SuperAngel #200 Julia Morrongiello on Going from VC to Angel
Having been a VC with Point Nine and GFC, Julia is now an active angel and scout for Accel 👼 Learn all about her path, learnings, and strategy here.
Today, we're happy to welcome you to Julia Morrongiello, an ex-VC at Point Nine, turned operator, turned angel investor. She is the Head of Growth Europe for Zero Hash, a crypto-as-a-service provider whose clients include the likes of Stripe, Moonpay, Curve and Interactive Brokers. Julia spent most of her career working as a VC investor at Point Nine and GFC and now continues to invest in fintech and crypto as an angel and scout for Accel. Since starting her career as an angel investor a little over a year ago, she's invested in 10 companies and 1 fund so far 🚀
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Julia started her career in venture capital, working with well-known funds like GFC and Point Nine, where she focused on fintech, marketplaces, and crypto. While working in VC, she realized that she lacked operational experience, leading her to join a leading Neo broker in Europe, Trade Republic, and later heading the European expansion for Zero Hash, a crypto-as-a-service provider catering to the likes of Stripe, Moon Pay, Curve, and Interactive Brokers.
"I started to suffer from something which is quite common in VC which is imposter syndrome... I didn't know what it meant to actually scale a startup, to build from the inside."
Transition From Venture Capital investing to Angel Investing
After gaining valuable operational experience, Julia delved into angel investing a little over a year ago. The shift from VC to angel investing presented her with a different approach to decision-making. As an angel investor, she embraces a founder-driven strategy, focusing on the entrepreneur's vision and determination, rather than extensive data analysis and hypothesis validation.
“In Angel Investing, you have to take a slightly different approach because you can't afford to do that diligence if you're putting small checks. It tends to be a lot more founder-driven and less metrics and hypothesis-driven."
Julia shared two memorable deals from her experiences. At Point Nine, she invested in Tenderly, a crypto developer tool that rode the wave of the crypto market's full cycle.
"One of the most memorable [deals] from 0.9 was a crypto deal called Tenderly... They were able to ride that wave [of the crypto market] and seeing that journey was really interesting."
As an angel investor, she invested in Alpha, a female-focused investing platform, purely based on her admiration for the determined founder's vision, showing her commitment to supporting female entrepreneurs in the fintech and crypto space.
"My most memorable one [as an angel investor] was very different... I loved the founder, this person is so determined, has a really clear vision, and I just want to invest in this person regardless of what they end up building."
Embacing Parallels & Investing to make a change
One of the most significant advantages of angel investing, according to Julia, is the freedom to invest in areas she is passionate about, without constraints imposed by fund requirements. Julia uses her investments to make a positive impact, supporting startups in areas such as climate change that align with her values and belief in contributing to meaningful change.
Being an angel... gives you a lot of power as an angel to actually use capital as an engine for change, to invest in areas that you really believe in.
"As an angel investor in the crypto and fintech space, there are those parallels, those things that you can kind of leverage," Julia explains. She believes that her operational knowledge and industry expertise from her VC days help her better understand the startups she invests in, enabling her to provide valuable guidance and support to founders.
Consequently, angel investing complements her endeavors with her full-time role at Zero Hash perfectly:
"Angel investing is almost like a hobby for me. I don't necessarily think of the two as one taking time from the other. They're two things that feed into each other and are mutually beneficial."
Julia acknowledges the lack of female founders in the fintech and crypto space and is passionate about empowering and supporting them. As a female angel investor, she finds that women founders are more comfortable connecting with her and building deeper relationships. She actively seeks out female founders, recognizing the untapped potential in supporting and investing in this underserved segment.
It's definitely a case that women attract women... It's only natural that as a man you have more men in your circle of people that you meet and similarly as a woman, you tend to attract more women
Optimizing for Diversified Returns
"As an angel, I adopt an approach focused on volume," Julia reveals. "I understand the power law dynamics of venture investing. Success often comes from one or two outliers. Diversifying my investments increases the likelihood of hitting those high-return outliers that significantly impact my overall portfolio performance."
That said, Julia doubles down on the verticals where she excels. "With around ten investments in my angel portfolio, my focus lies primarily in early-stage fintech and crypto companies," Julia notes.
"But I don't limit myself to these areas entirely. I diversify my portfolio with investments in other promising industries that align with my values and offer the potential for impactful returns."
And when evaluating opportunities, Julia is 100% founder-focused:
"I invest in passionate and determined entrepreneurs who demonstrate a clear vision for their startups. Metrics and data are essential, but the personal conviction I have in the founder and the market's potential play a pivotal role in my investment decisions."
Julia has always embraced a pan-European lens when it comes to investing. Having worked with funds that invested across Europe and occasionally in the US, she recognizes the natural connections within the European VC network. "The VC network across Europe is quite tight-knit," Julia explains. "Even if you're based in London, you can easily see deals in Paris, Berlin, and beyond."
"Investing across Europe is fairly natural," she states.
"Cultivating a network of operators and investors across different countries enables us to share deals, collaborate, and support founders more effectively."
However, investing in the US presents a different challenge. Julia notes that the US VC landscape can be more competitive, making it challenging for European VCs and angels to break in. "One thing that we used to think about at 0.9 is why a Founder raising in the US would take money from a European VC when there are so many amazing US-based funds," she muses.
For founders, the decision to raise funds from a European VC or an American one is strategic. Julia suggests that sometimes a founder raising in the US might consider a European VC or angel for a specific reason. "It's essential for VCs to consider what value they can bring to the business," she says. "What sets them apart from other investors? Why should a US-based founder choose them over a well-known US VC?"
Julia emphasizes the importance of brand recognition and reputation in both Europe and the US. A well-respected VC or angel can add credibility and attract talented employees to a startup. This flywheel effect can significantly impact a company's success and fundraising potential.
LP Investing - Diversification and Opportunities Beyond Direct Investments
While angel investing allows individuals to directly support and engage with early-stage startups, there is another avenue for investors to participate in the startup ecosystem - Limited Partner (LP) investing. LP investing involves investing in venture capital funds, allowing individuals to diversify their portfolio across multiple startups and access opportunities beyond direct investments.
For Julia, LP investing is a natural extension of her investment strategy, offering a way to diversify outcomes and mitigate risks associated with angel investing. As an angel investor, she recognizes the challenges of investing in a limited number of startups and the potential for some investments not to yield expected returns.
"LP investing is an opportunistic play for me. If I find a fund that I have built relationships with and believe in, and they happen to have space in their fund, I would consider investing as a way to diversify my portfolio," Julia explains. Exactly the point about relationships is key here. At eu.vc, David and I have focused our investing around fund investments first to then co-invest later. In doing so, building real relationships is integral - without, it’s just passive asset allocation making massive returns unlikely to materialize.
On the contrary, active LP investing as an active angel offers several complementarities, specifically the delegation of identifying, diligencing, and managing startups in the very early stages to the local champions of the ecosystems.
"LP investing allows me to leverage the expertise of seasoned venture capitalists who are dedicated to identifying and nurturing high-potential startups. It provides me with broader exposure to various startups and sectors that I might not have considered in my direct angel investments," Julia states.
For Julia, LP investing complements her role as an angel investor and operator. It provides her with a means to diversify her portfolio and capitalize on the expertise of established venture capital firms while continuing to engage directly with founders as an angel investor.
"LP investing and angel investing are not mutually exclusive. They can coexist harmoniously, allowing me to contribute to the growth of startups in different capacities. As an angel investor, I am deeply involved in supporting individual founders, while LP investing offers a way to spread my investments across a broader range of startups," Julia emphasizes.
While LP investing offers a compelling proposition, it is not without challenges however. Many venture capital funds have minimum capital requirements, often 500k or more, making it inaccessible to many individual investors. Additionally, gaining access to LP opportunities may require well-established networks and relationships within the venture capital industry.
"LP investing is relatively difficult due to the minimum capital requirements of some funds and the need for established connections. However, by building relationships with other angel investors and venture capitalists, I have been able to discover and access LP opportunities," Julia notes.
We’re quite plugged into who’s raising in Europe, so don’t hesitate to reach out for an intro or chat about funds you’re considering. There’s nothing like kicking tires
🔫 The Quickfire Round 🔫
What's the most counterintuitive thing you've learned since you started angel investing?
What would be your top tips for just wanting to do more international investments?
Cultivate an international network, and really find operators or other investors that are investing in other countries. By developing those relationships naturally, you'll get to yourself from other countries.
What advice would you give your ten-year-old younger self if you only had 30 seconds?
Compare me less to other people.
As an angel, as a VC, you're always surrounded by brilliant, talented people, and it's easy to compare yourself to them and feel like maybe you haven't achieved enough. The reality is everyone has their journey.
Everyone's timeline for success is very different. I think by focusing on, you know, what brings you joy, what you're good at, and doing that, rather than thinking about how you compare to this unicorn founder, will make life a lot easier.
Europe is amazing 🚀 And some ecosystems are moving very fast, despite what you might think. Learn more about which and why in Affinity’s latest unicorn report 👀