BeAngels highlights every month a member who has joined the BeAngels network. For this month of January, we spoke with Jeremy Thomas, founding brother of Evenisto & co-founder of Smart Ventures. He told us about his background and what attracted him to becoming a Business Angel.
He loves to contribute to new experiences and support in strategic development, so he has been involved in the Business Angel activity for 3 years now.
Can you tell us more about your professional background?
I studied graphic design and web design and that's where I started creating interfaces. Over time, I realized the importance of strategy in professional life. I worked in large companies such as Deloitte, Publicis Groupe and in 2020, I decided to leave the agency environment to launch Evenisto. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, you could say that I kind of have that in my blood!
After my experience in agencies, I wanted to launch an event process automation solution, like an “event-as-a-service” approach. It was without knowing that the Covid was going to turn everything upside down… Investors preferred wait, but I couldn't. So, I launched Orkid Lab with the aim of supporting entrepreneurs in their strategic challenges. After a few months, the idea of developing our own solutions was growing. So, I created Evenisto in parallel with my sister, a startup that promotes unoccupied spaces in search of temporary occupancy solutions (real estate developer waiting for permits for example) on the one hand and ephemeral projects of 'somewhere else. With the notion of value generator as the common denominator. Thus, linking a temporary solution to the final project. Indeed, we support project leaders (horeca / retail pop-ups, artistic concepts, co-working spaces, etc.) in their various challenges (legal, marketing, finance, etc.).
How did you learn about the business angel activity?
I had heard of BeAngels before, but it was in the middle of the pandemic that I became a member. During the health crisis, I needed to move. I thought it was a great opportunity to diversify my activities and meet new people. I joined a group with which I was able to make my first investments for a total of €15k. This allowed me to discover what to do (and not to do) as a business angel. Since several of us really enjoyed the group experience, we created afterwards, and via BeAngels, our own “Smart Ventures” investment fund. Unlike the first experience, we no longer have supervision. We are about ten to invest and the projects can come from the BeAngels deal flow, or not.
How do you select the projects in which you invest?
I select according to entrepreneurs and sectoral affinities where I know I could have added value. There are more chances that I invest in entrepreneurs who have a less impressive project, but with whom the relation goes well, rather than in a project of entrepreneurs who have a brilliant idea, but with whom the relationship is more complex. If there’s no relational or emotional vibe, I won't go there because I'm very human-focused. I would even go further by saying that before the market fit, you must find the founders fit: the founders must be comfortable with the market they are targeting. Therefore, investors must put themselves at the service of entrepreneurs and not the other way around.
What is your involvement as a business angel?
Personally, I love contributing to new experiences and supporting entrepreneurs in their strategic challenges. Designing a visionary roadmap for example. That is to say, define with the entrepreneur the current situation and what he wants to achieve, step by step. I do not really attach importance to sitting on a Board of Directors. On the other hand, I like to set up strategic committees that report to the Board. I quite appreciate the fact of being "the link" between the entrepreneur and the investor, as I have the double hat.
Why does this activity appeal to you?
We are at the dawn of a revolution, on many levels. When you look at web 3.0, blockchain… it's a happy mess and there's no deeper thinking than that. Things will evolve, and in my opinion, in the right direction. In terms of entrepreneurship, this will open fields. My role as a business angel will also certainly evolve according to the trends that will develop! This stirs my curiosity in many ways. Just as I love discovering new sectors. The basis of creativity is based on two additions: imagination and curiosity. A sweet mix between dream and reality. This is what attracts me as a business angel.
What do you think is one of the challenges in the entrepreneurial environment?
Today we talk a lot about diversity in terms of content, but we should open diversity more in terms of age. Start-ups are almost always attributed to younger people. But there are older ones, and more are needed! Entrepreneurship must be intergenerational. But beware, not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. You must accept to feed on the experiences of others and thus make the right filter for yourself.
What do you think you bring as a business angel?
It is above all the sharing of experience in what I know, namely communication, marketing and go to market. I am more of a person who sees solutions where others see problems. I also like to help entrepreneurs when due diligence drags on too long, simply because they are unfamiliar with fundraising. But help is not a one-way street. Thanks to entrepreneurs, I myself learn a lot of things, on many aspects as diverse as they are varied.
When does the light turn green to invest?
It is often said that the first impression is the right one. For my part, I know if I will go further in the discussions after 30 seconds of the pitch. I, very rarely, read in advance the detailed files of the projects that will be presented at the Forum, I go there without any expectations. Afterwards, it is certain that the post-pitch meetings with the entrepreneurs will be decisive in closing the deal.
What would you say to people who consider the idea of becoming a business angel, but do not take the plunge?
There is a famous Oscar Wilde quote that says: “The best way to resist temptation is to give in to it”. If we hesitate, it is because we basically want to. So, let's get started! Even if I would nuance my remarks by specifying that it is not given to everyone to become a business angel. I encourage all those who want to take the step to properly measure their "risk" capital and to realize that being an active investor means taking a risk financially, but that you will also have to invest a small amount of your time and energy. And then if it crashes, you have to put it into perspective! Given the state of the markets, I think we will take less risk investing in young start-ups with high potential than in other asset classes.