Bella Fernandez, tech-based programs intern at TechTown Detroit, recently interviewed Lindsey Hillesheim, a participant in the Catalyst Angel Program. Hillesheim shared her investing journey and the importance of angel investing.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your investing journey.
I am early in my angel investing journey and made my first investment in December 2022 after completing the Angel Capital Association’s Angel University training. However, I’ve spent my career working with early-stage technologies and startups. When I worked at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, I came at it from a federal funding standpoint and helped develop SBIR topics and manage our programs and the startups within them.
I also worked at a small [research and development] business, pursuing federal non-dilutive funding to develop and commercialize technologies. Now, my main job is head of HPE Advance at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, where I work to develop partnerships with startups in data, edge, sustainability and AI that align with HPE’s strategy. So I’ve been around angel investing for a long time but not as an investor. I joke that becoming an angel investor is a little bit about putting money where my mouth is. I decided to join Groove Capital last year, and shortly after, I discovered TechTown Detroit’s Catalyst Angel Program through them. The timing worked out perfectly.
What is the most impactful part of the Catalyst Angel Program?
There is a famous quote from Thomas Pynchon: “If they get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers.” One of the values of the Catalyst Angel Program and participating in ACA University is that it helps new investors identify the right questions to ask, especially in due diligence topics outside their wheelhouse. There’s a lot of specific investment terminology that the program helped define and clarify for me.
I’m very experienced in assessing technology. I know how to do that. I’m good at assessing a team because that’s another thing I’ve had to do throughout my career. But I was not confident that I understood the investment jargon and options. I had heard of SAFEs, convertible notes, etc., and I had a basic understanding. Still, the Catalyst Angel Program helped me get to the next level of understanding and feel a little more confident in assessing those aspects of an opportunity. It can be the right technology/product and the right team but still not a good investment. Beyond the knowledge part, the other impactful aspect was being able to interact with my cohort and receiving trusted resources to reference because there’s just so much to learn.
Why is angel investing so important?
Returning to the Pynchon quote, I’d add that ensuring diverse investors are asking those questions is equally important. The Catalyst Angel Program’s support for Black, Latinx and/or women angel investors is key to bringing those perspectives to investment decisions and to the startups who benefit from their guidance after they invest. I hope that the technologies and products created by those startups are more inclusive as a result.
In addition, the upper Midwest’s local economies are very much tied together. I believe that startups and their growth are essential to our local economies and, by extension, the broader upper Midwest region. I think there is a real opportunity over the long run to have more robust local and regional economies by deliberately focusing on these earlier-stage investments because you’re growing that next generation of companies, jobs and capital.
TechTown Detroit’s Catalyst Angel Program helps emerging angel investors in the Great Lakes region who identify as Black, Latinx and/or women gain knowledge about investing, engage in curated courses through partner organizations and connect with other investors in local and national angel communities. If you’re interested in learning more, complete this interest form.