Sig Mosley Joins The ‘Bold And Badass’ Shila Burney’s $10M Zane Venture Fund
In the Southeast, it is hard to discuss angel investing without the name Sig Mosley coming up. One of Atlanta’s community-driven investors, Sig is the founder and managing partner of Mosley Ventures and he’s often said to be the “Godfather of Angel Investing” in the Southeast.
His track record of managing investments carries some weight in the investment community, having worked with more than 145 startups and 105 liquidity events. He holds the record for the largest venture deal in the Southeast — an almost $6-billion acquisition of Tradex by Ariba. If you are a founder and you pitch investors in Atlanta, it’s been said the investors will ask if Sig said “yes” or “no”.
Being mentored by Sig means a lot to the “bold and badass” Shila Nieves Burney, who announced her $10 million Zane Venture Fund in 2019. Since Shila’s last conversation with Moguldom, she announced that Mosley will be joining the Zane Venture Fund.
A brush with gun violence sent Atlanta event host Shila on a new trajectory helping tech and tech-enabled companies raise, grow and scale. She hopes to support Black and brown founders including men, women, and LGBTQ.
“When I started this journey, I didn’t imagine that Sig could be a part of the work,” Shila told Moguldom. “He is the best in the Southeast and to now have him a part of the Zane team is incredibly humbling. This gives me great hope about the fund’s forward movement.”
Moguldom spoke with Sig about why he chose to join the Zane Venture Fund, where he sees esports headed and how founders can connect with venture capitalists.
I made the decision to not raise a Mosley II. I was looking for some part-time opportunities where I could continue to be involved in the angel venture world. I had talked to Shila for a year or two, helping to coach her along the way. I believe in what she is doing, and it is something we need to do more of.Atlanta investor Sig Mosley, founder and managing partner of Mosley Ventures
Moguldom: You’re considered the “Godfather of Angel Investing” in the Southeast. With over 140 startups and many of them leading to liquidity, what is your not-so-secret sauce to identifying the right company to invest in?
Sig Mosley: It is trying to judge entrepreneurs and how they will behave and what kind of team they’ll be able to build. It is also being able to look at the markets in general and prime opportunities that will succeed.
Moguldom: You have been in the investment industry since 1990. How much has the investment scene changed since then?
Sig Mosley: The investing scene has changed tremendously. When I began in 1990, angel investing was not really a thing. Then we started to see more VCs, more angels, and we had the dotcom run in ’98 and ’99 and then the dotcom bust in 2000 and 2001. With the bust, there was a loss of around 80 percent of the angels and a significant number of VCs. Then things began to come back and we then had the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008. A lot of things happened to the investment scene. In addition, you had more and more technology being created. Schools like Georgia Tech became more involved in the commercialization of technology then they were back in 1990.
Moguldom: Many people try to predict where the economy is headed. Do you think we’re in for another bubble burst or do you think we’re going to be riding this growth in technology companies and investors for a while?
Sig Mosley: At some point, we will have a downturn. It’s hard to say when. Trying to time the market is a very, very hard thing to do. It’s almost impossible. But I don’t believe that whatever downturn we have in the area of technology will be as bad as the dotcom bust. Mainly because companies today, even the unicorn companies have revenue. Back in the dot-com world, you wanted to go public before you had revenue because nobody could hold you accountable. Today, they all have revenue, but we just may be valuing the revenue too high.
Moguldom: Everybody is talking about WeWork and Casper and their valuations. Why do you think their valuations are so high?
Sig Mosley: One of the challenges is the amount of money being raised by venture capital funds, particularly in the Valley. Now there are billion-dollar funds. They have to find opportunities to invest those dollars. They are out digging up opportunities because they need to put those dollars to work. If you keep digging up opportunities to invest in, you’re going to end up with valuations that are high.
Moguldom: You have Mosley Ventures and a portfolio of other investments. Why did you decide to join Shila Burney at the Zane Venture Fund?
Sig Mosley: Mosley Ventures is in what I call the “harvest mode.” We are in the back half of our fund and we are not doing any new investments. We are just trying to take the companies we are invested in and find a liquidation event for them. I made the decision to not raise a Mosley II. I was looking for some part-time opportunities where I could continue to be involved in the angel venture world. I had talked to Shila for a year or two, helping to coach her along the way. I believe in what she is doing, and it is something we need to do more of, and it is something that is finally becoming a part of the mainstream. I just felt I could help her and the mission out by joining the Zane Venture Fund.
Moguldom: You probably get asked year-round by many people to be a part of their projects. What made Shila’s fund of focusing on underrepresented founders stand out to you?
Sig Mosley: I think she is already in the impact area. She has already been involved with companies helping them to raise money. And now she wants to give back to underrepresented entrepreneurs and try to help them grow their organization by providing them with access to funds. I just think she has put together a good team and I think she has good connections and can make an impact on the city (Atlanta).
Moguldom: What are some of the types of investments you want to see done through the Zane Venture Fund?
Sig Mosley: Companies that do solve a problem. I do think we need to invest in underrepresented entrepreneurs and help them grow. I want to see us encourage their success and persuade them to come back and help us do it for others. A lot of entrepreneurs will make a little money and then they leave. We need repeat underrepresented entrepreneurs. And then at some point, it would be nice if they become angel investors.
Moguldom: Do you see the face of venture capitalists changing to become more diverse in race as we start this new decade?
Sig Mosley: I think we will see that begin to happen because we have a couple of funds in addition to Zane’s, that are beginning here in Atlanta that are focusing on diversity and underrepresented entrepreneurs. And I think you are seeing that happen more in cities across the U.S.
Moguldom: What tips can you provide to minorities who want to become a VC?
Sig Mosley: I recommend to all entrepreneurs you need to have some operational experience in a bigger company. It helps when you have been involved in an early-stage company. This gives you a better understanding of how you can help other entrepreneurs grow.
Moguldom: You are a partner in RIISE Ventures, which made an investment in Atlanta’s Axis Replay, an esports venue, in 2019. Between Atlanta’s esports events, Orlando’s game developers and Tampa’s esports startups (such as an indie game developer platform and a LinkedIn for esports players) do you see esports as a tech vertical we should be watching in the coming years here in the southeast? Or do you see another industry taking off in the region?
Sig Mosley: I think esports will be booming here. We have a lot of athletes in the Southeast. We have a lot of great college teams that produce athletes. The University of Georgia and Georgia Tech have some dedicated plans and they also produce some great athletes. I believe the whole area of esports is going to become one industry where you are going to see more significant interest over the next five years.
Moguldom: Do you think the concerns that parents or politicians bring up about violence in certain video games will affect the trend?
Sig Mosley: I think it will have a nominal impact on the industry. We’ve been talking about that impact for years and it just seems to be growing bigger and bigger and bigger.
Moguldom: It’s been said if you are a founder and want to pitch to investors in Atlanta, go to Sig last because other investors are going to ask if Sid said “yes or no.” Other investors take your opinion seriously. For the underrepresented founders in Atlanta, what tips do you have so they can prepare themselves to pitch to investors?
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Sig Mosley: One of the things I would recommend is that you have a good attorney. Any entrepreneur should have a good attorney. Good attorneys can help find potential investors. They will know who and what kind of investment an investor will make. They can really help entrepreneurs. In order to really have a good shot at getting an investment or even getting seen by a VC or an angel, you need a warm introduction from someone the VCs know. If an entrepreneur is using a well-known law firm in the area of early-stage venture deals, that attorney can help make a warm introduction to a VC if they believe they are the right fit.
Moguldom: With that said, a lot of founders are busy trying to pitch different competitions. Do you think that a pitch competition is a good way to meet a VC or should founders focus on building a good company and getting a good lawyer on their team?
Sig Mosley: It really depends on the conference and how far along the company is and the work they have done. A pitch competition could help a founder win a little bit of money to help keep the company going. You will meet some VCs at those events, but it will not be where you will meet the majority of them.
Moguldom: The Tradex deal with Ariba is still something people are talking about. They’re saying it’s one of your greatest achievements as well as all the work you’ve done in Atlanta. At one point you retired but then you came back and did another fund.
Sig Mosley: Yes. I have tried to retire a couple of times and it has not worked.
Moguldom: Do you think you have another big multi-billion-dollar deal in you before you really retire?
Sig Mosley: I don’t believe there will be that many more huge deals. Remember Tradex happened at the end of the dot-com bubble. I think that unless we have a tremendously big bubble again, we are not going to see that many Tradex-type of deals. As an example, take Uber. Who would buy Uber? Just the size of the deal alone would make it almost impossible. Particularly since it was trading at $52 billion dollars. No way it could have been bought by someone and make sense. I was just very fortunate and had some luck with the Tradex deal. It just happened to be when the market was going crazy and we were able to ride the market up.
Moguldom: How do you feel about having the title, “The Godfather of Angel Investing?” Does it feel as though it’s a big weight of responsibility?
Sig Mosley: No, I really don’t. It sort of began, I think, as more of a joke. It just sort of hung on. I do feel I have somewhat more responsibility to the community and that is one of the reasons I keep unretiring. Every time I talk about retiring, everyone keeps saying “no keep doing what you’re doing.” So, I just keep going.
Moguldom: What can we do in the tech community that would give you peace that you could feel like you could finally retire? What areas could we step up in that you would feel like things are getting done?
Sig Mosley: We need to get more serious investors and more angel investors to do more. That is what I am hoping the investor awards can do. It’s a way to award investors who do more. Entrepreneurs are always getting awards, but we seldom see awards given to angel investors. Last year we created an award here in Atlanta. For better or for worse it got named after me, the Siggie Awards. We recognize four groups of investors. One group gets picked by entrepreneurs, one by investors, an investor in the social impact area and the final is for an investor who is like me and is making a significant impact on the investing community. I think if more people got recognized for the work they did, it would help.