Receipt for building a successful private investor network
April 26, 2022
What made FiBAN such an active business angel network? Janne Jormalainen, Chair Emeritus of FiBAN and the current Chair of Board at EBAN (European Business Angel Network) shares his views.
“What made FiBAN so successful?” is a question often asked in different forums. Let’s explore the major reasons behind FiBAN’s success. The intention for writing this article is to share learnings among the business angel community and let other angel networks benefit from them.
Finnish Business Angel Network (FiBAN) was established in 2010 and it is home to more than 650 business angels. During 2010-2020, FiBAN members invested 335 M€ in more than 1500 start-ups. FiBAN has been able to gather and unite all Finnish business angels under the same roof. These achievements stand out in a country of 5.5 M people.
Before FiBAN was established governmental organizations Finnvera and Sitra had hosted angel investor activities already for a couple of years. Based on these activities there were already tens of identified angels. This base of angels kickstarted FiBAN’s member growth in the early days. Before FiBAN was even established there was a strong vision to create an organization to cover the whole Finland instead of having smaller geographically split angel groups and potentially federation on top of them. The grand vision was to create a network of 1000 angels. The large membership base has enabled FiBAN to have a strong hired office team of six persons and financial resources for developing its operations.
Giving back mindset, enthusiasm, and strong commitment
The 18 founders of FiBAN wanted to give back to the community by supporting startups and entrepreneurs. The strongest example of the giving back mindset was Juha Kurkinen’s cash contribution of 100 000 € to the newly established organization through his company. The core founding team spent endless hours of work on the big topics such as vision and strategy to small details of writing the communication letters. In the early days, all the work was based on enthusiasm, strong personal commitment and hard work.
Clear strategy and tangible member services
FiBAN was established to be private, independent, and non-profit; values which it has stayed true since its establishment. Its strategy was to focus on good quality deal flow, training, and networking among angels. Today FiBAN processes an annual deal-flow of over 1000 start-ups, approximately 4% of applicants receive funding. Training is offered from basic angel investing topics to special talks in the interest of most experienced angels. FiBAN’s Pitch Finland gathers typically over 100 members to listen to start-up pitches and network with other angels. Protecting angels’ personal credit records in case she or he is a member of the investee company board, has been a valuable member service. Without his protection, a company bankruptcy will be recorded to board members’ personal credit records in Finland.
Rotation of leadership
Even though there were strong angel characters such as Juha Kurkinen and Ari Korhonen among the founders, they soon made room for other members to take over the leadership positions. An unwritten rule was established that the chairperson would only be allowed to stay in power for two years and board members for a maximum of four years. This has led to an organization that is not anybody’s “baby” but has new leaders developing it based on a jointly agreed strategy.
International co-operation and benchmarking
Networking with angel groups in Europe and globally and adapting the best practices from others was playing an important role in creating the founding principles of FiBAN but has also continued ever since. To make integration to international community easier, it was decided that FiBAN will use only English language in communication and events. FiBAN’s first director and co-founder Claes-Mikko Nilsen made his first business trip to attend the EBAN congress in Sophia Antipolis. Former FiBAN chairmen Ari Korhonen and Riku Asikainen were active in EBAN leadership roles as vice presidents. In addition to being active in EBAN, it has been a tradition for FiBAN leaders to attend the ACA meetings and maintain close ties with the US and Canadian angel groups.
Vision of uniting all Finnish angels under one roof and being an independent non-profit organization with clear member benefits has led FiBAN to have both resources and appeal for angels. It was built and continues to be built on the enthusiasm of individual angels and relentless pro-bono work. Hopefully some of these ideas can inspire other angel networks to find their own recipe for success.
Janne Jormalainen is an entrepreneur and angel investor as well as president of EBAN and former chairman of FiBAN. Ari Korhonen, FiBAN co-founder and Claes Mikko Nilsen, first FiBAN director and co-founder have been interviewed for the creation of this article. Without their invaluable contribution the creation of this article would not have been possible.