Our Ask An Angel series speaks with angels and investors involved in early stage deals. It explores all angles of what founders need to know as they seek funding to grow their scalable businesses. Arianna Simpson is an early stage investor whose primary interests lie in cryptocurrency and technology. Prior to starting her career as an investor she was working in marketing and sales for Facebook and Shoptiques, respectively, as well as working as the PM for BitGo.
1. When did you first realize you wanted to get into investing? What was your first venture?
I’ve always had an interest in financial things and started investing personally with what little money I had early on. Soon I was doing well with that in public markets, and that just further sparked my interest. When I was working in NY in my first job out of college, I noticed an interesting set of patterns when watching financial news on the TVs at the gym, and started trading pharmaceutical stocks on the side. Soon I was doing better with that than with my actual job, and eventually decided to pursue investing. VC and crypto investing in particular are a great fit because they allow me to combine my interest in markets with my fascination with technology and the future.
2. What do you do for work today? What are your future career goals?
I manage the fund I founded, Autonomous Partners, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain-based companies. I also co-manage an early-stage VC fund my business partner and I started in 2015. On the side, I angel invest. I plan to spend the rest of my life investing –– I can’t imagine anything I’d enjoy doing more.
3. What first sparked your fascination for cryptocurrency?
I first became interested in bitcoin in 2013, following a trip to southern Africa. I spent time in a few countries including Zimbabwe, which was just starting to recover from the extreme hyperinflation which had plagued it in the years prior. When I came back to the US, I was thinking a lot about how things might have unfolded differently for the citizens of Zimbabwe if they'd had access to an alternative financial system outside of their government's control. When I stumbled upon the bitcoin white paper a few weeks later, everything clicked. I started spending a lot of time researching the technology, and writing and speaking about it, and eventually joined BitGo, the first company to commercialize multi-signature wallets, in mid 2014.
4. How do you think investing in cryptocurrency differs from other potential ventures?
It’s an incredibly fast-paced industry. Things change dramatically on a daily basis and that makes it both a challenge and an opportunity. It’s a sector that requires deep domain expertise and has a fairly high learning curve to start, but that is also extremely intellectually stimulating.
5. What is the main thing that you look for in a team that you might invest in?
The ability to execute. There’s just a category of founders who seem endlessly resourceful and are always able to take the next step in moving toward their goals. The word relentless comes to mind!
6. If you could give any piece of advice to new investors what would it be?
Deploy your capital more slowly than you think you should. Especially early on, it’s easy to get too excited and want to invest a lot quickly. There will be plenty of good opportunities down the line, and not being able to make a great investment because you’re capital constrained is painful.