Annie Evans is an early stage investor, advisor, and mother who launched Dream Ventures as a way to connect founders to capital and create game changing partnerships.
Hustling her way into an experiential marketing role at Esquire and then to Oprah Magazine, Annie later poured her energy into entrepreneurial ventures The Society and Beautified before launching Dream Ventures. There, she furiously built her network from the ground up, connecting with incredible founders and investors. So much transparency is shared in this conversation, to what an advisor relationship looks like, to the three qualities investors like Annie consider when evaluating opportunities.
If you’re building something exciting and looking to accelerate your growth and secure capital, you’ll learn so much from this conversation. Listen to Episode 39 of The Career Memos Podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher.
How Annie networked her way into a dream role at Esquire and got fired from Oprah Magazine
Annie dreamed of working for a magazine, and her perseverance and hunger to make it happen turned into a reality. Working at the sleek, new W Hotel in Times Square as a cocktail waitress, Annie secretly hoped to cross paths with someone who worked for Condé Nast or Hearst. After a year of hustling and looking at Amex cards, she found someone who worked for Hearst, leading to a role in marketing at Esquire.
Esquire was a fun four years of creating integrated marketing experiences and pop-ups.
At 27, Annie landed a position at Oprah Magazine, which ended up being misaligned and led to her getting fired. In the moment, she was absolutely devastated and embarrassed, but she reframed her thinking, believing that she wasn’t being rejected – she was being redirected to something better.
In turn, her energy poured into an entrepreneurial venture, The Society, an experiential event company, that started signing 6-figure deals left and right, on the brink of the influencer movement in 2008. There was fear that would often bubble up in those early days, but Annie kept putting one foot in front of the other and ultimately found the hustle to be energizing, as she surrounded herself with so many amazing, talented people.
The challenges of securing funding as an early stage company
Securing an investor in your startup doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it can be pretty difficult to access capital early on, especially if you don’t have a strong network.
Coming from the magazine industry, Annie didn’t know any angel investors or VCs, and she bootstrapped for the first year. At the end of a fundraising round with one of her business partners, people started asking her about her experience. She began noticing a buzz of others like her that were seeking capital to accelerate growth or wanting to start something, and this is where it all began.
Over the past five years, Dream Ventures has grown slowly, and they’ve worked hard to collect case studies around how they support founders and how they make connections possible.
Annie also encourages considering other avenues like iFundWomen or Wefunder, as additional ways to secure funding. Wanting to experience it herself, she got $50,000 in 1 month via an iFundWomen campaign.
If you’re seeking an investor, here’s what they really look for
When Annie considers different opportunities to invest in, she considers three areas: the people, the idea, and the opportunity. It could have the potential to be a billion dollar company, but if Annie doesn’t connect with the founder and isn’t confident she could open doors for them, it isn’t the right fit.
She also acts as an advisor for several companies and is generous in sharing what the structure of those relationships can look like. After spending years and years offering up her time for “pick my brain” coffee sessions, Annie now carefully vets the companies she chooses to work with, while accepting a nominal equity stake in the company in exchange for her time, usually around 0.25%.
A typical advisor relationship entails one call per month and offering to be a sounding board here and there, whereas an advisor relationship with a 1% equity stake might entail more contact and more doors opened for the startup.
“I feel so lucky to be in this place of “do what you love”, which what I love is working with amazing entrepreneurs and bringing these ideas to life. It’s so energizing and I feel so grateful and fortunate.”