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Standing out as a start-up from an investor’s point of view

For majority of start-ups across the world and in New Zealand, grabbing the attention of an investor is vital for a company to mature further. But standing out is the hard part with so much competition.

We talk to Maria Jose Alvarez, Managing Partner at WNT Ventures on what it takes for a start-up to stand out from the crowd and attract that investor’s attention.

Maria Jose Alvarez, originally from Chile, became an investor after founding her own tech company. Using her own knowledge as an entrepreneur she wanted to help and support others take their start-up to the next level.

Alvarez made the decision to move to Auckland after seeing how ahead the country was in terms of tech compared to Chile in 2009 and so she made the decision to move to Auckland to complete a Master of Bioscience Enterprise at the University of Auckland.

As investor’s, their job is to accelerate and amplify the vision the start-up has to solve problems, and as a previous founder of a start-up, she knows best the hardships that come along with it.

Despite the evolution of tech slowing down, she saw a strong potential for the country’s tech sector to grow because of New Zealand being a “multicultural melting pot”.

Maria Jose Alvarez.

Heavily inspired by the Australian venture capital ecosystem, Alvarez says that New Zealand has tried to follow suit but has now come down to “PR driven” raise celebrations. However, the raise is “just a means to an end”, with the end being to create a company.

“When we think about diversity and types of companies that we’re investing in, having different perspectives to build the companies definitely helps in terms of the risk in it, but also to understand who your actual target market or what your consumer is,” she says.

Read more: Entrepreneur Brianne West launches initiative to support Kiwi start-ups

“And that’s not one dimensional type of people.”

When it comes to diversity, she sees benefits that more representation is able to sell and outperform better because they are not stuck in an echo chamber.

“We celebrate the raise, but if some of those elements are missing, it’s unlikely or it’s going to take them longer or it’s going to take them a lot more capital to get to where they need to,” says Alvarez.

Specifically in New Zealand start-ups can easily be diverse and represent a number of communities, but there is still a lack of diversity when it comes to venture capital.

She says that venture capital has historically looked different to how she herself looks which can be a discrepancy for founders when it comes to communicating their message.

“It is very important that not only are we creating diverse companies, but also our venture capital is diverse because that is the decision making power to allocate that capital to those companies,” she says.

WNT team.

When a company is diverse and is representing that, Alvarez says investors know that the company is representing the future and that is what most investors are looking for.

For any investor, they look at the company and ask questions like ‘what are the blind spots?’.

“The more diverse your internal team and your start-up team is, the easier it is for you to spot those gaps and fill it,” says Alvarez.

“And that is a winning opportunity for the start-up and for the investors.”

When personally choosing companies to invest in, Alvarez often looks at those who are “really hungry about the problem”, looking past the solution and whether the people really understand the problem.

“I meet hundreds of entrepreneurs a year, and you can tell the ones that are actually so deeply embedded and know this has to be solved some way,” she says.

“My threshold is, do I see myself working with this person for the next seven years.”

Most times, Alvarez benefits from sitting down, learning and listening to the origin story of a company and learning about their eureka moment which brings out their passion.

She adds young entrepreneurs of start-ups should understand the problem inside out.

Looking at the venture world in New Zealand now, Alvarez says it has become more diverse since she first arrived in the country when there was a lack of women in the space.

But now in 2023, she is seeing many women-led founding teams.

New Zealand specifically has seen many start-up companies take the global stage thanks to their diversity she adds.

Bernadette is a content writer across SCG Business titles. To get in touch with her, email [email protected]

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