ACA Education Partner Seraf Investor Has Great Content


By: Marianne Hudson, ACA Executive Director

It's my pleasure to announce Seraf Investor as ACA’s new Education Partner. Seraf co-founders Hambleton Lord and Christopher Mirabile are considered two of the top angel investors in not only New England, but the world – and our missions to educate and professionalize the angel communities align extremely well.  As ACA was embarking on our new strategic initiative to provide more education for our members, we learned that Seraf was also expanding their extensive article series into books and courses and we all realized we had a match made in heaven.  Below you can read Seraf’s account of its new education materials.  Know that ACA is incorporating and adapting the content from “Ham” and Christopher into ACA seminars we deliver at ACA events and provide in ACA member communities in many formats.  If we are successful in our Regional Innovation Strategies grant proposal, we’ll also be able to work together on a deep set of online learning videos and podcasts for you.

Announcing Angel Investing Courses - Beginner Through Advanced

The original blog by Hambleton Lord and Christopher Mirabile appears here

During the summer of 2014, a few months after officially launching Seraf, Christopher and I sat down for a planning session to discuss our hopes and vision for the future. It was a pretty typical strategy session where we discussed what we most liked about our day-to-day work life and what paths we wanted to explore in the coming years. At the time, we were both very active investors in early stage companies, and our combined experience spanned a few decades and many dozens of investments.

As our conversation that sunny afternoon progressed, two common themes emerged. First, we enjoy passing our knowledge on to the next generation. Teaching is something we were both actively pursuing at the time. Christopher was an adjunct professor in entrepreneurial finance at Babson University, and I was a frequent speaker in the Boston tech community on topics related to early stage investing and launching startup companies. Second, writing is something that both of us are passionate about, but hadn’t had the time to focus on for many, many years.

From those two themes, an idea was born. Why not write down some of the things we had learned through our many years of making investments in early stage companies? Mistakes, triumphs, surprises - all of them taught us lessons. Suddenly a possible project idea started to take form. No, there weren’t light bulbs going on above our heads, but a fuzzy concept of a comprehensive investing library started to crystallize in our minds. We decided to make a long term commitment to help educate the angel investing community.

At the time, I don’t think we realized what we were getting into. Back then, if you asked us what our plans were, we weren’t sure. But, we knew we were taking the first steps on a journey to put down in writing all of the essentials a new investor would need to launch their early stage investing career. We called this new project the Seraf Compass because we viewed our writings as a guide for investors to navigate the complex world of early stage investing.

Our journey began by authoring a collection of articles based on some of the introductory courses we teach to members of Launchpad, the angel group we run in Boston. Adding typically one new article every week, we began to build what has turned out to be a comprehensive library with over 200 articles on all aspects of early stage investing. Ultimately, these articles were published in multiple formats, including individual blog posts, eBooks and hard copy books.

After 4 years of writing article after article, we reached a point where we felt we covered most of the landscape of important topics an early stage investor needs to understand. But… there was something missing. We replayed our summer conversation from 2014, and realized we forgot one of the two major themes… education and teaching. This time, a light bulb did go on above our heads! Our next project was obvious. We needed to take all of our writing and put it into a format that an experienced instructor could use to teach new investors in a classroom environment.

Sometimes the stars seem to align at a perfect time. Just as Christopher and I were starting in earnest to produce our course material from our library of content, the Angel Capital Association (ACA) was starting a project to build their own training materials. Our two organizations are committed to the professionalization of angel investing and share a belief that investors in early stage companies should have access to education and best practices to support the angel community worldwide. So, it didn’t take long for us to realize that joining forces made a lot of sense. After a few conversations, we agreed to form a joint partnership where content from the Seraf Compass would be turned into course material upon which the ACA would base their world class training courses.

Christopher and I had our marching orders. The spring and summer of 2018 was all about building and polishing a comprehensive set of teaching materials. There went our plans to hang out on Cape Cod and go sailing. Well… to be honest, I did take the occasional sailing break this past summer, but it did not impact our overall productivity!  

What are the courses and what topics do they cover?

The amount of waterfront that needs to be covered in teaching the basics of early stage investing is extensive. It begins with topics such as finding great investments, performing due diligence, and building an investment portfolio. Then it progresses into more complex topics, including understanding termsheets, establishing fair valuations, and getting a solid return on your investments.

There is enough material in this library of content to deliver a full semester college course, but it’s organized into easily digestible segments. Most classes are designed for about 2 hours of instruction, but some can be taught to investors in as little as 30 minute classes. At a high level, we organized the content into 4 major areas. Each area has a major theme and each theme has several subtopics. Depending on how much time you can allocate to instruction, these materials can be delivered in a variety of formats from shorter classes to full day training sessions. 

  • Introduction to Angel Investing
    • Angel 101: How to Get Started, Portfolio Theory, Investment Process, Deal Flow, Due Diligence, Angel Roles
    • Angel 201:  Termsheets, Cap Tables, Valuations, Follow-on Theory, Exits, Taxes
  • Evaluating Investment Opportunities
    • Fundamentals of Due Diligence: Key Risks, Investment Thesis
    • Essentials of Due Diligence: Team, Product, Market, Financial
  • Negotiating Investments
    • Termsheets: Framework, Deal Economics, Management & Control, Protection, Exits & Liquidity, Negotiating Terms, Convertible Notes
    • Valuations: Why Valuation Matters, Historical Methodologies, Valuation Realities, Prevailing Norms, Seraf Method, Negotiating Valuation
  • Angel Finance
    • Building Portfolio Success: Asset Allocation, Investment Returns, Portfolio Management, Tax Issues
    • Startup Economics: Financing Companies, Cap Tables, Types of Exits, Timing & Planning Exits, Alignment

Who can benefit from taking these courses?

These classes have something to offer everyone from the complete novice to the experienced investor. Christopher and I have taught variations on these courses to members of Launchpad for the past six years. Most people attending the classes are relatively new investors, but it’s quite common for experienced investors to sit in just to brush up their skills. Each time Christopher and I teach a class, it’s slightly different. We tell different stories. We get different questions from the audience. So, in the end, no two classes are alike. The teacher and the students greatly influence the arc of the classroom discussion and the depth of learning.

Even though we believe almost any level of experienced angel can benefit from all of the courses, the material is designed to scale from beginners all the way to advanced students. For beginners, we recommend starting with Angel 101 and Angel 201. These courses dig into basic concepts related to becoming an angel and understanding the angel investing process. The courses also introduce more advanced topics such as due diligence, termsheets and valuations. These introductions are enough so investors will understand the basics. They learn key terms and will start developing the vocabulary necessary to hold their own in a conversation with other investors and entrepreneurs.

With basic concepts under their belts, investors are ready to move onto more advanced topics. We developed five separate courses which provide an in-depth look at the most important skills needed by successful investors. These courses focus on topics including Due Diligence, Termsheets, Valuations, Portfolio Success and Startup Economics. As with our introductory courses, it’s important for instructors to come prepared with relatable stories and for students to be engaged with challenging questions.

How do you access the course materials?

To make our instruction materials easily accessible we produced each course in the following formats:

  • Slide Deck in PDF format suitable for display in a classroom setting
  • Slide Deck with comprehensive speaker notes in PDF format for instructor guidance
  • Printed books available from Amazon in both Student and Instructor Editions

The following links allow you to access the PDF files which you can download to your computer for reading and presentation purposes.

If you prefer a hard copy edition, you can purchase the printed books at Amazon.  

For self-guided students, in time we may offer video recordings of us teaching these classes, but for those looking for live instruction, the ACA offers webinars and in person education including these courses at many of their events. To register for one of their classes or webinars, check out https://www.angelcapitalassociation.org.

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