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Interview with Claire Munck, CEO of Be Angels Belgium

Claire Munck, CEO of Be Angels

Claire Munck is a CEO of Be Angels, a business angel group based in Belgium and established to serve the French-speaking part of the country. It is also the Belgian member of the WA4E project consortium. She is an expert on business development, recruitment of new investors, deal-making, and the management of a women angel group. Claire has many years of experience working in the field of business angels at the national and European/global levels. She previously worked as a lobbyist before becoming a manager of an angel group and a business angel herself.

In an interview for our newsletter, Claire shares her thoughts on the WA4E survey and her take on the specific situation in Belgium. She also explains how her own organization has succeeded in attracting more women into investing into businesses. 


The WA4E project has recently published an extensive survey on why women become women business angels. What do you make of the report?

The results of the survey are very interesting and an unprecedented source of information – the geographic coverage, different countries, results that are quite comparable. The results show that the challenges are the same country to country; therefore, we can work together to solve them. The results reflect what we experience here in Belgium. The most compelling result was that more than 90% of women declared they were not informed about the possibility of becoming women business angels by their financial advisor including their private banker. In Belgium, Be Angels works a lot with private banks; there could be a bias that men might be more interested in this type of activity. Furthermore, one of the main issues identified is that in general there is very little awareness in the press about the existence of women business angels. Finally, the study confirmed that for women time management is an important hurdle when considering becoming an angel. Many of these women are professionals, mothers as well as having philanthropic activities. When they are told that the more time they invest in choosing and nurturing startups, the better the prospective return, it worries them. We should therefore develop services that enable them to become angels while managing their time adequately and more flexibly.

When analysing the results of the report, do you see any national specificities for Belgium that you could identify? Those that either correspond to or diverse from the survey results?

In Belgium, there are two particularities regarding women business angels. First, they like to be discreet, they rarely want people to know they invest in start-ups and the nature of their activities as women business angels. This poses a problem on how to mobilise capital from women who do not want to be visible. Secondly, women business angels often have a strong interest in training, learning everything from A to Z about the investment journey. They use the investment process to learn about business models, new markets and so on from start-ups.

Could you tell us more about your organisation?

Be Angels is one of the oldest angel groups in Europe. One interesting fact is that it has changed from gathering 3% of women (5 years ago) to representing 18% of the members. More importantly, when women were a minority they did not invest, while they are very active now in co-investing with the members. This shows that when there is a proactive attitude in recruiting women, with adequate services of training and investment, it adds value to have diversity in the groups. This also shows that when you put forward services women are interested in, there is a real impact and it works.

Would you like to share your experience as a woman business angel? What was the most challenging and most rewarding?

I was a lobbyist for 9 years and moved in the business angel network activity 5 years ago. I had to learn a lot of new skills, new competencies as I had to adapt to the change of managing a trade association to managing an angel group. I realised that there are very few women in venture capital, much less than in lobbying.

When I started Be Angels, I created a women’s group, to start a trend to encourage investors to join, thus promoting inclusive investorship from minorities.

I started investing myself 5 years ago. The results of the survey resonated in my own experience first as an intermediary, then by testing these recommendations myself as an investor. Learning and approaching angel investing with a group of peers was a great way to get started.

Are you planning any activities that will more specifically tackle the issues raised in the survey?

Based on the survey and the WA4E project, we organise regularly “bootcamps” before investment forums. These bootcamps will occur on a monthly basis and provide a useful introduction to new members. We also match experienced investors with new member at each investment event through a buddy programme. Furthermore, in 2018 we will organise a third annual conference for women investors called “Investir au feminin”.

Would you agree with the statement: the more women business angels there are, the more women entrepreneurs there will be?

I do not agree that this is necessarily true. Maybe more women entrepreneurs will feel inclined to present their projects to angel groups if they are more diverse. Overall having more women angels and communicating about diversity will be more attractive for women entrepreneurs. Women Business Angels will not act more leniently towards women entrepreneurs, but they will not be stricter either. All business angels are looking for good entrepreneurs and teams.

From your point of view, do you think women will benefit more from being more integrated into the existing network of business angels or should women pursue their own, separate networks?

I am speaking from the Be Angels’ experience which has gone from largely male dominated network to a diverse network; as Belgium is a small country a woman would not benefit from having two different networks. Women business angels did benefit from being in a diverse network, as in our case they were mostly starting out as investors and could benefit from the experience and co-investment opportunities with the other members of the group. We do have a women-only investor luncheon once a month to discuss the investment opportunities on top of the mixed investment events.

Project is co-financed by the European Union