September 30, 2014
Thomas “Tigre” Wenrich is a multicultural executive with experience in finance, marketing, and operations. After a successful 16-year career with The Boston Consulting Group in the U.S., Spain, and Mexico, he retired to the warmer climate here in Miami. Subsequently, he participated in a roll-up in the retail money service business (remittances, check cashing, and payday advance). After selling his stores in early 2009, Tigre–yes you can all him Tigre– became first a CFO and later a board member in Open English. He is also an investor and an Endeavor mentor.
Tech Cocktail picked his brain a bit about investment and the local startup scene.
What do you look for when making the decision to invest? What is your process like?
I start with the idea – is it a sector that I understand? Can the business build competitive advantage? Can it be big? The first point is important, because I only want to invest in businesses where I can participate and add value – and it’s hard to add value in a space in which I have no experience.
Next, the team is absolutely critical. In early stage investments, the business plan is of limited value – the only thing for certain is that the final business won’t look like what’s in the plan. So the entrepreneur has to inspire confidence that he will know how to respond as things inevitably change and evolve with the business. For this reason it usually takes multiple meetings – the pitch has to be good, but the team also has to hold up under scrutiny during due diligence.
What is typically your bite size? Does this change depending on where the company is based?
I am not playing with a lot of available capital, so my investments tend to be small – usually $10K to $25K. It doesn’t vary based on location, but I will rarely look at deals that are not local. If it’s not nearby, than the opportunities for me to get involved and add value are limited.
When was the last time you made an investment?
Actually, I am closing on one this week!
In your opinion, what is the advantage of starting up a business in Miami?
Over the past several years there has been a lot of activity in the local tech community, and a lot more support. It’s not huge, and it’s not Silicon Valley, but it’s a much better environment than even 2009 when we brought Open English here. Particularly for service businesses and businesses in the creative industries, not to mention businesses with a focus on Latin America or the US Hispanic market, Miami has a lot to offer. Florida is also generally a pretty business-friendly state; much better than California in terms of taxes, regulation, and labor costs. Those can’t be the only things we differentiate ourselves on, but they help.
What do you think Miami‘s tech community needs to continue to develop to become sustainable?
I think we are seeing the beginnings of a virtuous cycle, but we need much more – more good entrepreneurial stories and more investors looking at the sector. A couple of big exits wouldn’t hurt!
What is the best advice you were given?
If you get a bad vibe – don’t walk away, run! So much about angel investing is about trust in the team and in the entrepreneur; it’s hard to be completely analytical – you have to trust your gut. So if you get a bad feeling or something doesn’t add up, it’s much better to cut things short early on.
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