Jon Oberholzer
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Jon Oberholzer

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Golden Triangle Angel Network

Know What You Don’t Know – Jon Oberholzer, Golden Triangle Angel Network

“Yes you need business plans and those sorts of things but anyone who’s been in these industries knows a lot of those business plans is less about the plan, because the plan will be garbage within, you know, 30 days to six months… Because things change, it’s more the thought process that you went into in developing the plan in the first place. So it’s the process of creating the plan that demonstrates to an investor whether you’re a serious person or whether you know you have weaknesses in certain areas of your your team or yourself as a CEO or a founder.”

ABOUT

Jon Oberholzer has been active in the Waterloo Region tech community for over 25 years. A graduate of the University of Waterloo (B. Math ’95), Jon has served in a variety of technical and managerial rules at Research In Motion and Waterloo Maple Software. He is currently the Manager of Intellectual Property at Dejero, where he was an early employee and investor. He is also an active angel investor.

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THE FULL INTERVIEW

Jon Oberholzer

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery:
Awesome well welcome everybody today we are speaking with Jon. And John I’m going to say your name last name but i want to make sure i don’t say it wrong is it ober osler?

Jon
Holzer. Holzer. Head woodsman in German. Yes Oberholzer.

Jeffery:
Ober holzer. Okay awesome well we don’t want to mess that up especially when we’re sound biting that won’t sound very good so everybody welcome. We are at OPN and today we’re going to be diving right into and learning a lot more about angel investing yet again and Jon’s going to walk us through that but Jon why don’t you give us an idea, a little bit about yourself, some background. Just to kind of shape this conversation today.

Jon
Sure. I’m a tech investor and employee out of the Waterloo area, Waterloo grad. I have been involved in angel investing for technically maybe seven or eight years but probably a little longer than that when you look at what my first investments were back in back in the 90s when i kind of got into the industry.

Jeffery:
Awesome and I guess what is the reason you decided to get into angel investing? What was the traction? What drove you into?

Jon:
It well if you go back to my early investments, what really got me into startup and startup like companies is the job that i had out of out of university so I worked at a company called Waterloo Maple as a co-op for several years. During the time i was a co-op I wasn’t allowed to own shares because you had to be an employee to own shares at that time so the minute I became a full-time employee i jumped in there and bought whatever shares I could technically not an angel investment in normal sense, and they weren’t a startup, and they’d been around for a few years, and had maybe 25-30 people at that time; but the idea of I want to be a part – a partner in whatever it is that I’m spending my time on was a real idea. Then a little later on I went to Rim where i didn’t need to purchase any shares because you got options at that time. That was a big thing in the late 90s. I spent 10 years, they were 10 very successful years and then took a little break. Moved on to a company called DJiro and that was where you’d probably have my very first real angel investment in in around 2009. So I started there as employee, was getting some shares as an employee, getting paid out that way because we were really three or four people at that point. And from there… actually that was great.. We were getting paid in shares but they had to have cash to pay the other part of my compensation and we had to hire other people so they need to do some raises. So that’s when I kind of got engaged in it a little more deeply. Had a few years then without making any new angel investments but moved into G-Tan through in 2011 or so as the result of an of another round of investment in DJiro where you needed to be a member of an angel group in order to get matching government funding or whatever the story was at the time. So I magically became an angel investor at that point and from there started to invest in a lot of more local startups .

Jeffery:
Oh that’s awesome. And is there, while you’re going through this process, was there, you obviously started earlier on by doing this through employment, then it became a bigger piece you started to enjoy it, really wanted to have more of a stake in what you’re working in. But then obviously spreading this around what was the real driving force behind it? Was it because having an ownership stake? Or was it something else?

Jon:
Initially, it was the ownership stake but as you get on in your career, you find that you realize that you’re not going to be able to do everything. And I enjoy deep commitments at the places i worked at, you know, i’m not somebody who just is in and out within a year or what not. So in order to kind of have a broader range of experiences, angel investing for me is a way to use a way to accomplish that. I’m involved in a lot of tech companies, directly or indirectly in ways that I couldn’t be if i was simply an employee. So for me that was a real motivation to get more deeply involved. And there’s an element once you get a certain place in your career, of setting up the next generation of startups and businesses. If someone hadn’t done what I’m doing now back in the 80s, the companies that i started with in the 90s wouldn’t have existed. So there is that element of it too. And for me while i will i have a relatively broad, within canada, geography that I would invest in a lot of them do flow out of the local community here in Waterloo.

Jeffery:
Well that’s great. And being a tech guy myself as well, I looked at it pretty much the same way when i was working in early stage companies, bringing them into Loblaws even though they may not have really wanted me to. But i got so much traction from it. I never, at the time, could invest. But man as soon as I got out, that’s all I could think about. How do i actually help more and invest in some of these companies because from a grassroots standpoint, it not only creates jobs but it drives a lot of the industries and you get to learn a lot more. And how else can you learn if you’re not just in depth with all of them. So that’s pretty cool, that you’re doing that. I find a lot of tech guys kind of have their way of trying to get in beside the tech and figure out how they can grow and learn and add extra value to them so that’s awesome. So in that kind of last 10 years that you’ve been kind of shifting around, investing and doing that, what’s the favorite part that you have, what really makes this work for you?

Jon:
I enjoy interacting with the entrepreneurs. Often pre-investment is is when you spend the most time with them. For better or for worse, sometimes, they’re just not as interested after they have your money but and sometimes they’re just growing and moving and but having been involved with the local angel group for again the better part of eight or nine years, and spending time working in the selection process for the companies that come forward, I really enjoy that some of the really really early stage and helping them shape their idea a little bit and shape the way that they talk about it to to investors that is something that i really enjoy. And as you mentioned the learning aspect of just new technologies, new areas of technology that you don’t get int