for a long time, but they were frankly made up of older, tired men and that’s not really the environment in which a young professional wants to spend the little free time they have to start investing. We are peers who look to invest in our peers.
We do most of our communication on Slack. Anyone can post a deal idea, everyone takes a look and we vote on the opportunities each month. It speeds things up. We’ve tried to cut out a lot of the bureaucracy that can exist in angel networks.
Tax breaks help
The EIS [Enterprise Investment Scheme] is amazing. How many more people would be interested in angel investing if schemes like that existed around the world?
We look for resilience in the entrepreneurs we back. It’s probably the hardest thing to test for, but when we find it in someone, they have almost always proved successful.
One criticism of the start-up scene in Europe has been that it tends to copy things that have been successful elsewhere. I’m starting to see more original ideas here, which is really exciting.
Next disrupted industry
People are thinking a lot more about their data and where it lives in the world. I am interested in how you can put control [of data] back into the hands of consumers.