Entrepreneur Highlight – Entrepreneurship for Positive Changes — A Gift from Angel Investor Alvin Lam

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If you had developed a mature company in 17 years which was almost listed on the Main Board in stock market, what would you do next? Who could have imagined Mr Alvin Lam, our BEST Community Industry Fellow, would sell it and turn his head back to start-up again? This is the charisma of Alvin, a digital marketing expert, an entrepreneur, and also an angel investor and venture capitalist for start-ups.

 

Now, he describes himself as both an entrepreneur and an investor. He later established T12M in 2016, which focuses on venture capital (VC) and angel investment; as well as 18Hall.com in 2017, a digital agency specialising in digital and social media marketing, SEO, SEM and web solutions.

 

Being grateful for all the help he received along his way, he aspired to pass on and pay forward his knowledge and experience in entrepreneurship. Here we have a precious opportunity to gain insights from his perspectives of both an investor and a successful entrepreneur.

 
Start-up doctor diagnosis: avoiding common problems of start-ups

As an investor, Alvin conducts consultations with 200-300 teams every year. With his rich experience, he reminds teams to avoid a few commonly seen problems among start-up teams.

 

1. Dream big, not vague

Teams always come up with a fantastic idea, but without a skeleton. It is crucial to turn your idea into a business and to generate profits. The key is to build a concrete business model.

 

2. Concrete and clear planning

It is obvious and clear that teams always have insufficient funding. But when there is funding available to you, how are you going to use it? Which part of your business is worth investing in? Are you making the best use of the fund? These are all the doubts investors may have in mind. Alvin points out that everything should be grounded in the business model, yet only a small portion of teams can be able to do so.

 

3. Show sincerity

Frankly speaking, a lot of investors like Alvin are quite busy and may not have enough time to follow after their presentations. A simple follow-up by the start-up teams, even as tiny as a text message to your potential investors, may create unexpected results!

 

Tips for standing out from the crowd

Founding T12M Ventures Limited and has invested in over 20 start-ups, Alvin has his own criteria and standards to select the right team at the right time. The points below are what Alvin would look into in a team -

  • An all-rounded founding team where members are professional in their own field
  • Unique and special viable business ideas
  • Growth hacking ability that allows teams to attract customers on their own, without being dependent on heavy advertising and digital marketing

 

Investment before and after COVID-19

COVID-19 creates changes to not only our daily life, but also the economy and start-up ecosystem. Alvin shares two major ones.

 

1. Investor behaviour

After COVID-19, investors are more conservative, risk-averse, and prudent as their investment portfolios are reconstructed under the shadow of an economic downturn. This is especially the case when it comes to start-up investment which seems riskier. However, if teams can stand out amid such tough conditions, they are more likely to attract VCs.

 

2. Investment trend observation

As for investment trends, due to the change of investors’ behaviour and risk appetite, there is less early-stage investment as they worry that the risk involved might be too high at the moment. Therefore, investors prefer start-ups with solid businesses that can break-even or at least gain revenue in short term, which is within 6 to 12 months. The market preference has also been changed due to the pandemic. They now pay more attention to health care, education and communication related technology.

 

Finding your Mr. Right

Although teams may grasp every opportunity for funding, it is important to target the right venture capitalist to enhance the chance of success. Alvin suggests a few factors start-ups should consider when searching for their Mr Right:

 

1. Matching interest and industrial focus

Start-up teams should observe and target investors that may be interested in their start-up categories like Fintech, AI, Edutech, etc

 

2. The stage of investment

Different investors have different preferences. Some may like early-stage investment while some may like to invest in relatively mature start-ups.

 

3. Ticket size

Start-ups should depend on their own needs and scale to search for investors with matching ticket size.

 

Helping Hand from 18Hall

Sharing is a way of giving, Alvin is dedicated in sharing his knowledge and experience in start-up journey. He founded 18Hall, a start-up platform, to give a helping hand to all aspiring ones out there. The platform features -

 

1. Content sharing

18Hall shares a wide variety of contents such as start-up stories, up-to-date information in the start-up ecosystem and growth hacking tips.

 

2. Digital marketing services

Digital solutions and marketing strategies are also available, for example:

    Social Media Marketing
    SEM (Search Engine Marketing)
    SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
    SCM (Sponsored Content Marketing)
    EDM (Electronic Direct Mail marketing)

 

3. Hong Kong Investor Directory

You can find a list of Hong Kong Angel investors, investment funding, and their information in the database for you to match up with.

 

Success is not easy, but Alvin trusts in striking for positive changes. Believing your business is creating positive impact and change to the society, you can overcome any obstacles just like what he did, from the Dot-Com Explosion in 2000, 911 Attack in 2001, SARS in 2003, the Financial Crisis of 2008, and to now, COVID-19. Hang on and you will get there!