Note: Startup investors spend a lot of time learning about founders. We want to know about their backgrounds, how much business experience they have, what they think the future will look like…
But we don’t spend enough time learning about other investors. Not big league, Shark Tank-style billionaire investors, but fellow crowdfunding investors.
To that end, our friends at KingsCrowd have started a series of investor profiles. These interviews reveal intriguing investing strategies, varying sets of startup criteria and helpful advice from investors just like you. Today we’re sharing the investor profile of Crowdwise founder Brian Belley, one of the most knowledgeable (and approachable) startup investors we know.
Brian Belley has dual mechanical and aerospace engineer degrees. He worked in aerospace for 10 years and really enjoyed it. In 2018, he decided to take a one-year sabbatical and travel the world with his wife. During their journeys, Brian became very interested in all kinds of investment opportunities. Eventually, he discovered equity crowdfunding and was excited to find that he could invest in startups.
Brian started by just investing a little bit to get some skin in the game, figuring this was the best way to learn. However, he realized there was a huge lack of education. So, even for someone like himself — who had been looking at investing in alternatives for more than 10 years — this whole private market space was just completely new. “What is a SAFE? What is a convertible note? How do you look at an early stage deal when there is not a lot of information?” So, Brian started a blog that eventually turned into Crowdwise. That experience led Brian to discover that this combination of technology and investing is his passion. Ever since then, he has been trying to help investors by sharing his own experiences and lessons learned.
Inez Sanjaya: How did you get into startup investing? How long have you been investing?
Brian Belley: I was already starting to invest when I was in college in the early 2000s. I had a little — not a lot — invested during the 2007-2008 financial crisis. I think that really set a lot of my psychology around investing because I realized diversification is a real thing. There’s always going to be unexpected events and uncertainty in your portfolio, so you want to diversify. As far back as that, I was like, “okay, how can I invest in alternatives?” Then, I actually kind of dabbled in crypto in the early days — I got into bitcoin in 2013-2014. I was doing some peer-to-peer loans that were through websites like Lending Club and Prosper. I also got into crowdsourced real estate through Fundrise. I actually invested in my first Regulation A deal in around 2014 without knowing it was Reg A. I didn’t even know what Regulation A was. My first Regulation Crowdfunding [deal] probably was in early 2018.
Inez Sanjaya: How many companies have you invested in so far?
Brian Belley: Since 2018, I am up to 159 investments now between Regulation A, Regulation Crowdfunding, and Regulation D.
Inez Sanjaya: What is your strategy for building your portfolio?
Brian Belley: Since I’m an engineer by training, I am very focused on numbers and data-driven. I read a lot of white papers from AngelList because they have tons of data. What you come to realize is that as much as there are some investors who can consistently do pretty well or outperform, there’s always this element of luck and there is no way of getting around that. No one knows which startups are going to be the successful ones in the future…