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Angel Investor Series – Alden Zecha

Hi, my name is Alden Zecha, I’m a Managing Director with SideCar Angels, a local angel investment group.

Tell Us About Your Journey

My journey has been pretty diverse, it’s very non-traditional. I came out of University/College with my education and started working in a corporate American R&D lab, actually at a work bench mixing chemicals. But pretty quickly fell into entrepreneurship. And then for about 20 years, actually a little bit more than 20 years, bounced back and forth between entrepreneurship and consulting. Both individual consulting and working for large strategy firms. And then I ended up going back into entrepreneurship and have stuck with that largely ever since. So for the past 15 years or so I’ve been an entrepreneur and then about ten years ago started actively angel investing and then six years ago became a managing director of SideCar Angels which is a local angel investment group.

What Inspires and Motivates You?

So several things inspire me. I think one of the things that’s most exciting [about] working in the entrepreneurial ecosystem is seeing innovators come up with new ideas to existing problems or inconveniences sometimes. And that’s just so exciting and inspiring to me as someone who constantly wants to learn and improve myself. And by looking at what others are doing, I can expand my own horizons, I can broaden my own knowledge. And that’s part of what really motivates me to keep going is that sense of self-discovery, that sense of self-learning, and at the same time, the attitude that life is a journey. It’s not a destination, just an endpoint to get to. It’s how we get wherever we may go and that there isn’t a pre-described path. And definitely my career has been a wandering or meandering to where I am today and I’m very excited about that.

What Attributes Lead to Success?

I think there are a couple of key attributes in my opinion that can lead to success. One of the most important is the ability to move through and overcome obstacles or challenges. No path is ever 100% smooth. I don’t care who you are, what the situation is, there are always going to be challenges. And the ability to face those sometimes go over them, sometimes go around them, right? There’s many ways to face and deal with a challenge. I think that’s such a key element in dealing with success or getting to success. Sometimes people will say it’s grit or determination and I think those can be contributing factors. But there are other ways to overcome challenges as well. So I think more broadly it’s the ability to face and overcome those challenges.

What Are Your Must-Haves Before You Make An Investment?

So for me, when I’m looking at making an investment there are a few things that I really think are critical to have. Amongst them are, of course, having a product or service that people actually want, need, or could benefit from. Sometimes people don’t know they need or want that thing, but they can benefit from it. So it’s got to add value to either their lives if it’s a consumer item, or to the business, if it’s a business-facing item.

Of course, that also means that there has to be a big enough market for that to be attractive as an investor. And I think something that a lot of entrepreneurs forget is investors are looking ultimately for an exit, for a return. So there has to be some potential to get that exit at the end as well.

Finally, for me, I look a lot at the team. How are they in regard to their experiences in the past, whether it’s in academia, whether it’s in school, or in the workplace? And how have they been able to face challenges and overcome them? Whether that’s life challenge, professional challenge, academic challenge it’s an attitude that I’m looking for of the ability to get through those things.

What Advice Do You Have For Entrepreneurs?

One of the things I tell entrepreneurs, and I would hope that they listen to, is have clear goals. Where are you trying to get to? What’s your objective? Not just for your business, but for yourself. But also recognize that things will change, so you have to be adaptable. If you just have the goal and you are inflexible, you likely won’t succeed. So have those clear goals, but be willing to adapt as situations change, information change, you get more data, whatever that may be. And I think that, to me, is a key element that entrepreneurs could all benefit by taking up.

What Value Does Gesmer Bring to Scaling Companies?

I think Gesmer brings a lot of value to scaling companies. But I’ll speak to one aspect that I think is really key, which is the ability to tap into a broad network of contacts. So not just their own professionals who are very skilled and have a lot of knowledge, but the ability to reach out to other people in the ecosystem, in the community, whether those are investors, other entrepreneurs, other professional service advisors, and to bring those other players to the benefit of their clients, to the benefit of those organizations trying to scale. Because, let’s be honest, no single firm knows everything. And I think Gesmer recognizes that. And they realize that their broader network can add so much value to their clients. And so they actually foster that network and help to grow it themselves in order to help their clients grow their businesses.

Why Go With Gesmer?

I can see why people go with Gesmer. I think it’s because of that knowledge the firm has amongst their professionals, the experience they bring to the table, of course, but in many firms, that’s table stakes. But it’s the fact that Gesmer’s professionals have seen so many different situations and they can draw from that experience and apply it to their clients’ needs. At the same time, they have that broader network beyond just their employees, beyond their lawyers to be able to tap into. So when they need experience from an investor, or they need experience from an accountant, or they need experience from another entrepreneur who may have been through the same situation, they can bring that to bear for the benefit of their clients. And I think a lot of clients don’t think about those added aspects beyond just the legal, professional aspects when evaluating a firm. But clearly there are these other benefits. They’re intangible. They’re hard to measure, I admit that. But I think that as people evaluate a firm, they really should be thinking about what else beyond the knowledge of the law.

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