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Writing is something I have a love and hate relationship with and it’s not my strongest skill set due to having a learning difficulty too but with you all signed up, it’s finally motivated me to get over myself and just try.
I’ll start with some big news!
Today it’s finally been announced that I alongside 4 other incredible people have been named an Angel Investor for Ada Ventures. We’re part of the Ada Angels programme. This programme aims to encourage investment activity at the grassroots, particularly for overlooked founders and markets. We’re being given access to both capital (£50,000) and support to help us find and invest in talent from our communities. I’m after overlooked founders working in the technology space. I’ve been a scout for the VC firm over the last 2 years but realised people in our community need capital way earlier.
Building Muslamic Makers has allowed me over the last few years to meet many founders. They have great ideas but access to early-stage capital is a massive hindrance in them taking their startup to the next level. Being Muslim and sometimes from a low social-economic background meant that they don't have the privilege other founders do. They get overlooked and miss out. I’m delighted that Ada Ventures have created this programme to enable change in this industry. I’m really keen to hear from minority and women founders. If you have a startup or know someone who is looking to raise an angel round then please get them to email me their pitch deck to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I feel really privileged to be in this position and feel like I’ve come full circle which is what I will muse about in this issue!
#StartupKid to Angel Investor
At the age of 21, I accidentally co-founded a startup called Discoverables. Discoverables was a platform helping young people discover their strengths & showcase their skills to potential employers. I graduated at a time youth unemployment was at its highest so we really wanted to combine the experience of the Spark+Mettle online Coaching programme I was on with a gamified platform to make young people stand out. The idea and concept kickstarted in my final year of university when I was a person on a new coaching programme to help me discover my strengths and skills. At the start, it just felt like a fun project for the charity Spark+Mettle in us trying to scale there programme. Design Council at the time was giving grants to help solve problems around youth unemployment. This was my first experience of getting funding and we were lucky as it was a grant of £50,000. Still, we had to do an application form, video pitches and then pitch in person. I had to learn how to talk about a problem and then present the solution and tell a story and in this case, I was the story, the newly graduated young person who needed a platform like this. Once we won it, we built an MVP with an agency and launched it and got our first 2000 users. It ignited a crazy spark in me, that made me realise that this was what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to go on a graduate scheme, I wanted to work on this startup.
I went through a period of unemployment and then found myself under employed working an admin job for a work programme and it was a boring, dead end job and taught me how not to do things. However I would come home and work on growing the startup and we started to look at more funding. Tech for Good was a big buzz word back then and so there were two other open calls - one from Big Issue Invest for £25k investment and one from Wayra Unltd for their accelerator for 9 months with 50k investment. This was a partnership between 02/Telefonica and the government to invest in startups doing good. We lucked out and got funding from both.
The experience of pitching and meeting investors and ending up in places was so strange for someone like myself coming from a working-class background.
For Big issue Invest, we had to go away for a few days to pitch in Manchester. At that point in my life, I hardly went beyond the M25. My world was so small, I was amazed that most of England is green and not like London!
I remember also being invited to a FANCY dinner with the founder of Gu desserts and feeling a tad out of place. Then when we had to pitch for the Wayra Unltd Accelerator, I remember going to the O2 headquarters to pitch, walking through this glass building and being in the office of my phone network was weird. How did I, a girl from East London end up here? It felt like I was dreaming and honestly, my life felt like Dragons Den. Once we got accepted on the accelerator I pretty much told everyone I’m quitting my job. That started the #startupkid journey.. The startup did fail and that is a story for another issue but this was the beginning of my tech journey.
Now I feel like I’ve come full circle from having to pitch to investors at the start of my journey, I’m now on the other side thanks to Ada Ventures. I never really saw myself represented on the panels I was pitching too and the world felt super surreal to me at that time.
The angel investor community is 91% male and 93% white - BBB, UKBAA, 2018
I was fortunate to have got that investment due to open application processes at that time, which made it easier. However, if you’re a founder who is overlooked, don’t have the connections and come from a minority background, it is going to be harder to get that funding, which is why I feel so privileged to be able to join the investment community. This programme enables me to help the founders of the community. Over the last few weeks, I’ve also been learning a lot about investment thanks to Andy Ayim’s Angel Investing school, which has built my confidence and financial literacy as I look to start this journey. This means if I was ever in a privileged position to invest with my own money, I would have the tools to do so, which I hope to do one day.
My name is Arfah from Newham. I’m a Muslim British Pakistani and from a working-class background, I’m now an angel investor.
As a Muslim, I don’t shy away from my identity so I got to thank Allah Swt for bringing me to this point!
I’m excited about this next stage and changing the dial in the investment space. I look forward to hearing from founders, so please make sure overlooked founders in your community know about this opportunity and connect us!
Until next time,
PS: If you made it this far, thank you! Reply and let me know your thoughts! Future issues will include thoughts on financial literacy and building with the community and more. Do feel free to forward this to people too.