Q&A with angel investor Pam Garside

Every week we talk to a business angel, one of the early-stage investors who collectively inject £1.5bn a year into British start-up companies

Pam Garside is a board member of the Cambridge Angels network and works as a management consultant for healthcare companies.

She is a fellow of Cambridge Judge Business School and mainly backs healthcare start-ups.

Garside, 64, has invested in rare diseases information provider Raremark, and Kheiron Medical, which uses artificial intelligence to help radiologists process large numbers of mammograms.

Accidental beginnings
I started angel investing by accident. I took equity in a company I was working with in lieu of fees, I thought it was interesting, and went from there. Investing is risky, but it’s exciting.

Founders must have
Passion, but not delusion; energy, understanding of the market, and ability to manage and lead others.

It is always great to have a founder who has successfully sold a business, but that is unusual at the stage I invest in them.

Giving back
I really enjoy working with and helping young people and there is a lot of that in angel investing. Some people just put the money in and forget about it, but I like to be what the Americans call “smart money”. That means I generally back only companies that I think I can help.

More than money
I don’t invest £200,000 at a time; it’s much smaller amounts. If I’m offered [share] options in return for the time I give as an adviser, that is the perfect situation for me.

Doctor knows best?
Doctors are people who have never struggled academically or professionally and it doesn’t always work when they start a business. They have to learn new skills.

NHS: handle with care 
There are some venture capitalists who will not touch a business if it is dependent on selling into the NHS. It’s very difficult to get into and the sales cycle is very long. It takes a lot of effort.

Wish I saw fewer . . .
Doctor apps, deluded founders and companies that stay alive via grants and pilots.

Next disrupted industry
Healthcare. We do travel, banking, music, entertainment and most of the rest of our lives digitally. Why not health?