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5 Minutes With … Donna Patane

5 Minutes With … Donna Patane

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“It’s not about the ideas. It is about making the ideas happen.”

This is the philosophy that business and IP lawyer, Donna Patane, lives by. As the brains behind the newly rebranded NQ Angels, Donna has dedicated her career to helping connect local start-ups or high growth potential companies with the required connections and funding to develop their ideas into commercially viable ventures. She is now preparing to host NQ Angels’ first private Townsville pitch event in March and she sat down with us to share more about the benefits of Angel investing. 

1. You spend your days providing businesses, entrepreneurs and researchers with access to expert advice and funding to help get innovative and novel products, processes and services to market. What is the most common mistake you see people make when it comes to Angel investing? 

Not getting the timing right. Angel investing tends to happen early in the startup lifecycle, but we still expect to see the right structure, a functional prototype or MVP, some market traction and a valuation based on a justifiable accounting basis. The timing should also show that the founder has already put their own cash in and perhaps that of some friends and family. 

2. You are a business and IP lawyer by trade and an accelerating commercialisation facilitator in the Australian Government’s Entrepreneurs’ Programme. What is the biggest lesson you have learnt over your time in the profession? 

Sometimes a reality check is actually just what a founder needs. They often spend months or years in the trenches before I see them. I start with a lot of listening and questioning to get the whole picture then focus on the big ticket issues – is there a unique value proposition, does the market want it, is it legal and is there any existing IP in the way or is it new IP we need to protect to ensure some exclusivity? A good strategy can overcome some issues, but others can be fatal, so knowing sooner rather than later can save a lot of time and money (or litigation). Founders are usually appreciative of that kind of advice. Communicating the reality is a bit of an art though – no one likes being told their baby is ugly! 

3. We know the best ideas and talent don’t move forward without the capital to fund their execution. Why is it critical that the capital is available to embrace each stage of development?

Each stage of development builds on the last and moves the startup progressively along its journey by making, doing or learning. Capital is critical to ensure the founder team has the runway to focus and work and we need to be able to offer that capital, particularly for the early stages, so that we keep startups afloat and operating in our region. 

4. Why is it important for potential investors to educate themselves on the risks and gains associated with Angel investing? 

Angel investing is high risk because of the uncertainty of building a business around new IP but is high reward should the founder be able to make it happen. There are a lot of variables which impact the success of a startup and unfortunately a lot of startups don’t see returns for years or simply fail and wind up. The relative unpredictability of angel investing means it should be undertaken with care, diligence and, to spread the risk, across a portfolio of smaller investments. 

5.  What advice would you give to those who are looking to enter the world of Angel investing within the startup space? 

Startups are fun! They are energised, they are doing amazing work and they want to take you on a journey. Investing at the angel stage also means you might be able to get hands on as an advisor, connector or cheerleader. Remember to keep your mind open, connect with the angels around you, ask lots of questions, understand the risks, watch and learn. Then dive in! 

For more information on NQ Angels head to https://nqangels.com.au

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