• Entrepreneurship at UBC

Finding Your Champion: Our 3 key takeaways on building founder/funder relationships that last

A roundup of our July 8th Community Town Hall with Pieter Dorsman of Angel Forum and Aspect Biosystems Co-founder and CEO Tamer Mohamed

Finding the champions to further an entrepreneur’s venture building journey is paramount to their long term success. Developing a blueprint for forging those relationships however, can seem like a pipe dream. For entrepreneurs who are just getting started in their venture building journey, investors may seem like illusive figures gated behind office doors until their venture is ready for financing. In reality, it couldn’t be more opposite.

This July, entrepreneurship@UBC hosted our first Community Town Hall on Finding Your Champion with Pieter Dorsman of Angel Forum and Aspect Biosystems’ Co-founder and CEO, Tamer Mohamed, in an in-depth AMA discussion demystifying founder and funder relationships. Seeing an opportunity to forge connections across our venture community and the wider Vancouver ecosystem at large, we were thrilled to share in, and learn from, their conversation as experts who have gone through this process themselves.

The event was hosted by Entrepreneur in Residence, Sarah Applebaum, who kicked off the event by sharing that applications are open for our upcoming Lab2Launch and CORE (formerly Core Technology) venture building streams as well as introduced the newest venture teams to join the HATCH Accelerator program (more on this, soon!). Designed as a community driven event, ventures from our ecosystem were encouraged to share their own announcements, and we were pleased to reveal that Fostrum, a venture in Phase 3 of our program, has launched the beta version of their financial platform for small businesses (congratulations!).

With close to 100 attendees, the virtual audience was buzzing for the main act to begin and without further adieu, the stage was set for Pieter and Tamer to candidly share their experience as a founder and funder in Vancouver’s startup ecosystem. Tamer began by sharing:

Aspect’s story begins at the University of British Columbia… [and] entrepreneurship@UBC was critical to learn what it takes to take our great science innovation out into the business world.”

Tamer Mohamed, Co-founder and CEO of Aspect Biosystems

He stated the importance of early stage supporters, like Pieter and Angel Forum, and how necessary those relationships were to his longevity as an entrepreneur and founder. Starting off, Pieter said:

I get approached a lot by people who have an idea for starting a company… and the key thing, and what we are looking for, is that you can articulate the technology or breakthrough you are working through... and we look for the people to do it...team for me, is core.

The pair dove into a range of topics including how investors spot potential in early stage companies to how entrepreneurs should handle an investor passing on their venture opportunity. On the latter, Pieter noted:

There have been cases where companies bounce back with a revamped plan or something happened in their industry making it possible to change things... that is why it’s important to engage with investors early on. Even if it doesn’t get to a financing situation, there is crucial feedback and you start a relationship that years later may come back.”

Pieter Dorsman, Director of Angel Forum

Pieter honed in on how an investor relationship is no different than any other: the core tenets of familiarity, understanding and trust are crucial to ensure a long term partnership between investors and entrepreneurs. Even beyond monetary value, investors have experience, industry know-how and contacts that can help further an entrepreneur's venture building journey and their chance for success.

Our 3 key takeaways:

  • Start building relationships with investors early. Many investors are keen to connect into what new startups are doing, and are willing to invest their time into building a relationship that could transform into an investment when the venture is ready. Beyond money, they have knowledge, insight and contacts that can help you down the line.

  • Remain open to feedback as an entrepreneur. Just because an investor may pass on your company, that doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to offer you. Be humble, open to feedback and let it inform your next steps as a venture, whether you implement their advice or not.

  • Assess your investors diligently, and vigilantly, like they assess you. Understand an investor’s intentions when they are interested in investing in your company, ask how they see the relationship working and get feedback from other ventures in their portfolio on how they treat their companies. As Tamer put it, “Even though angels have a divine name, they are not divine”.

Learn more on Finding Your Champion through our podcast with Pieter, here, and find out how entrepreneurship@UBC helped to transform Aspect Biosystems from a wild idea into a BC anchor company, here.

Thank you to everyone who participated and to Pieter, Angel Forum, Tamer and Aspect Biosystems for your continued support.

Interested in our next Community Town Hall? Save the date for September 8th at 4pm and sign up for our newsletter here to stay up to date with the latest coming out of entrepreneurship@UBC.

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