Business Consultant | Angel Investor
Imogen Aaronson | Business Consultant | Angel Investor

"Tell your stories, communicate kindly and just keep going"

- Imogen Aaronson

Imogen Aaronson on her experiences of being a consultant and the background of Imogine.

Talk Takeaways

Imogen Aaronson, the founder of IMO-GINE, reflects on her consultancy experience, her goals, and her own roadmap in the startup world. She shared insights on branding how important it is for the business to understand and define in order to get their message across. Imogen also shared her investment process and how she likes to be passionately involved with people that have a purpose.


With +7years of experience in the tech and venture capital world, living between London and New York, Imogen’s passion and drive never changed. Building brands, businesses, and communities, all with a real connection and purpose.

This is what led Imogen Aaronson to launch IMO-GINE.

She truly believes from her experiences, that the power in business, but also in life, is making the right connections that form those long-term, organic, “feel-good” relationships.

IMO-GINE was created to not only build good “relationships” but to find and form an essential bond. To activate the “divine-soul perspective”.
She loves to work with passionate people, entrepreneurs and founders with a drive to make a difference.

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

JP: Thank you very much for joining us today. Super excited. I have like a million questions I want to ask you, which I think is always the best way to start, but I’m gonna let you introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit about where you come from, what you’ve been up to, where you’re going. I know that sounds like a lot, but one thing about you that we don’t know.

IA: Okay, that’s a lot, Jeffrey. So how can I introduce myself? So you’re currently on the phone? So we’re speaking to me, I’m in London, always lived in London. It’s always been home-home, but I’ve travelled to the US, New York, Dubai, and other countries for work. Never being told to do it, but always chosen to do it. And I summarize and saying that what I do now is I’m a startup consultant, but my specialty and real love is helping founders and brands tell their stories to become successful, whether it’s through investment, reaching an audience. I believe it all starts with a story. And then either your audience will come and then the investment will come. So it’s kind of joining in the dots as well. So with 7 and a half years experience now in the space of meeting all sorts of types of investors, I’d like to say I can navigate different personalities. I’m gonna almost become a thing of it. You know, people go to a dating coach to find, you know, someone to match them with the right person. I almost would do that in the startup world, matching the right people, fill in the missing gaps, whether it’s looking for a developer, looking for an investor. Again, I love having conversations with people. So I’m the conversation person that comes in, helps build strategies and connects you to the right person. And unfortunate enough that I’ve worked in both sides of the industry, I’ve walked what worked in startups And I’ve also worked in venture capital and that’s in the UK and the US. So I’d like to say I’ve seen my fair share, but I’m still young, I’m 28 years old, but I’ve been in this game for a while and I’m lucky that it’s almost in my DNA. This is something you don’t know about me. My great uncle is actually a gentleman called Lord Young and he worked in the government with Margaret Thatcher, as her social enterprise advisor. So he was a huge pioneer in actually setting up in the government and pioneering and acknowledging how important there needed to be platforms and things put in place for entrepreneurs. And he’s one of my or his family, he’s an advisor for me. He’s the first person I went to go see to ask him what a startup was when I was looking to get involved in startups. That happened to be a successful startup that he ends up investing in because he absolutely loved the business. So I would say similarly, it’s, I think you kind of, when you feel that you can have conversations with people quite close to him about what you do and share a passion, you know that you’re in the right path, and I learned that early on talking to him. I learned a lot through him about my late grandpa, similarly, he was an entrepreneur in his own right, he was the chairman of the BBC and I got to learn about him recently. This is stuff I didn’t know through a diary that my grandma gave me and he wrote every single day in his role before he sadly passed away. What a day to day was like running as chairman of BBC. And this is the one thing that I’ve learned that when you are in the startup world or you have a position, do you are passionate about. Take a minute out of your day, just to write something about that day that you learned or gained or anything, and you end up building out your own diary that you can look back on and reflect on and you don’t know who can benefit of it later down the line, just someone who’s one or two words. So that’s a bit of summary about, I guess something you didn’t know about me, how I got into the space, why I think it’s the right space for me and how I’m, yes, what I do now on a day to day.

JP: Brilliant. I love it. And so you have a- you started a consultancy I guess, is that the best form?

IA: Yeah.

JP: And the name of your consultancy? What is it?

IA: The name of my consultancy is Imogine. So it’s Imogine, is obviously my name and engine. So it’s a combination of Imogen and engine combined together. Initially I wanted to be called “Imagine” because all about imagination and letting things flow. But I started my consultancy at the beginning of the pandemic and obviously imagine was not going to be available and Companies House. So I looked through what the meaning of my name was and what I wanted my role to play. And I tried a few ideas and then just with the help of my actually my accountant, came up with Imogene and I was like, you know, an engine makes things move and what do I do? I go into businesses and the definition of my name combined, which I’m sure you read on my website and I thought, “Okay, I want to make things move. I want to put my personality into it,” combine the two together, and we have Imogine.

JP: So can you just- can you and the origins of your name is what is the background of the name?

IA: How I got my name?

JP: Because- what’s that?

IA: How I, how I got my name, Imogen?

JP: Yes, like your your name, is it from what’s the background of it? Only because you use it in your business. And I find that obviously amazing because it’s very synergetic. You don’t really have to go far from the tree on this one. So people might be like shouting your brain, but they’re actually shouting your name. So it’s kind of neat and I love that.

IA: Yeah so, it’s funny because when I was young, people used to say how Imogen wasn’t a very common name, but in America you say Imogene. So it sounds the exact same as it offends talking to a US Client. But to be honest that the name of my origin, I’ve got a twin brother, I’ve got two older sisters, my parents didn’t know what to call me. Imogen it was, it dates back to Shakespearean, it means last born, innocent one, pure. So I don’t think my parents thought, “Hey, we’ll call our daughter Imogen. It had a lovely tone to it.” And then I think as it became a more popular name and as people started trying to understand their names in school, I started to google it and it’s similar with star signs. You know, people want to know what their star sign means.

JP: Yep.

IA: I thought I want to know and understand if I suit my name, do I suit my name? Do I suit my star sign? And maybe that’s just what I’m like as a person, I like to understand the meaning behind words. That’s how I get to tell stories and work with founders and dig deeper. And again, I think, you know, if you are starting a personal consultancy, and you are doing on your own, you do want to add your personal touch to it. So people know that you are heavily invested and you’re serious and you’re giving it your all, I guess.

JP: I love it. Well, Bubbagen, I think even if I’m saying it in the American way, the British way, I think it’s pretty, pretty interesting and very exciting. So congrats on starting that. So if we take go back a little bit and you’ve shared some great stories of startups you’ve worked with and the things that you’ve done in this space, but the part that really intrigues you the most about this, and you and I dived into this before, and we’re gonna kind of unravel this again, was the whole thing about branding, and it’s such an important piece to a startup. And I think a lot of startups don’t realize how important branding really makes to their business, and we can emphasize and tell people, “Hey, you need to create a brand and you need to push it out there and get people involved in your brand.” But I find that 98% of people are builders and they just want to build, and then they’re like, “Build a brand later.” They don’t realize that whole time that you were building, you could have been building your brand before you got to that launch. So when you’re looking at these companies that you’re working for, do you find or that you’re investing, you find you’re actually attracted to their brand before you’re actually attracted to what they’re doing?

IA: Yeah.

JP: And what they are?

IA: Yeah, 100%. I think whether I’m choosing to invest my time, working with people, and what I actually tend to do is, early stage startups don’t have as much cash flow. So I tend to strike, equity agreements to also show that I’m passionately invested and I wanted to succeed, but it’s also when it comes to personally investing it, and I love from making mistakes, it’s who is the person building a brand and firstly what is their story? So, the branding doesn’t, for me, it doesn’t just start with what’s the business or what’s the brand’s brand story, It’s what’s the person’s behind its story, and it doesn’t need to be an extravagant. glowing, flamboyant story. Who are they? What are their values? What’s their vision? You know, how many things have they overcome? If they haven’t, how would they come overcome something? And it’s you know, humanizing and having normal conversations as if you’re you’ve met them on the bus or in a coffee shop then once you understand who they are and how they think and what they do. You- for me I would look at the brand and the business, and so commonly they’ve lost a lot of their identity and their story in what they’re building because they don’t understand how important marrying the two up are because if you’re starting a business and you’re serious about starting a business, you want it for life. You want it to be something you’re proud of. Yes, everyone wants to have an exit strategy or to IPO in sale but it’s still part of you and your identity. So I would say a lot of people you know they read books like the lean startup and they want to get it out there. And the thing is it’s like when you’re again you identify your audience it’s, you don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot and it’s really making calculated decision of are you a luxury brand? Or you know what your target market in your audience? Because it’s so hard to rebrand. Companies end up having to spend so much money in time that they’ve already spent money and time on trying to grab awareness or attention of an audience when it becomes so confusing and I think there’s already so much noise out there and you’ve probably had to make so much noise already. So, yes whilst the tech is probably, you know, if you are a tech startup, of course that matters. But the argument is we didn’t have money for marketing and we didn’t have money to bring in someone to help us with a branding in the story. And it’s like, but that’s what you then spend your investment money on. So it’s like, actually let’s slow down a little bit because like we both known everyone knows there’s always tech iterations and mistakes and think about what your story is and how you can tell it in a compelling way that doesn’t require too much time and money, which can correlate nicely with tech because whether it’s, you’re talking to an investor or you’re trying to get an audience’s attention, it’s a story, regardless. Everything is a story. You know, you’re an author and every conversation you have is with a potential co-author and it’s like, it’s not trying to create a story that everyone’s gonna want to read because not everyone reads the same books day to day. Some people put it down, some people forget about it, but others will be like, “Oh, I wish there was a sequel.” And I think that that’s what people and what I’ve learned is don’t be scared about telling your story in your way or be hesitant about getting it out there and bring some personality to what you’re doing and don’t be afraid to start small. You know, build it up slowly, build momentum. You know, there’s chapters in books for a reason, there’s titles and books for a reason. Investment decks, the structure for a reason.

JP: Hey, you’re being too logical right now.

IA: Okay, sorry. (Laughs)

JP: I’m just kidding, keep going, this is brilliant. You’re making a lot of sense and that’s all that matters. Yeah, completely right. And that’s awesome.

IA: And the thing is, it’s about, again, I’m making sense and I hope I make sense to everyone. It’s- I’m not using long words, buzzwords, terminologies, it’s you’ve started a business, right? Something drove you to start that business. You have a story. Now, let’s think about how we can tell that story to a wider audience. To get more people, press subscribe, let’s say on Amazon to bring people into it. That’s what it really is. And that’s why would sometimes when people ask me what I do when I’m out and about, I say, “I tell stories,” and they just kind of look at me because you don’t want to sometimes say, “Oh I’m working in startups, well, I’m supporting startups” because The statistic that 99 9% failed, some people who don’t understand how incredible the spaces just brush it off, like “yeah.” Or other people who look at it and they’re just, I don’t know, I think simplify it, you know that kiss, keep it simple, stupid. It sounds quite basic to say, but the over complicating areas that you end up just shooting yourself in the foot, I think humanize it, make it enjoyable. There’s a one thing that we all have in common as humans is when we’re young and we told a story we touched upon this last time everyone transcends into a calm place where they’re not really thinking, they’re just being present. So I think when you’re doing anything, it’s about bringing the presence into the room and again, listen, to some extremely complicated businesses out there in different fields, my field of my expertise as purpose driven platforms. Founders are building something that is going to make a difference, but it’s something I relate to. So, again, I would never go into something that I wouldn’t use and understand myself, which, again, there’s different types of investors and founders. Don’t do something you don’t understand, don’t invest in something, you don’t understand, you want to be adding value in what you’re creating or investing in. And I think that’s where sometimes you can get muddied waters where investors actually invest, but they don’t really know what they’re investing in, or found to start businesses that they think some wonderful idea. But not being rude, but have no place in starting because they don’t really know why they’re starting all their value and passion isn’t connected. So it’s like, do your own due diligence on yourself, like check yourself first, before you start a company or before you investment company and make sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons and there’s value for everyone. I think with the pandemic and COVID and other investors, I’ve been speaking to, even their narratives changing. It’s like, you know, I want to make an impact and you know, I was realizing I was running around investing in way too many companies and I want to be doing something that’s impactful and has value because there was panic, firstly, there was fear, then there was slowing down, then there was less noise than there was less to do.

So I actually hope that this time is going to set a new trend for investors and startups to realize it’s not a rat race. You know, there is time and use the time and rather than trying to compete, just focus on what you’re doing. And yeah, there’s always going to be competitors everywhere. But again, not- no competitor can replicate your story. If your story is authentic to you and your business, you can have the exact same- me and you could walk into a room Jeffrey, and we can have the exact same business. We are completely different humans. You can tell your story completely differently and I’ll tell my story completely differently. The right people will gravitate to you and the right people gravitate to me and presumably will hopefully what we’re both trying to build or sell and talk about is to have a positive impact in a space not detrimental. So great. Both of us win with the right people. We don’t need to compete.

JP: Awesome. The, I love the analogies and when, what you were just sharing, there is kind of the whole premise of where, why we create open people network or OPN was the fact that we all can compete, but we can all work together and we don’t all have to be thinking that there’s five of us running the same business in a 20 square kilometer radius.

Why not figure out how to leverage each other? Build it up in all grow because 97% of Canada’s small business. So why not utilize the brainpower around you or the connections or everybody to work together? But to take it back to your comment about the chapters in a book, I love that analogy because you know, you don’t get to the end of the book and you don’t understand the climax or the peak of what’s going on in the story until you’ve read through the first few chapters. And the thing is that you’re not going to go to the last chapter and ruin it all and not figure out how you got to that chapter. And very few businesses are going to be able to go from zero to hero and you know, overnight. So how do you slowly go through those chapters? And I do believe to your point is that in the first few chapters, in your build face and the things you’re doing, one of those chapters is going to be on branding and it’s going to be on storytelling and you don’t want to skip that chapter and push it near the end because then you might not get to finish reading writing the book, not alone reading it.

So in the, in that time that you’ve been kind of working with the startups and obviously you’re gravitating to the companies that you feel have put some sort of storyline together and some branding together where you’re attracted to them and think, “I can really take this and make it go that much further.” What are the things that really entice you about? Not just the space, but the startups you go after it? Does it have to be in deep tech? Does it have to be in making it up, skincare or hygiene or is it in nuclear power? Like what are the things that you’re drawn to from a branding perspective that allow you to want to invest or to work for them?

IA: Yeah, it’s oh- that’s a really great question. Why do- basically, how do I gravitate towards the people that I work with them and make the decision? I’ll be honest, 6-7 years ago, anyone that was like, “Wow, you’re great, I love the way you think you can help us.” I think, “Great, I need it.” It definitely shocked me in the first couple of times and I learned from mistakes that don’t work with everyone because they want to work with you. Do your own due diligence. Maybe some people don’t have the same work ethic or drive or passion. So to put it back, I slowed down and I started to, I was in a very fortunate position where I’ve never had to seek clients or investments and again, I think it boils down to the conversations and being quite active in the space. So pre-covid going to events, talking to people, you know, I was a young female in the space and I was just going around talking to people as and what I could and introducing myself, connecting to people on LinkedIn, listening to podcasts, writing comments. I started to really understand people personalities better in the working world, right? And I have my own due diligence level of how- first it sounds weird, do I get goose bumps? A couple of people who are quite tuned with their feelings will get goosebumps. I’m sure you do as well, when, when something you feel it ignites you inside, but you can’t let it excite you too much. You have to ground yourself. And it’s when I get contacted, like for example, I invested recently into Women’s Wellness Platform and it came through the remarkable woman, I met a female entrepreneurs dinner last year and she said, “These amazing women, they’re building this platform. I know you help startups, fundraise, and I know that you’re a young female and you’d be passionate about this.” I got on a call, a zoom, a couple days later with this woman and I was blown away by her factual knowledge and her experience combined. It was, I couldn’t get enough of it. She was she fully lived and breathed and this business and how she had met her business partners, the work they had done and their vision.

But what I loved the most was where she held up her hands to say where their weaknesses were, where they were amateurs in. What they were seeking help with. But she knew it wasn’t going to be a hurdle. It was a language that she is the determination and it wasn’t just that we want your money, we’re looking for investors. It was, they had done their research a little bit on me what I had done and my previous businesses. And it’s not a lot. I haven’t done a lot. It’s not hard to look at what people have done, right? And I just knew it was going to make an impact. It’s challenging the way that experts, I don’t want to sell it wrong, but the experts, female athletes don’t have the right support to train as men do. So she- it really hit an emotional chord of me and simply with the people I work with, it’s- it really is important that you like the person and I’m not saying being their best friend, but again, let me just highlight, I work with early stage startups, right? So I’m really at the high risk stage. It’s not like they can have hundreds and thousands of pounds of revenue. So for me, if you’re going in at the early stage, whether it’s for consultancy or for investment, fundamentally, do you like the person, do you respect one another? Have a couple of conversations, meetings, walks, whatever you can do, its pre or post covid and how much have they studied the space? You know, it could be a passion project, but what have they actually learned? And again, it’s I’ve worked with startups before, where I sat down and said, “I don’t understand your story and I don’t understand your brand, but do you mind if I tell you what I think you’re telling me,” and I’ll sit with them and we end up having the most incredible conversation because there’s no ego and set definitive reason of: “This is what I’m doing. This is my brand story.” There’s flexibility in their thinking. And if you don’t have flexibility in your thinking in this space, whether you’re a founder or an entrepreneur or an investor, I just don’t know what you’re doing because it’s not smooth sailing, it’s not an ordinary business or an industry. It’s- that’s the exciting part, the uncertainty of it. But being knowing that it’s uncertain and being okay with it being uncertain. Anyway, it’s having these conversations and you see the light bulb moments and all I turn around and it says, “I’m not telling anything you don’t know. I’m just packaging up in a different way.” And I say, “How many people and how many conversations have you had with people about your brand story?” And they say, “Well I haven’t, I just told them my story,” “That’s okay. What about if we strip it back a bit and you talked to a few more people about it rather than being so closed off?” I think, again, you’ll see that some people have become so protective over their businesses because they think they’re at risk of being copied. Well they think they’re at risk of a competitor coming in and yes, of course you’re always going to be at that risk, if you’re doing something right. So it’s like why would there be someone doing something similar? It’s almost like well done, okay, carry on going, carry on going. And I think it’s okay to tell people or let people read your book before you publish it. Have a couple of conversations, speak to a brand consultant and here that point of view, it’s a point of view. And I think when you become open and I’ve seen a guy do this recently with his business, he held his hands up and he was like, “You know what, you’re totally right. We’ve overcomplicated it. We really need to strip it back.” And I’ve watched his social media page completely transform the whole business and he loves it. He once said, “I’ve dumbed it down.” “So you haven’t dumbed it down,” he said, “But you know what I mean?”

I said, “Yeah, you’ve got outside of your heads and you told a story very simply, and that’s where the magic is.” And there’s other founders that just aren’t interested. You know, when similarly, you’re investing your money early stage, you want to work with them. Again, for me, it’s flexibility in thinking in such an uncertain space. And I think if we have more flexibility in that and we all pick the right people to work with, because again, it’s a people’s driven business and industry, then I think the 99.9% of startups fail that can be checked and probably improved.

JP: No, that’s awesome. And how much of that do you find like the conversation you’re having with the woman business that you were speaking to? How much of that was maturity that when you were talking to her, if she researched you, she knew about you and what you’re doing. And she was a listener, she was taking input. It kind of sounds like she had a smarter approach, maybe she’s had some years of experience. So she’s been through business and she’s like, “You know what, I’m here to get the most out of this moment with you, here’s my brand,” and then you guys were able to collaborate. Whereas sometimes startups go in with the approach that they really need to be defined, focused, maybe like the gentleman was and he was just,”Hey, this is what I’ve got,” and they’re super technical and you’re like, “You really need to peel this onion back because you’re trying to sell is not what you sell, your not realizing that.” Whereas the other person was kind of coming in with the approach that “Hey, you know what, I’ve got 45 minutes, I’m gonna learn so much from her right now that if I don’t come in with this open attitude, I’m gonna lose 45 minutes of free opportunity.”

IA: Yeah. Do you know what? That’s a great question. Okay I’ll start by saying this introduction and how I think it came down to maturity is because it came through it- wasn’t a cold approach. So I just want to put that out there. I think there’s such a difference between a cold approach in the first time a conversation with someone and this was an introduction through someone with a lovely worded email. So it was a little bit easier should I say? But that’s not to say that people shouldn’t always act as if they’ve been introduced personally to add a personal touch. Definitely maturity but I wouldn’t say by age you know I think you know I’m 28 years old but my maturity has come through acknowledging mistakes, holding my hands up, and having advisers around me. But you could have someone who’s less mature than me at 50 years old and starting in business and think they know everything because they’re not willing to.

JP: I completely agree.

IA: So I think it’s maturity in the sense of how you..

JP: More business maturity, more understanding? It doesn’t mean you have to have an age of majority here. You just have to have- you’ve been through the wringer, you get things a little bit cleaner, and you’re able to utilize the people in the room with you. Like you’re going in with the approach that I don’t have to sell you. I have to work with you and I want to be able to learn from you and if I open the door I get more out of the opportunity.

IA: 100%. And I think there’s so many ways right now with technology to, even in COVID this young girl reached out to me, she- it’s called Lumi, I think. Yeah, I think it’s called Lumi. I don’t know if someone, anyone’s use it for you, but you can send an investment deck to someone and video record you talking to them personally.

So she’s saying, “Hi, Imogen how are you?” And she’s talking me through the investment deck as if I am with her, it was my first experience receiving one of these. Normally, it’s just the Linkedin’s and the emails, and sometimes they’re somewhat personal. And she really again done her research. I think she’s 22-23 years old again, but she’s her business maturity and she’s seen previous my small investments I’ve done. And I just want to help immediately.

JP: She’s hustling. She’s good.

IA: Literally. And I was like, again, like I’m a very, I can’t speak for all investors. Some investors just want a return of investment. They want to know projections, valuation. That’s not me. The type of investor I am is I, as you can see by the name of my business. I want to passionately be involved with people that have purpose and if that means that they have to have late night calls with them or WhatsApp chats or, you know, we stripped back and we critique everything. I want to work with people, invest in people that- we all share the same thing that we want it to succeed because we like the idea. You know, everything else, again, you can build upon, you can build the team, the advisers, the investment. It comes to surrounding yourself with the right people. And I think that it’s like with anything in life, it’s so everything’s relationships and it’s communication. So when you’re reaching out to investors, use platforms like Lumi, how do you make it a little bit more personal? Don’t be over the top. I have someone automatically say, “Hey, Imo!” I mean no one calls me Imo and my parents don’t call me Imo. “Hey, Imo, thought checked out your Linkedin” and I was like, “Okay.” But again, I’m not going to be harsh on that person because I’ve been like, he’s been through the ropes. I know how hard it is. So I’ll be like, “Oh, hi..” and I’ll get back to people because I am where I am, because people got back to me. So if I don’t pay it forward and respond, even if it’s saying no, I’m still doing more to help and I think this paying it forward element of what’s taking a call with someone and giving them a bit of advice or, you know, we have this conversation you’re becoming more hands on. I think it’s such a creative space, like we get so many doors closed on us, so many knows, so many hard hitting questions asked to us. Quite rightly so right. You’re starting a business, know your financials. But when they go in so harshly, I’ve been in rooms where people critique of my evaluations or it’s like, well, okay, then maybe you mentioned you and come to in the first case. So again, that was my mistake navigating, not going to certain people that weren’t right for me, but I had to learn that you have to build resilience. So it’s a journey. I think it’s navigating. And I would say reaching out to people in the space to get advice or like I said, letting people hear your stories before you broadcast it to the world. Just know you’re never going to be right, you’re never going to be wrong. Just be okay with what decision you make nd then you can progress one way or another. And I had to learn that being wrong was okay, which took me a while.

JP: And being open to criticism and being able to utilize that learning to enhance and build yourself forward.

IA: Definitely.

JP: I like that when you were sharing kind of that story of how the mature 22 year old reached out to you and how you were connected. This was a few years back when I was at a conference and I remember looking around the room and I saw this gentleman really far back and kind of just caught my eye for some odd reason and then I was still scanning around and just whatever doing. I look up and then the person was getting closer and I was like, oh my God, I think they’re coming to talk to me and I’m always trying to hide and tuck myself away. I’m not really that I guess out there at things and he comes up and he grabbed my hand, he’s like, “Jeffrey! So excited to meet you.” And I was like, “How did you know my name? Like this is amazing.” But the reason it caught it was that he was very direct. And then when he shook my hand and reached out to talk, he said, “I have learned everything about you. I came here just to speak to you.” And what I found interesting about that is that one, became instant friends because he knew a lot about me. But he did the same thing that I would do if I went to a conference. I will only go if there’s someone there that I need to meet because other than that, I can’t figure out how to go there. I can’t just sit there and zonk out. But he took that level of intrigue by offsetting it by making it friendly and adaptable quickly so that you felt part of whatever was going to happen and then you were more interested to engage later. Even if I felt awkward for that 15 minute conversation, the end point was that he knew that he would touch a chord with you because he had some information on you and people feel more acclimatized when somebody knows something. Even if you think there’s no way someone would know who you are, there would be information. So the approach that she took is brilliant because it warmed you up by letting you feel that someone did their homework, brought it in.

IA: Your barriers come down automatically. And I think it’s the one word that’s going through my brain when you’re talking is purpose. He came with a purpose. You said you wouldn’t go to something without. It’s a purpose. Again, it’s all about having this purpose. You’re building a business. What’s your purpose? You want an investor? What’s their purpose for investing into you? You want to become an investor? Okay. In what? what’s your purpose? You know, your purpose, you’ll do great things.

JP: Damn. Love it.

IA: So it’s just, it’s just what’s your ever talking about? What’s your “why” and becoming more intuitive, But it’s very simple, purpose. We’re not purpose driven. It doesn’t matter what you do, what sector, industry, job, nothing. Just having a purpose, that’s it.

JP: People can get behind that. They understand your focus, they understand where you’re going and they have an interest and the underlying peace to all of this is how your branding will make you stand out from everybody else, and you’re going to draw like minded people into your purpose because they’re going to feel connected to the same problem that they wanted to solve and you’re solving it.

IA: Because of the purpose.

JP: Done. I think we’ve- just gonna press this print, send it out worth millions. I love it. No, that’s good. You know what, I think a lot of it just comes down to having a second to breathe and think, and if you can think about what you’re and this goes to every pitch, every interaction you have, you’re always selling something. But if you can have that understanding of that purpose on what you’re trying to achieve, then you’ll probably find more people are going to get interested into that purpose quicker, because you’re more understandable and you’re more focused.

IA: Yeah. And I think also like I’ve been such a culprit of it over the years, you shouldn’t be feeling frantic the whole time. Like yes of course businesses stressful, but if you’ve got this purpose, it’s an element of like it’s soothing or it’s calming because you keep going back to it, it’s the one foundation, you know, you talk about pillars and businesses and having your values. It’s just going back to it and I think even if it’s just written on a border on your phone or somewhere, again, it’s things are going to derail you and your purpose can evolve, but fundamentally your purpose doesn’t really change in terms of the actual purpose of the business, right? It can evolve. But it’s, yeah, I just think that we tend to as humans overcomplicate things to make us feel either more important or like we’re better than other people because it was so complicated and we had to do X, Y, Z, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah and it was so stressful and I worked so many long hours. Just slow down and I wish I had done this years ago. It’s not about becoming the unicorn, the billion dollar and you read all these different articles about other companies. My PRM always, “That’s great.” That is all it is doing is setting in stone how incredible this space is that we work in. It shouldn’t make you feel frantic that you’re not doing enough or that you need to do more or that people are going to compete. Again, it’s not a race. Look at it all as a sign of “Okay, great. People are making impacts. People have a purpose now. Let me just focus on myself, Let me not listening to all the noise and complicate it and shout out about how risky it is and just just be calm with it.” And I wish I’d listened to myself. It’s again an investment picture. If an investor says no, accept no. Don’t go back to them because there’s other investors out, then they’re kind of a blessing in disguise. Yes, it is upsetting if let’s say you’ve gone through four stages and I’ve been there and then they turn around and say no on the fifth, you feel like you’ve wasted time.

But in those four pictures you have grown, you have learned something, and you’ve probably had to respond to a question that you’ve never been asked before. But it’s probably a question you’ll get asked again. So you’ve got the response and you can improve on it. And again, I’m only saying this not because I think it’s easy, it’s because I’ve had to learn the hard way and that’s the thing. So I think it’s again reaching out to other entrepreneurs and founders and joining hubs and groups, all platforms and businesses like yours and having these honest conversations and talking about it. We’ll just make it easier and more enjoyable. I mean, there’s always gonna be sleepless nights no matter what you do, but enjoy the sleepless nights rather than moan about that.

JP: Agreed. Turn the negative into a positive and find what you can build on and grow from.

IA: Yeah.

JP: And I wholeheartedly agree with, ‘when you get that no, there’s lots of other people out there.’ One of, she was just talking with a company we invest in or invested in and he’s got a new company now. And his comment was, I pitched 443 people before I got a yes. And you know, what did he learn from that? He learned everyday something different. But what he got out of that was every time he went back, he asked them, why didn’t you invest? And then he kind of got a bit of learning from that. And I think a lot of the time, like you said, there’s the fear, there’s the, oh my God, there’s the depression or something that sets in because you didn’t get it. But we always look at the negative aspect instead of what you got out of it and being pessimistic or not, you have to really look forward. Where I want to be and I’m gonna do whatever I gotta do to get there. So while I’m looking at that forward journey, what can I learn and what am I going to fall down on? But I’m going to find some learning in that fall down and I’m gonna use that propelled me faster forward. You know, you’re going to keep working and iterating and iterating and iterating and sometimes it’s gonna stick at one point, it will stick. How much do you take from- And I always love to correlate what you’re doing now to what you did in the past, how much of what you’ve learned in the last 6, 7 years of working with startups and investing in startups, and to the roles that you played as well before you started your business. How much did those current roles really make an impact on your learning in this space?

IA: Yeah. Oh, every single job and person that I have worked with up until starting my consultancy has had an impact on me. It’s funny because I’ve grown up being taught hold the door open for anyone, in other words, show respect to everyone. Building relationships, trying not to leave things that turn sour on a sour note. So whether it was the first ever start up I was in, which was an app called Sift that was sold to last year, successful story, incredible founders. I feel very, very fortunate and grateful that they were the CEO and CIO that I learned from. I think I was the fir- I wasn’t their first higher on the tech side, but in terms of the sales side, it was just me and the CEO running that side of things and I got to learn so quickly what a startup actually was. You know, it wasn’t just this cool thing that people started because it was, this is 7, 8 years ago and it means grown drastically and it was the eagerness to learn and when you not don’t learn, ask questions. But both of those founders impacted me because I still can call them today. I can still, you know, if I’m looking at working with the startup, I know that they’re busy, but there’s no harm in me saying, “Do you mind having a look at this?” and if they don’t reply, they don’t reply it and I won’t take that personally. I know that they’re busy, but I value them because they impacted and how I see a startup become successful. But then I’ve worked in startups that haven’t been successful or I worked in a venture capital business that, you know, I was so overwhelmed, but it impacted me because every single person I met, I got to- you need to learn about the people that you work with for them to impact you. You can’t be impacted unless you spend the time being present with people, no matter what their role is. You know, in the first startup I was with, I became friends with the developers. Of course I couldn’t code, but I wanted to understand it. I want to know who they were, their families, their friends. It’s, you can also have an impact on people without realizing. So I think every person that I’ve worked with, whether it’s a boss or a business partner, I’ve got to know. It doesn’t mean I’ve liked them. I’m not saying I like everyone and it’s positive relationships. Of course not. I was also naive and I had a bit of an ego when I was young as well and I thought that people were being hired after me. They had to be beneath me. And I used to get a bit like, possessive of a startup by being with early on and I wanted to to know it all and you can’t be a know-it-all. It doesn’t matter, again, how old you are in business, if you were there 1st, 2nd last, who cares? Common denominator is you want the business to succeed. So either your equity is worth something or you get a paycheck in the business succeeds at the end of each front. So I think the question is amazing in the sense of who’s impacted you, but who have you let impact you, for me. You have to let people impact you buy being open to learning. And I think people say have I impacted people? I don’t know, but I know I’ve definitely been impacted, which means maybe it is a knock on effect. But yeah, everyone I’ve worked with, whether it’s in a good way or a bad way has shaped me. It’s helped me either build, become resilient, learn when to shut up and learn when I’m wrong. So it’s, I’m still working in this space because I love it because of the people that I’ve met that have impacted me to still want to be here. If I have been impacted differently, I wouldn’t be here and I found another industry and some people do that and that’s fine. It’s, you know, some people think they want to be a doctor and they end up becoming a lawyer. That’s fine to change, again, it doesn’t matter what age. If you are being impacted continuously in a space by people through conversations, you’re in the right place. If you’re not being impacted, maybe it’s not the space for you because you’re not having the conversations or you’re not being open to the conversations, which means you’re not happy, so go find your purpose and then be impacted.

JP: I love it. You’re very wise for the experience you carry and the things you’ve done.

IA: I’ve made a lot of mistakes.

JP: I think you’ve impacted a lot of people. You’re just not admitting it. So I love it. It’s fantastic. So now we’re gonna kind of segment our way just before we get to the rapid fire questions, because I feel like we could probably talk for about four hours and then have a coffee and go back at more conversation. It’s awesome. There’s so much more, I want to ask about the, on the branding side and and those things, but I think you’ve shared tremendous amount. We’re gonna have to have you again on the show. Hopefully that works for you. But for my next question, it’s going to be more around through the startups that you’ve worked with and the experiences you’ve had with them. Is there one of those heartfelt stories where you were, like, you heard about a company, you were talking to them, you thought about investing, you didn’t invest or you did, and then they weren’t doing so well and then all of a sudden they took off and bloomed and you were just like, ‘Wow, that’s incredible. Had no idea this was going to come out of this,” like, just something that really gets the entrepreneur spirit really driving through.

IA: It’s a great question. I have a feeling, I’m trying to think how I can phrase, but what you’re saying is is there being from a past experience, has there been a business I feel like I might have missed out on or misjudged or not invested in or been impacted by?

JP: You can use that or the more positive side that you just, you didn’t have to do anything with them. You just, we’re working with them and you heard this story, then something really impactful. That really changed the way the trajectory of the business went. I like positive stories, but-

IA: Because I was like, I don’t do this- because I didn’t want to feel like I messed up. No, definitely. So I again, I- when you’re in the right place and you’re open to people and conversations and learning, I was introduced to this amazing girl. She had been through the ropes with a business, right? She’s amazing at product and you’ve got to understand your strengths, your weaknesses. Some people are good at product, some people are good at commercial, some people need on help unpacking certain areas. And I took a role basically, I work for nothing for six months. My agreements, I didn’t bother with the agreements and the contracts. I just wanted to get going. The business was great, wanted to get going. I wanted to close the half a million pounds. I had never met another, it’s sad, I never met another female entrepreneur that had sacrificed it all at such a young age and was so driven and had these stories that I was like mesmerized by and I know you, some people could say, “OH don’t let don’t get clouded by all of that,” but I was gravitated towards her and what she was building.

I loved it, I would use it and I automatically knew what I could do. I didn’t have to sit and think how am I going to help? My brain was doing somersaults, it was going, I could do this, I could do this, I can do this. And it was very effortless for my brain to be thinking that way.

So, we went on this amazing journey together, COVID hit, and her app was all about going out, eating out, experiencing gen z’s millennials, our biggest ticket who was a hotel owner, dropped out. So we managed to raise the right funds. I’m fortunate enough, I’ve worked in start ups for a while. I reached out to a few developers, I was going to build a start up a couple of years ago, never went ahead. So I met with quite a lot of amazing developers, reached out to one, we managed to get him on an incredible rate. Again, people, conversations, building relationships, he was driven, it was the right impact or purpose for him. So he took an equity deal. We ended up working very closely together in the pandemic. Working on how we could pivot the brand but not lose the brand, so not destroy the brand story. So when things did re-open and change the brand, people’s weren’t confused because again, you don’t want to confuse people but building out a new narrative and honestly it was, it was so enjoyable, but it was also taxing. We had to do a lot of, quite a lot of energy, lives, and activations, and starting a go fund me page and supporting chefs. But we enjoyed the whole journey and then it came to a point where I have to hold my hands up and say, “Okay, well now I’m not being paid for this amount of time.” I need to, again, in a space you in anything, you do have healthy boundaries and say, can I add any more value? Well am I now just being here for the sake of being here? And this is the thing in startups in business, you need to know how long you should, if you’re- how do I phrase this? She was on the right trajectory into doing what she needed to do and for me to stay any longer working in that business. I don’t know what else I could add other than let her carry on because if not I have to start charging, you know, I don’t, I wouldn’t like to say I’m expensive but I’m not cheap and I think it’s stepping away and saying, “Okay, I’ve got equity and that that’s going to flourish, that’s going to grow.” And I learned so much, but I also got some new energy into my battery from her and I learned a lot from her. So it’s always a gamble. But it was, it was incredible. It really, really was because it was just the energy and bouncing ideas of one another. And I don’t know if it’s because we’re female or not, but we would make a pros and cons list because neither one of us was right or wrong. It was her business, it was her brand. She had built it from scratch. She had been through a long journey with it, but maybe after a couple of, I’m right, you’re wrong, we’d sit down pragmatically, you need to be pragmatic and think common denominator. We both want what’s best for the business now, let’s hash hash it out on a piece of paper. Pros and cons doesn’t matter who’s right, doesn’t matter who’s wrong, let’s just get to the right conclusion. It was just an amazing journey. It really, really was. I probably look in hindsight, wish maybe I would have invested, but I think I invested enough with my time and connections. So again, it’s think about how you want to invest, whether it’s with your time, with your contacts with money because there’s not just one type of besting anymore. It doesn’t just have to be with money.

JP: Perfect.That was very well said.

IA: Thank you.

JP: And hopefully they’re doing well.

IA: Yes, yes, she is. Lockdowns lifting and I hope she’ll be doing amazingly.

JP: Okay. Good. All right. We’re going to shift into the rapid fire questions then we’re gonna ask a few personal questions and we’ll go from there. So rapid fire. Are you ready?

IA: Oh God yeah.

JP: What is your favorite part of investing?

IA: People.

JP: Like it. How many companies do investment per year?

IA: Oh, I’ve only done two so fast, so..

JP: Perfect. You’re on your way. I love it. Any verticals you want to focus on?

IA: Nope.

JP: Open ended?

IA: Open ended. Literally tell me the story and let me want to read the sequel.

JP: I love it. What is your timeline for investment?

IA: I don’t have one.

JP: So ballpark it from the time you have your first conversation to the last?

IA: Yeah. I don’t want people to think I’m so risky. But three weeks, three weeks was one and the other one was a month. There’s a girl who’s reached out to me recently. We’ve had one conversation. I’m already thinking about her every single day because of the presentation that she did, the synchronicity with me. all I need her to do is show me some more numbers and if the numbers are there and invest, but my ticket sizes 25,000. So it’s a lot of people. It’s, yeah.

JP: Hey, never doubted. That’s awesome. Brilliant. So I’m going to make, on the term side, Do you have any preferred terms that you look for? That you want in a relationship when you, when you make the investment?

IA: Yeah. With the investments now it’s a board seat. When they do when they do set up the business. And because I’m too early for them to have a board, it’s either I take a board seat or bring an advisor because I’ll hold my hands up sometimes and say, “I can’t off the right advice but have conversation with these people and I do want a board seat for an advice so that I bring onto the business.” So it’s kind of just having a very hands on role in that element of just setting them up for success. But otherwise I’m a pretty easy investor.

JP: I like it. Smart. Any, any things outside what you’re investing, it sounds like you’re very founder centric. Is there anything else you look for in the team or in the business that you really drives you into them?

IA: Yes. if it’s a tech business, they need to have, like the CTO needs to own a large chunk of the equity in the business. or, for example, it’s, how much equity are they leaving by the people who work in their business? So for me, it’s the founder. How much do they respect the people that they’re going to bring on to give them a chunk of the business that hypothetically they’re building? So they need to see value in that. So it’s like, oh, just, I haven’t really thought about that. Okay, we should think about that because this is the people’s game for me. I don’t want your hiring and firing people, No one wants high turnover in any business. So it’s yeah, that that, for me is really important. And again, how many advisors, how many people have spoken to in terms of have they acknowledge the fact they need advisors? And how much, how many conversations have they had previously to me of people that are relevant to what they’re doing, or CEOs of similar businesses, have they tried to find out information on their story, whether it was successful or not? But again, it’s yeah, mostly it’s em lead with a person to begin with and then how they treat the people they’ll be hiring.

JP: I like it very people centric and really diving into that whole side of the business, which I think is great. It makes a big difference. Like I like to use the term the ‘psychotic CEO’ and that’s just somebody that is passionate, driven crazy, knows everything about anything to do with that space and they’ll do what it takes to win. So psychotic is good.

IA: Exactly. Is that people’s just- Yeah.

JP: That’s, it makes a difference. I like it. Okay. We’re going to go into the personal side because a lot of the questions we’ve kind of answered throughout the conversation, so we don’t really need to dive into two more of those. But thank you. That was great. Okay, personal side.

IA: How long is this gonna take? It’s 10, past 10 PM here and my dinner is still waiting.

JP: All right, we’ve got 30 seconds. We’ll go quick.

IA: Alright.

IA: Maybe two minutes. Okay, what is your superpower?

IA: My superpower, I think I can read people’s minds.

JP: What am I thinking? No, hold back. We aren’t finished yet. Okay.

IA: I know what you’re thinking: what’s she having for dinner?

JP: Actually, it’s a good, good point. You did feed that one in there though. You’re like, why you say this is going to say that? That’s good. okay. Second question. What’s your favorite sports team?

IA: Sports team? Mm, I’m not really into sports. I love sports myself, but I’m not obsessed with any sports team. Sorry.

JP: That’s okay. You can pick something else.

IA: What’s my- I love sports. I mean, I used to play lacrosse for England when I was a lot younger. Yeah, sport doesn’t really interest me unless I’m doing it myself.

JP: You don’t like watching football?

IA: Nope.

JP: Oh, I see everybody’s downgrading this conversation.

IA:I just, I’ll appreciate it.

JP: I thought every person in London has to love, okay. You can be an arsenal fan done.

IA: Okay. Yeah, I actually was, I did have an arsenal t- shirt when I was a lot younger, but yeah, Sorry.

JP: No, that’s okay. It’s, these are all ways to make relations, It’s to relate with people. I’m learning this. So this is the reason for the personal questions. Okay. Favorite movie and what character would you play in the movie?

IA: Oh, favorite. Really? Okay. Well, that’s a great question. Grand Torino with Clint Eastwood and I pick Clint Eastwood.

JP: I actually just saw that movie like maybe two months ago.

IA: It’s incredible.

JP:It’s a very, very well done movie. The guy is a very tough tough guy, but at the end of the day, he’s got a heart of gold.

IA: The whole story, the way it makes you, the subliminal messages. Everything. Yeah.

JP: I love it. All right. Well, that pretty much ends what we’re going to talk about today and hopefully we’ll get to do this again. But I want to say thank you very much for all of your time. Imogen you are brilliant. Yeah, and I think you’re bringing a lot of value into this early stage for young people coming in and trying to learn their way around, you’re the perfect person to help them with their branding, but also their investment and helping them work through. So thank you and the best part of what we like to do is we like to leave you with the last word. So anything you want to share to the startup community or to investors, I leave it to you, but I thank you again for your time today and I know it’s late and hopefully get to chow down soon, but we leave it to you for the last word and thank you again for joining us.

IA: Thank you so much. I just, this conversation has been amazing. I’ve been beaming so people don’t see me beaming, but I’ve been beaming. I think I would just want to leave it on something that I’ve really had to learn it. Firstly, be kind to yourself and then it will be easy to be kind to others. If you control your emotions, your thoughts and your feelings in what you’re doing and yeah, you’re going to have moments to react. That’s fine. But don’t sit with it. I think the- yeah, the kind of you are to yourself, the kind you are going to be to others. And if that’s a knock on effect in a space where there’s- your.. there’s going to be those closed doors and rejection. So the kind of we can pay the better it will be. And yeah, just tell your stories, communicate kindly and just keep going. And yeah.

JP: awesome. It’s a good message. Be kind and kindness will find you along the way.

IA: Yeah.

JP: Well, I’ve taken some notes. I was trying not to take notes while we talk because I find that when I do that I’m distracted. But you said so many great things. I had to take notes down anyway. So I’m gonna use those in the post analog discussion or post chat when we hang up. But again, it was awesome. Thank you very much for your time. Have a fabulous night.

IA: Good night. Thank you.

JP: Okay, that was brilliant. I really loved the fact about purpose. Have a purpose, I guess in the background. It’s the why, but it really comes down to the purpose again when you have a purpose of where you’re going and what you’re trying to do. It makes things so much easier. And the other thing that was really good was the chapters in a book, you know, a book doesn’t start from beginning to end it- and you don’t jump from one side to the other. This is a choose your own ending. You literally are working through chapters and, and like she said, you’ve got to find a time and a place for the branding and for all these different pieces that will go through. So that’s really good. Don’t overcomplicate it, slow yourself down a little bit, all great. Great pieces of advice. And yeah, brilliant. So thank you very much for joining us. Don’t forget to like, share,comment and we’ll see you guys soon. Have a great day.

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