On May 13-14, 300 early-stage investors gathered at the 13th European Business Angel Congress in Vienna, Austria. Spearheaded by the European Business Angel Network (EBAN), the conference aims to bring together innovative entrepreneurs and investors who will share not only their capital but also their experience as business angels (otherwise known as angel investors.)
Dušan Stojanovic: Business Angel of the Year 2013
Part of the two-day event is the awarding of the Business Angel of the Year. After being first nominated in 2009 for the same award, Swedish investor Dušan Stojanovic received the prestigious title this year.
We interviewed him and his amazing 3 exits done in one week and asked him how that was significant to M&A and private equity investors.
EBAN President Paulo Andrez, Stojanovic and AAIA President Hansi Hansmann.
Credit: Austrian Angel Investors Association (AAIA)/APA-Fotoservice/Rastegar
What does it take to become an Angel?
Dušan Stojanovic, who is well-known as a super-angel, was recognized after his three successful exits in a single week.
Stojanovic began his career as a business angel in 2005. In 2010 he founded True Global Ventures, an international, early-stage fund formed by technology experts turned angel investors, who are dedicated to supporting the next generation of superstar entrepreneurs.
Considered one of the rare successful full-time cross-border business angels, Stojanovic has invested in 25 ventures all over the globe, with three exits and no bankruptcies or failures. Of his three exits, two have been IPOed (Dibs.se in Sweden 2009 and ProwebCE in France) and one was a trade sale (Payson.se in Sweden).
What makes these exits remarkable? Dibs.se is a market leader with more than 13,000 merchants in 17 countries and 35% market share in Nordic countries. The full exit on 2009 was facilitated during the time when the firm had 6 Billion Euros transaction volume, 33% profit margin and organic growth of 25%. ProwebCE.com in France is also a market leader with more than 5,000 merchants and 5 Million end-users of its e-commerce software. Taking first place ranking in the NYSE Euronext, it had a staggering growth rate of 2452% from 2005 to 2009. Payson.se is the leading P2P e-payment in Sweden, Finland and Norway with more than 1.2 million accounts and has 5,000 small merchants. Remarkably, its accounts grew 7,400 per week. Dusan’s exit from these 3 companies in a span of 7 days created a stir in the investing industry that seeks to improve their scorecards in making successful exits.
It is not widely known that this super angel is also related to the scientist Nikola Tesla (His great grandmother is Tesla’s cousin). He was one of the three donors to Indiegogo who pledged to save the Tesla Lab in New York and convert it into a museum last year. Stojanovic made a personal donation of $33,333 to buy back the laboratory in Shoreham, Long Island, and have it converted into a Science and Technology Center and Museum (rebranded as the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe). His ultimate dream for this project is to have more people in the region incubate their ideas, as Tesla did, and hopefully get more recognition (and financial support) than Tesla got. On May 2, the Center announced the successful purchase of the property; the conversion plan is already under way.
Dušan shares his experience in angel investing and dealing with the private equity sector in the interview below:
Based on your experience in exits, what is the learning that you, as a Super Angel, can impart to private equity firms?
I think the biggest learning is that super angels can continue to help the company beyond the initial investment phase which has been the traditional role. For example ProwebCE I helped with acquisitions, renegotiating debt, new mobile product development, IPO on Euronext, board composition including introducing new members and reporting.
How do you think private equity shops and professionals can profit from the knowledge and experience of Super Angels like you?
It would be a good idea to expose the whole portfolios of super angels to private equity houses. Another idea would be that either partners of Private Equity (PE) houses privately invest with us (if they are allowed) or become our "LPs” (Limited Partners).
Also, I think we can add value to sectors that we know really well, that is industry-specific knowledge. In our case (True Global Ventures), it’s E-Payments, E-Finance, and Big Data.
In addition, angels enjoy a much closer relationship with the founder, hence we can bridge the gap on a board level when PEs challenge founders.
What do you think the readers of private equity should take away from your three exits in one week?
Luck, luck, and luck again. I guess luck comes with hard work but we need to recognize that what we do is risky and that we can lose everything no matter how much we work.
Finally, what are your top three passions in life outside of business?
I am as passionate about my kids as I am of my business ventures. This might sound strange but there are learnings from parenting that you can apply to business, like: one has to be very patient, never ever give up, and sometimes be very firm. I used to have passions like marathon (did 7) and theater but I stopped everything when we had three kids and I started traveling between US, China and Europe almost non-stop. My wife has been a great support and without her, I would not have been able to do what I do.