FiBAN awards The Business Angel of the Year and The Exit of the Year - “We need encouraging role models to inspire us to move forward”
The Finnish Business Angels Network (FiBAN) has presented the annual angel investor awards to Ali Omar, Leena Niemistö and Niklas Geust. The awards were announced at the association's remotely organized spring meeting on the 31st of March 2020. The selection was based on suggestions made to the FiBAN board.
The annual recognitions are intended to honor the valuable work that private investors do to support startups and their growth and to promote the Finnish economy. “Today’s award-winning business angels have done a tremendous job of developing the startup ecosystem. In addition to the capital invested, they have shared an immeasurable amount of expertise and experience in the field, which has helped companies grow,” comments Amel Gaily, Managing Director of FiBAN.
The importance of surrounding support is emphasized in exceptional circumstances. “In times of uncertainty, it is essential to maintain hope and celebrate success’. Thus, in the midst of the covid-19 crisis, we need encouraging role models to inspire us to move forward,” Gaily says.
Business Angel of the Year 2019 Ali Omar is an active startup sparring partner
Ali Omar, The Business Angel of the Year 2019, has become one of Finland's most prominent business angels within a few years. His background as a medical doctor and an entrepreneur has led him to the path of an angel investor who currently has 25 companies in his investment portfolio. Omar is known as an active sparring partner for entrepreneurs, and he has also served on FiBAN's board in 2018 and 2019.
In the selection criteria Omar’s active role in investing and prominent activities in the startup ecosystem were highlighted. In addition, the awards committee emphasized Omar's way of promoting the visibility of business angel activities and representing FiBAN in the ecosystem. “Ali Omar has a good business instinct and has lots of ideas how to accelerate the growth of startups. Anyone can see clearly from Ali’s presence that he is passionate about helping entrepreneurs,” commented Reima Linnanvirta, Chair of the FiBAN Board.
Omar says he bases his analysis of potential investments on scarce data points, one of the most important of which is a skilled team. Thus, when making investment decisions he emphasize the team members ability for mental growth and excellent leadership skills. “It’s inspiring to experience the energy level of entrepreneurs and see the enthusiasm in their eyes,” he describes.
The Business Angel of the Year award highlights individuals who have made significant startup investments, shared their know-how with entrepreneurs, and actively supported the development of business angel activities. Active investor participation brings important additional resources for growth to startups.
Business Angel Exit of the Year 2019: Leena Niemistö and Niklas Geust were convinced by the entrepreneur's attitude and the dimension of impact investing
The Business Angel Exit of the Year 2019 award was given to two experienced angel investors, Leena Niemistö and Niklas Geust. They were awarded for exiting Verso Food, which was sold in 2019 to the Norwegian food producer Kavli Ltd. Verso Food, which develops vegetarian food, is known in Finland especially for its Härkis and Beanit products.
“When I met entrepreneur Leena Saarinen at a golf event in 2014, we got along well right away. We found a common passion for pre-emptive wellbeing measures and good food. I trusted the entrepreneur, and that made me make my investment decision quickly,” Niemistö recalls.
Environmentally conscious Niemistö was interested in Verso Food's ideology as a sustainable source of protein: “At that time, plant protein was still a new thing and I wanted to learn more about it”. When Härkis entered the market in 2016 with its food innovation, huge growth began both in the company and the plant protein market.
Geust continues along the same lines and emphasizes the importance of impact investing in his investment decisions. “Sustainability is an important value for me and I want to help companies that respond to it in one way or another - just as Verso Food does on the side of the food industry” he explains.
“Investing is traditionally thought of only by return in relation to risk. I believe that in the future, impact will become the third major dimension of startup investments,” Geust concludes.
An essential part of startup investments is the investor's opportunity for a positive exit, the success of which is celebrated with the Business Angel Exit of the Year award. In angel investing, capital gained through exits often returns back to the startup field in the form of new investments and thus contributes to the development of new innovations.
Read more: www.fiban.org/awards
Text: Heidi Tawast, Community Manager, FiBAN
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