“It used to be more impulse-driven, today it’s more sweat” – Interview with “Europe’s Female Angel Investor of the year” Lurdes Gramaxo

Lurdes Gramaxo is „Europe’s Female Business Angel of the Year 2020“. In the BAND interview, the Portuguese investor talks about how she classifies the award, what she looks for in „her start-ups“ and how the Portuguese angel ecosystem has developed.

What were the reactions to your “Golden Aurora”? Were there any?
There was really a lot of recognition, to be honest something I didn’t expect. I was surprised so positively by the impact via social media for example. Really, I got a lot of congratulations. I had quite a lot of media requests, several interviews and also requests for webinars. And there was something really nice: I was invited by Regina Llopis (who won the 2nd place in the Golden Aurora competition) who asked me to take part in a summit they do in Spain.

Perhaps you could explain what the award means to you? How do you classify it?
It was a pleasure for me and an honour to receive this award. Even more because the decision was made by a jury of well known people and also because I was in the run with very skillful women from this environment. For me it’s a kind of motivation to go further on working on this field and get more women into the ecosystem. Success stories are always a great way to motivate others. If there is a stage that I’m on with the “Golden Aurora” and other female investors can see me there and feel motivated to do like me, this is a very important point.

Were you actually aware of the Golden Aurora award beforehand? Did you know the award?
No, to be honest I didn’t know about it. Sometimes we discuss it in our association what the other European Business Angels associations do, and I was aware that BAND gives some awards, but I didn’t know the “Golden Aurora” by name. I didn’t even know that I was in the list of a competition. So it was really, really surprising to me.

By the way: Do you have an award like for the „Portuguese business angel of the year“ in Portugal?
We do have start-up awards like for example the High Impact Start-up Award. But as far as I can see there are no awards for business angels.  

In Germany, business angels have been benefiting from INVEST – Zuschuss für Wagniskapital – a grant programme of the Federal Ministry of Economics since 2013. In the UK, there is the Enterprise Investment Scheme. Do you have grant programmes in Portugal that you can tell about?
Yes, we do have some public funds in Portugal but I have to say directly that these funds are from my point of view probably not as good as those in the UK or Germany what has to do with the fact that you can’t really compare the countries. The 200M for example is a matching fund that aims to foster Co-investment in high growth innovative startups in Portugal with qualified national and international private Co-investors and risk sharing on a call by call basis. We also have some direct support to start-ups, like start-up voucher, a program for young entrepreneurs in the idea stage and start-up visa, a residence visa for founders that aims to attract investment, talent and innovation into Portugal.

Can you give us a little insight into the Portuguese Angel ecosystem? The situation about numbers and data is probably as difficult as in Germany?
Yes, it’s absolutely difficult. We have a few figures in our Business Angels Association (APBA) but this concerns only the members not the whole ecosystem. The association Scale up Porto for example is trying to gather information but with a focus on the northern part of the country. Actually we don’t have reliable figures for the whole country. I guess it’s the same like in Germany: You have Business Angels that are doing it parttime and others fulltime – how do you count this? But I think what is recognizable as a tendency, however, is that the scene as a whole has become quite more professionalized and business angel is seen as a fulltime occupation, unlike in the past. Perhaps you can say: Earlier it was more impulse-driven like “I love the idea of the start-up” and today it’s more sweat, simply business.

You are involved in the Portuguese Business Angels Association. Can you tell us a little bit about your work there?
We have a 150 members and we are active for about ten years. Me myself I’m involved for five years now. What we do is to support the development of Business Angels and earlystage VCs. For this reason, we do lobbying with the authorities in Portugal and networking with other associations in Europe. We do have training events for our members on selected topics and organize The Angels@Work, that are events of the network and where start-ups can pitch.

Why don’t you take us on a little journey of discovery to „your start-ups“ Where are the differences, where are the similarities? Can you tell us something about your „investment behaviour”?
We are always looking for start-ups with a strong technological basis with scalable solutions and very complementary, diverse and resilient teams with strong motivation, both in Portugal and in Spain. That’s what they all have in common. We look for start-ups with a certain market fit with for example a successful pilot, some sales, that show some traction. To say it shortly we are looking for the team, the product, the market and the investment thesis. We have 35 start-ups at this moment with quite different performances. But that’s normal, that’s life. And we are proud to say: in general we have quite good multiples in context with our investments.

We are currently in a difficult situation – keyword Corona: What is the situation with your invested companies?
The worst part of this crisis was felt during the first wave like in March, April last year, when nobody knew anything about the pandemic. With BYND we were going quite good through the crisis. We just did everything that we did before – only online. In connection with our start-ups there were or there are very big differences. Start-ups in the sharing mobility for example really suffered a lot. They had to reorganize nearly everything. But we also have companies like one who organizes digital fares and they were growing heavily. What we could do was helping our start-ups to adjust to new situation and find ways of dealing with the pandemic. And on the other side they also helped us as well.

Thank you very much indeed, Lurdes!

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