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Investing with a Creative Eye: An Interview with Angel Investor Nikolai Nedelchev

patricia-borlovan

Patricia Borlovan

· 7 min read
Investing with a Creative Eye: An Interview with Angel Investor Nikolai Nedelchev
Today we meet Nikolai Nedelchev, an angel investor passionate about art. Get insights into his unique approach to startup funding and the art world.

While they may seem like entirely different worlds, art collecting and startup funding share a common thread: the pursuit of innovation and the desire to support new and exciting ideas.

As we explore the fascinating intersection of art and investment, we're thrilled to welcome Nikolai Nedelchev, an angel investor from Bulgaria, to our conversation.

Nikolai Nedelchev was the Executive Chairman of Publicis Groupe Bulgaria, a marketing communications company that employs the “Power of One” model. He was also an active member of the Bulgarian Association of Communication Agencies (BACA) and the Business Ethic Commission of the Bulgarian Association of PR Agencies (BAPRA).

Additionally, he is a member of the Board of Directors of Junior Achievement Foundation Bulgaria and an angel investor in the Bulgarian start-up ecosystem, where he mentors some entrepreneurs. Hailing from Bulgaria, Nikolai is an angel investor and passionate art collector. His unique approach to investing comes from his deep appreciation for creativity and aesthetics.

In this interview, we’ll dive into:

  • What inspired Nikolai to become an angel investor.
  • The similarities between art collecting & angel investing.
  • What Nikolai looks for in a potential investment opportunity.
  • What common mistakes do founders make when pitching their start-ups?
  • What sets successful entrepreneurs apart from those who struggle to succeed?

From Art Collecting to Angel Investing: The Journey of Nikolai Nedelchev

Our recent interview with Nikolai Nedelchev draws an interesting parallel between angel investing and art collecting and how both areas involve finding early-stage gems and nurturing them to success.

“Becoming an angel investor has much to do with my passion for collecting contemporary art. It starts from the same core motivation.

Art collecting and startup investing have the same mission of finding a gem very early in its stage. As investors or art collectors, we aim to nurture this gem and help it achieve its true potential.”

Through his work as an angel investor and art collector, Nikolai hopes to support young artists and startups locally and internationally.

“My story with art collecting is very similar to angel investing.

Since I am passionate about contemporary art, I always look for younger artists and their pioneering spirit. A trait that both founders and young artists should have.

Both of these areas of interest lead me to meet interesting people you enjoy communicating with or spend time understanding the challenge driving them to build a startup or a work of art.”

Meeting with founders and artists can be incredibly valuable as an investor and art collector. Not only does it provide the opportunity to gain insight into their creative processes and vision, but it can also foster meaningful relationships that can lead to future collaborations and investment opportunities.

“I also invested as a Limited Partner (LP) in some Bulgarian venture capital funds, and the founder of one of the companies they invested in it’s a very smart guy.

The company is EnduroSat, one of the world's top five companies for nanosatellite production, with a valuation of around $120 M, as of May 2023.

The company's founder is very interesting, and spending time with people like him allows you to enrich your knowledge and passion. Talking to people with a bold vision, different points of view, and the utmost knowledge in a specific area helps you grow.

Something that applies to both startup investing and art collecting.”

Nikolai’s Approach to Evaluating Investment Opportunities

As an angel investor, Nikolai Nedelchev seeks out resilient, resourceful, and adaptable founders. He values open-minded individuals who can assess the market in the right way, taking timely measures to change the business model if needed.

Nikolai prioritizes scalability and wants to invest in startups that can be scaled, as he believes that investing in a startup with limited growth potential may not yield the best results. By prioritizing these qualities, he has been able to identify successful startups and make impactful investments that benefit both himself and the founders he supports.

“As a founder, you need to show me a strong market fit, a compelling vision, and how your personality traits show resilience, resourcefulness, and adaptability to the unexpected.

Very often, in the world of startups, circumstances impose pivoting.

If you think that the first concept of your startup is sacred and no one can touch it, then you’re doomed to fail.

Most startups have to pivot in one way or another, and if you don’t, you’re not adaptable.”

​​Nikolai Nedelchev emphasizes the importance of problem-solving and a strong product-market fit when evaluating startup investment opportunities. As an angel investor, he looks for clear and compelling visions from the founders, knowing that they are crucial to a startup's success.

“Sometimes you see a good product market fit. Sometimes you see good scalability. But there is something that bothers me about the founder’s personality. In my case, I often spend more time finding out if this guy or girl is my type of founder and whether I could work with them.

A startup is a long battle.

“Startup founders don’t realize how difficult their lives can become. In many cases, it’s an uphill job. So, I put more effort into understanding the psychology of these founders and know they have the power to face the battle.”

Nikolai emphasizes that many startups do not fail due to a lack of funding but rather because founders lose faith in themselves and their vision. His approach to investing in startups is driven by his desire to support visionary founders committed to positively impacting their industries.

“Sometimes, I put more effort into scalability to see how the founder’s vision plays

for long-term thinking.

I don’t strictly go and put a checkmark on each question; it can also depend on how the conversation goes. Founders send me signals on how much confidence I should put in their answers, and if there is any particular part, I should focus on.”

Adapting Due Diligence: Why Founders & Investors Should Be Flexible in Their Approach

Due diligence is important in angel investing, but investors should also rely on their instincts. While following a checklist and understanding the business is crucial, sometimes a hunch or instinct can help identify outstanding opportunities.

Similar to hiring, asking the right questions and assessing the fit is essential, but ultimately a combination of science, instinct, and luck can lead to a successful investment.

“Three things cannot be studied in any business school.”

Instinct.

“If you have strong instincts about something, take that path and use them to lead the way.”

A Unique Vision.

“No one can implant a vision on the founder’s brain. Vision is something that comes from within us as humans. There are big CEOs of big companies, and some have big visions, and some don’t.

For example, Steve Jobs had a great vision for Apple products. I think his successor, Tim Cook, doesn’t share the same spark and vision that Steve Jobs had.”

Charisma.

“Although charisma might be something we learn, some people are born to be charismatic and make us follow them from day one.”

Common Mistakes That Founders Do While Growing Their Startup

Honesty, understanding the competition, having a roadmap, and developing an exit strategy are key factors for successful startups. In addition to trusting founders, investors need to see a clear understanding of the competitive landscape, a long-term vision for growth, and a plan for an exit strategy.

Many startups must properly evaluate their competition or have a long-term vision beyond one or two years. Furthermore, many founders are attached to their company as if it is their baby, which could hinder their ability to make objective decisions about the company's future.

Lacking a good grasp of their competition.

They think there is no real competition, but competition is not stupid. Once you succeed, competition can copy your business model and follow your path.

Lack of a clear long-term roadmap.

Another thing that many companies need to do is have a proper roadmap. As investors, we want to understand what is coming next and what will happen in three to five years from our discussion.

Many startups know what they want to do in the next year or one year and a half, but very few have a longer vision than that.

Lack of an exit strategy.

If you ask a founder what’s his exit strategy, they’ll most likely tell you they don’t want to be sold to somebody else.

However, there’s more to an exit strategy than to be sold. You can get an IPO or become a public company. Unfortunately, many founders don’t have a clear goal around this.

If you present me an exit strategy, or at least approach it during a discussion showing what the scenario would look like, then as an investor, I see maturity, clarity, and long-term vision.”

In conclusion, successful angel investing requires a combination of due diligence, instincts, and a deep understanding of the competitive landscape.

Nikolai Nedelchev's approach to angel investing emphasizes the importance of investing in resilient, adaptable founders with a clear vision and a product-market fit. He prioritizes scalability and is committed to supporting visionary founders passionate about positively impacting their industries. For founders seeking investment, it's important, to be honest, understand the competition, have a roadmap, and develop an exit strategy.

Building meaningful relationships with investors and showing a long-term vision of what you want to achieve can increase the likelihood of successful investments. While luck can play a role, combining science and instincts can help identify outstanding investment opportunities.

Key Takeaways

  • Angel investing and art collecting share similarities in finding early-stage gems and nurturing them to success.
  • Some investors seek out resilient, resourceful, and adaptable founders and prioritize scalability in the startups he invests in.
  • Problem-solving and a strong product-market fit are essential when evaluating startup investment opportunities.
  • Due diligence is important in angel investing, but investors should rely on their instincts.
  • Honest founders with a clear understanding of the competitive landscape, a long-term vision for growth, and a plan for an exit strategy are key factors for successful startups.

Resources Mentioned in the Discussion

Connect with Nicolai:

Others:

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