Angels Invest to Solve the World’s Problems

On a mission to improve humanity, MIT grad and seasoned investor Swati Chaturvedi is setting out to propel innovation.

She co-founded Propel(x), an investment platform that is connecting angel investors to the startups that will diagnose and cure disease, innovate new sources of energy, and grow food in impoverished communities. So far, more than $7 million has been raised.

Chaturvedi calls these hard science-based and meaningful engineering companies “deep technology.” She’s made it the exclusive focus of Propel(x), in part, because she believes they are the next ‘big thing’ for angel investors.

“Internet startups have peaked. Key technology startups are where our returns will come from in the next few years,” Chaturvedi says.

The problem? It hasn’t historically been easy for angels to financially support deep technology companies. Of the $53 million of assets under management in the world, Chaturvedi says less than 0.1% is invested in early tech start-ups.

So in hopes of solving the investment problems that could eventually solve the world’s problems, Propel(x) is working to change the game.

Chaturvedi says there are three main problems standing in between potentially world-changing startups and successful fundraising.

Granting Access

Chaturvedi says the company’s first priority was to make it easy for investors to build a diversified portfolio in deep tech startups.

“There is no systematic way to invest in these companies, unlike the stock market,” she says.

Propel(x) brings together a variety of companies and provides them the resources to tell their stories.

Making Understanding and Evaluation Easier

Propel(x) research shows half of investors don’t invest in startups because they don’t understand the technology well enough. To bridge the gap, Chaturvedi helped build a growing network of more than 400 experts to answer questions for potential investors.

Lowering the Threshold

The average ticket size, or a minimum investment, is at least $25,000. Understanding that “most people aren’t that wealthy,” Chaturvedi says lowering their ticket size to $3,000 allows more opportunity for the marketplace.

Industry Council

In early March, Propel(x) added an invaluable resource for startups to connect to industry giants. The Propel(x) Industry Council includes the names Chevron, Schneider Electric and Bosch to provide mentorships and help build relationships. Chaturvedi says there is incentive for the big corporations to play, too.

“Major corporations are constantly looking for innovation. Startups are at the source of that, so it helps them to get in early.”

In the process of changing the world by funding meaningful innovation, Chaturvedi is also making big waves in her industry.

“There are so few women in finance, so few women in science and so few women in technology. Here we are at the intersection of all three,” she says.

Her majority female-staffed company is hoping to continue the impact women can make in finance and in the world. She’s offering her expert advice to encourage others to discover they have to effect change.

Think you’re ready to dive into a startup? Here’s what she recommends:

1. Don’t start investing unless you have enough capital to build a diversified portfolio.

2. Do your diligence by evaluating the risk areas and asking questions of the stakeholders.

3. Trust your judgment.

“I call upon women to take the plunge; become an entrepreneur or put your faith in one,” Chaturvedi says.

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