Jeff Stewart: An Angel in New York
Jeff Stewart opened his first lemonade stand when he was ten years old and hasn’t looked back since. He is an inventor, investor and entrepreneur who specializes in internet-enabled growth businesses. He is the founder and CEO of UrgentCareer, founder and chairman of Mimeo, founder of Lenddo, and founder of Urgent Group, among others. As an angel investor in New York City, he invests $25K-$100K a year in roughly six different start-ups.
Lenddo is one of his newest projects. This is the world’s first online platform that helps the emerging middle class use their social connections to build their credit-worthiness and access local financial services. Lenddo’s community members can use their reputation on social networks such as Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and Yahoo! to obtain life-improving loans which can be used for education, healthcare, home improvement or a small business.
In 1995, Stewart launched Square Earth. The internet-based technology company really helped get him off-and-running, as both an entrepreneur and investor. Square Earth was extremely successful and grew at a rate of over 100% per year. It merged with Proxicom in January 1998, and successfully completed an IPO as the combined company in 1999.
Stewart is very specific in what he is looking for when considering a potential investment. A self-proclaimed “geek at heart”, he seeks out start-ups with new technology and many technical leads. He specializes in web-based companies and prefers to be personally involved with the companies in which he invests. Direct involvement in a start-up is one of his most important factors when considering whether or not he wants to invest.
Stewart’s companies employ over 1,000 people and span four continents. He has invested in 13 different companies over the past 15 years. His web-based print service, Mimeo.com, has been recognized by Inc. 500’s list of fastest growing companies, Red Herring 100’s list of private companies that drive technology and Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500. Recently, Stewart was recognized by Founder Institute as the highest rated start-up mentor in 2012 for his role with Lenddo. As an angel in New York, Stewart has been wildly successful, but understands that the work is never done. “I think you can be a little more efficient, but I think that there’s certain phases that the company goes through that there’s no short-cut. It just takes a lot of work.”
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On why New York City is a great place for start-ups: “There’s a vast reservoir of talent here in New York and we’re able to attract talent from all over the world. There’s customers, there’s actually about 150 billion-dollar plus companies that have substantial presences here in New York.”
When discussing what he looks for in potential investments: “Also, I’m a geek at heart. I’m very interested in technology, so I like to see that there is technical lead and that there’s some depth there.”
When asked if he pushes his portfolio out to other investors after he makes an investment: “Oh, absolutely. I think… I do angel investing as a team activity. You know, there’s just not enough money being put to work to dig as deep as a professional VC would, so you have to rely on a team, if you will, to dig in and do the due diligence.”