Jeff Champagne
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Jeff Champagne

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What Are Essential Attributes in Startups? Jeff Champagne, York Angels

“You can have the best product in the world but if you don’t know how to sell it and sell yourself you’re not going to be successful.”

ABOUT

Jeff Champagne has 38 deals & 6 exits including 4 IPO’s under his belt. He is currently a partner in the OPN Network and Supporters Fund and he is on the board of Spark Angels.

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THE FULL INTERVIEW

Jeff Champagne

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery:
So welcome everybody to the supporters fund ask an investor so ask an angel. We’re excited today that Jeff Champagne is going to be with us today. This will be our fifth interview in the series and we’ll continue to interview a lot of great angel investors that are working in this space, in the early stage and pre-seed and see Braun investing so to jump right back in, Jeff why do you invest in start-up companies?

Jeff:
Why do I invest in start-up companies, there’s several reasons we invest and I personally invest in start-up companies primarily, well I mean I’d be not being honest if I didn’t say it was to make money, but in addition to that it’s basically an opportunity to give back and it’s also an opportunity to keep myself involved in on the pulse of what’s going on in in the local startup community.

Jeffery:
Fair enough and that is, that’s a great position to to look at. It is that you’re not going in it from just one angle, you’re looking at all the great opportunities and seeing what’s moving in the market, and then taking an active interest in order to help these companies move forward. What got you started investing in early-stage companies?

Jeff:
That’s actually a really good question. What got me started in investing was I had always had an interest in investing and I was a very typical investor you know. I had one business that was, know, reasonably profitable and had some extra money and I had done real estate, I had done stocks, I had done you know mutual funds, I had done all the traditional and what all called boring stuff. One day about six years ago, I literally just googled alternate investments available and angel investing came up and I reached out to Malcolm McTaggart the founder and leader of Spark Angels Durham and I had a meeting with him and he told me what it was all about and I was hooked. I’ve been an active investor and I have not regretted for a second, it was exactly what I was looking for when I wanted an alternate investment route.

Jeffery:
Awesome! Thank you Google! Pulls through yet again. Oh yeah, there’s a lot of I think even six years ago there might not have been the best information on angel investing, it’s really taken a push in the last couple years in getting more people interested which is great but that’s been a great way to get into it. What’s your favorite part of investing?

Jeff:
My favorite part of investing is the fact that it’s something different than what my businesses are. My businesses are what I’ll call boring traditional you know bread-and-butter companies that you know aren’t all that exciting. Aren’t hugely growth and sexy startup companies so you know they just chug along and they’re there and they’re required, they make money. Whereas the startup world it challenges me as you know joking aside, you know I’ve had to learn constantly about you know all the technological advances, like zoom and all these other ways to communicate. But it’s also kept me in touch with younger people with startups and a different side of the business economy that I wouldn’t normally be exposed to. So that’s definitely we know my favorite part of the investing.

Jeff:
No that’s great and throughout the time period, is there now if you log in and said you know each year I wanna make this many investments into companies, have you kind of set that in stone or what’s your theories or hypothesis around your investment strategies that take place?

Jeff:
That’s actually a really good question, Jeffrey. And for me at least personally, because I jumped in when I started investments upfront you know I probably did five six seven eight investments, I think one year I did ten investments. And you know maybe even perhaps a little too quickly I find now I probably do maybe only three or four in a year if that maybe even less just simply because I do a little more in mind. We’ll get into it later on but I do more due diligence now that I did upfront and also you know I’ve learned so much I’ve learned that a lot you know exits are longer than what you expect and there’s always a few hiccups along the way so you know I don’t think it’s reasonable you know to do six or seven or eight or nine investments in a year for the average angel investor. I don’t think you can properly do your homework and I don’t think you can do it justice. I think that you know, I will probably you know go forward I would say. I’ll probably be in the two to five investment a year range going forward.

Jeffery:
Well that’s a good fair number and especially when you’re spending a lot more time doing the due diligence nowadays where as you mentioned before t might have just been off gotten in a whim and now you’ve kind of circled back around and felt you know what I’ve learned a lot and if I focus in on these areas and make this correct hypothesis and I go after it then maybe I’ll have more successful startups to come out of it in the end .

Jeff:
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Jeffery:
Looking at it for sure, is there any specific verticals that you now look at as you’ve kind of gone through the spectrum over the last six years have you isolated down and say I really love these three areas, they seem to really do well in my portfolio or hey these are three areas or one area that I haven’t even looked at before and I’m really interested in getting my portfolio to have a start up in this space.

Jeff:
Again another good question. I started out with a little bit of a shotgun approach and just sort of invested in anything that I thought was going to make money and like most investors I was probably wrong. Now I think one field that interests me is medical. I’ve invested in a couple of different pharmaceutical companies that have basically either developed or repurposed drugs. They do tend to be a longer play but I think the the potential payout if they succeed you know is not going to be the typical you know 3 to 10x exit that a lot of angel investors look for when you get into the pharmaceutical play or the medical field. You have the potential for you know 100x exit so but I definitely always you know want to be looking for the next good medical or pharmaceutical play and that was even before this COVID exposure. But now with COVID, I think that’s even more so. I’m an engineer by training so I tried it’s you know I’II stay away from just what I’ll call the typical path investments. You know there’s so many you know come out there with an app to do this and an app to do that I’m not saying they’re not all good but for my interest that’s not what I want. You know I want to look for something that’s a little bit different, somebody hasn’t thought of and I’d like to look for something manufacturing base where somebody’s actually building a product that’s the other ones I’ll jump behind you know somebody’s got a cool little robot that can do this or that or somebody’s you know com