Investor Spotlight! Jeff Werner is so much more than a Hudson Valley Startup Fund manager. He is also a former small-business owner, audiovisual expert, gastronome to his wife’s gourmet, and rockin’ musician! He combines that diversity of interests and experience into a perspective that drives his work at The Field Group. There, he focused on helping startups and small-business owners address long-term strategic priorities while filling operational gaps.
How did you get involved in angel investing?
I pretty much just stumbled upon it without knowing angel investing existed. In 2015, I had worked in the audio/visual industry for 30 years, running my own company for 22 of those years. I knew that my time in the industry was coming to an end. It’s a younger person’s sport.
As I was thinking about my future, a friend from my high school rock band days approached me with a business idea that he had been developing. We stayed in touch as he built it out a bit. A few months later he and his partner approached me to tell me that they were leaving their full-time jobs to build out this tech company. I said “great! What do you need?” A few weeks later, I had them set up with a furnished office space ready on day one. Soon thereafter, I wrote my first investment check, without fully realizing what I had stepped into.
About 7 months later, as I was in the process of selling my company, I was introduced to The Hudson Valley Startup Fund and attended my first meeting as a guest. “This is a thing?” I asked myself. Wow! I was brought back to the excitement of entrepreneurship that I had experienced in my college days. I also realized that while my head was buried in the books of my business and my body was climbing up ladders and driving trucks, the greater business environment had moved on without me! (How freakin’ rude! ) I had more to learn. I soon discovered that the Startup Fund was the right place for my business education update.
What’s your favorite part of angel investing?
Evolution of the plot lines and the growth of the characters. Humans love stories. I love stories. No matter how we dress business up in business suits and hip coworking spaces, what we really buy into is a narrative. In this case, a narrative in which the outcome has yet to be written.
Each startup that an angel investor comes across contains the early chapters of the business story. We’re introduced to the book cover, the characters, and the larger mission. In some small way, I love to be a part of each business story. The question for each business that I review is, “How engaging are your early chapters?” and “How compelling are your characters?”
The hope and excitement for a huge exit doesn’t hurt either.
What do you wish you could tell entrepreneurs/founders as they’re getting started that might help them when they’re seeking angel investment?
Be prepared, show up, and be human!
Be prepared – have your homework done. Anticipate the challenging questions that you will be asked. Anticipate the document requests of a discovery and due diligence process. You can predict at least 80% of what an angel investor will be asking for. There’s no better way to convey that you have your act together than to say “Sure. I’ll email that right over.” Too many founders keep angel investors waiting too long for information requests that ought to have been readily available. It sends a bad message.
Show up – This is great life advice, even if you’re not a founder, so listen up…
Show up! This means be where you need to be when you need to be there. This also means responding promptly to voicemails, emails, and texts. Even if you can’t yet directly address the content of a communication, acknowledge the receipt of the message, and acknowledge the person who is communicating. Ghosting and delayed responses send a completely wrong message.
Be human – Don’t try to fake stuff. Sooner or later, we figure that out. Just be real and honest. Share the good and the bad stuff. It makes you human. As humans, we like to know other humans.
Whether or not the angel chooses to invest, you will always have an ally and cheerleader in business if you remain human.
Tell us a little bit about yourself — family, what you do in your free time, etc. Your “high school band days” mention confirms the rumor that you’re a musician …
Yes, I am indeed a musician. While I was running my A/V business, I had little time to play. I ultimately had to stop, so that I could be completely focused in growing my company and serving my clients. Once I was done, I reconnected to my performance roots and have started to play again. I’ve been playing in adult rock band boot camps in Beacon, NY. It’s been an amazing growth experience and fun as hell! My chops have gotten a lot better too! I never thought that I would ever be able to play the music of Steely Dan, Lake Street Dive and Yes, but I have. There’s no greater thrill for me.
I also enjoy quiet time with my amazing wife. We enjoy deep dialogues, bike rides, walks, and time with our dog, cats, and fish. My wife enjoys cooking and baking, I enjoy eating — a perfect match! (Cue the Fiddler music!)
However, all this ties into my larger passion. The exploration of life, the universe and everything! While some of us already know that the answer is 42, we are all still working out the question.
To that end, I’m now very much exploring a new body of understanding borne out of the gnostic sciences, quantum physics and a new understanding of human biology. The work is called “Global Convergent Logic” and it now enters its eighth year of development. It’s amazing stuff — look for it on YouTube and elsewhere on the interwebs.
What does the entrepreneurial world look like for you and the Hudson Valley ecosystem in 2021 and beyond?
While risking a stern knock on the door from the metaphor police, I’ll be shepherding a new “Field” of companies in 2021 and beyond. I’ve just onboarded a new company that has reinvented the cookie. I’m also in early negotiations with a company designed to address the long-standing issues with our school systems that have been brought to greater light under Covid circumstances.
As for the region, conversations among myself and other angel investors have been shifting to a more localized investment model. Covid has shown us that we need to take care of our local communities as a first principle. We’re now engaged in a concerted effort to synthesize the traditional high-growth startup accelerator model for a ma & pa “lifestyle” business. We’re trying to figure out the ways to create win-win-win situations for the investors, local businesses, and the public to support the common good.
Entrepreneurs and investors seeking more information on the HV Startup Fund can contact Andrew Schulkind, Managing Member, at email@example.com.
For more information about HVSF, please visit our website at www.hvstartupfund.com.