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Interview

January 15, 2021

Business angels are the catalysts for change - an interview with Aleksander Janiszewski from Greenberg Traurig

The acumen of a seasoned venture capital lawyer in the face of a convoluted startup funding transaction is invaluable for both investors and founders. Greenberg Traurig is a top-tier, full-service global law firm with a premier venture capital practice - a perfect recourse in such a situation.

In a short interview, Aleksander Janiszewski, Shareholder at GT, shared with us his thoughts on the budding angel investment culture in Poland, the aftermath of last year’s turmoil, and hopes for the future.  

Although the pandemic hit the markets in an unexpected manner, the jury is still out on how it affected startup investments in the long run. Aleksander explained: “Paradoxically, I would say the COVID-19 pandemic shouldn’t matter. Venture capital is a long-term game with exits often 8-10 years down the road.

“Why should last year’s blip materially impact such a lengthy investment outlook? Of course, there was a collective pause to gather thoughts and few opportunistic investors trying to juice the situation and get better terms, but things got back to normal pretty quickly.”

While some entrepreneurs and investors were more resilient and better prepared than others, the ecosystem and market maturity also played a role in how they dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic. Greater diversity in sources of funding is one of the mature ecosystem’s indicators – and this is where angel investors come in.

Speaking about the Polish case, the GT’s shareholder said: “This market needs more success stories, education, and popularization. It will attract a growing number of people to angeling. People, who are currently on the sidelines or involved with more mundane investments, but are otherwise great candidates.”

In this context, Aleksander sees his firm’s mission as something more than simply providing legal services to venture capitalists. “We want to continue driving professional standards from our international experience into the Polish ecosystem, allowing for smoother and better deals,” he commented. Business angels, especially those who “selflessly believe that their main role is to inspire and motivate the founders, like a true partner, not an investor” are included in this category.

Private investors, who fully embrace the dual role of a business angel (financial and mentoring) are still few and far between. Yet their role often proves crucial for the success of growing early-stage companies.

"Starting a business is one of the riskiest things a person can do professionally, yet it’s also one of the most impactful and socially desirable undertakings,” Aleksander pointed out.

“After all, daring is the price of progress. For every great founder, there must be a brave person who will believe in them, a like-minded individual willing to join the journey of converting dreams into reality. This is why we all need business angels. Together with founders, they are the catalyst for change. We all benefit in the end.”

To further this goal, Greenberg Traurig is one of the 2020 Business Angel of the Year award partners. Promoting angel investment and supporting the startup ecosystem is well-aligned with the firm’s core activities.

“We are very entrepreneurial at heart, so it is a good match for us. We love working with soulmates and meet exciting angels and founders. We also want to share our knowledge and contribute to the venture capital community which has outsized positive impact on our society,” Aleksander concluded.