There is no right path, there is no wrong path, there is no normal path but there is your path.
Amanda Angelini (1989) is a General Partner in a venture capital fund for one of Australia’s leading financial institutions and invests globally in some of the world’s most innovative and impactful people, technology, and companies. She works with founders that are curious, confident, resilient, and passionate about building new technology and improving people’s lives and her journey has taken her from Brisbane to New York with travel and work across the globe.
Amanda grew up in a small town outside of Cairns where both her parents were business owners.
‘Back then they were not called founders or CEOs, but they built businesses, and created new jobs and new technology. Business (both positive and negative) was a normal topic of conversation at the dinner table,’ Amanda said.
It is here that Amanda firmly believes the mantra ‘there is no right path, there is no wrong path, there is no normal path but there is your path,’ was instilled in her.
When Amanda graduated from Brisbane Girls Grammar School, she studied law and finance and then digital media and marketing. Being a venture capital investor as a career wasn’t really that well known in the late 80s.
‘I didn’t study entrepreneurship, how to raise money, or how to build a mobile app in school but have managed to do all of those things,’ she said.
In 1997, Amanda moved to New York where she worked as an attorney for one of the oldest and most prestigious law firms, Milbank. She was then recruited into investment banking at Citi and spent nearly a decade working long hours, travelling the world, and building new businesses.
‘I had always thought of myself as a hard worker, disciplined and willing to try anything. It wasn’t until I read Angela Duckworth’s book Grit that my approach to life made more sense. I have not always been the smartest, had all of the “right” traits or experience but if I wanted something I found a way to get there’.
‘Failing is inevitable, so I needed to learn to roll with the punches and adapt. Many startup founders actually fail before they succeed. Failing is also important if you want to follow your dreams and create your own path.’
Realising that she wanted to be a part of the tech movement from the year 2000, Amanda’s pivot was solidified when everyone at the bank, her clients, and her lawyers were all given a Blackberry.
‘I was connected 24/7 and knew that this, and other technology, was the future and a catalyst for change. In 2008 I left investment banking and started all over again. How could I combine my love of sports and build something in technology? Build a digital business for a major sporting league. That was the beginning of my entrepreneurial life.’
Amanda credits the person who hired her (the now CEO of LA28, the US Olympic organising committee) in believing in her so that she could continue to create her own path.
‘She indeed took a chance on me—why? I had grit, I was determined to build something, and I was willing to learn everything I needed in order to become entrenched in technology, startups, and the business of sports. We started from the ground up and I was out of my depth from day one. However, we built a cutting-edge digital business and were one of the first live-streaming apps in the App store. Building that first business was very different from being part of a large organisation. Hiring people, doing a lot with little funding, understanding what the fans wanted, and then determining how to make money was just a normal day. Attending major sporting events including MLS Cup, The US Open, and NBA All Star, were part of the perks. We knew we had done something right when we were invited to visit the Apple campus at Cupertino!’
Following that experience, Amanda joined another startup and also started investing. The following experience spurred by endless curiosity was another great learning experience.
‘The next startup that I ran was not the experience I had hoped for. When raising money from venture capitalists I realised just how many times people say “no” before someone says “yes”. Grit, confidence, conviction, and a healthy dose of humility are essential. We did raise but we did not succeed. Failure? Perhaps, but given the founder experience, the technical and product expertise that I gained, for me, it was a necessary event that propelled me forward to the next adventure,’ she said.
Amanda’s passion for technology is inspiring, and today she is focused on investing in emerging and transformative founders and technology.
‘Technology is everywhere and for the most part, it is helping us move forward and live better lives. Entrepreneurs are curious, they take risks, they truly believe and are passionate about what they are doing. Investing in startups is a long-term and personal relationship. In addition to providing much-needed capital, I am there to provide support and help the company grow. It involves a lot of listening and leveraging your network. There are so many exciting areas that are ripe for disruption such as quantum computing, climate tech, and robotics,’ she said.
‘In addition to finding and supporting great founders and companies, I am also now in a position to give back and help balance the scales for female and other diverse founders. The technology industry needs more diversity and more women. Research has shown that startups run by diverse/female founders are likely to succeed; however, the amount of funding allocated to women-led startups hovers around two to three per cent each year. In tougher environments (like we are in right now) the percentage declines disproportionately and it’s even harder for diverse founders to raise capital.
‘I hope to continue to motivate intelligent, resourceful, and resilient women, and encourage them to find their dreams or path in life.’
We were delighted to welcome Amanda to deliver the 2022 Valedictory Address.