Q&A With Edgar Mendoza

Ablorde Ashigbi

Ablorde Ashigbi

Is the CEO of 4Degrees, a Chicago-based technology company, building relationship intelligence software for relationship driven industries. Before 4Degrees, he was an investor at Pritzker Group, and a consultant at Bain & Company.
Edgar Mendoza, Angel investor and CDW Executive Account Manager, discusses mutually beneficial relationships between the two roles - and his thoughts on investing, diversity, and diligence.

Today we meet Edgar Mendoza, a man of many hats. Edgar works primarily in sales at CDW, a tech solutions provider to business, government, education & healthcare customers in the US, UK & Canada. He also spends his time as an Angel investor for businesses across diverse industries.

How does your work with CDW and investing intersect?

My day job is to sell CDW IT products to companies, and one of my early areas of exploration was how to sell to a company most efficiently. So that’s the main gig, but I’ve been lucky enough to find ways to overlap that with my personal life and interests in Angel investing.

I’ve come to realize that if someone invests in your company and reaches out with an introduction, I make it a point to meet with you. I’ve had a 100% hit rate when I’ve had introductions from investors.

Sales has taught me that viewing life as time-based is beneficial both for me and my customers, in the sense that I’ll work fast and to the point.

What would you say differentiates Angel and VC investors?

There are VCs out there that are closed off from pitches because they simply cannot relate. They don’t understand the pain of the entrepreneur, and that makes it harder for them to understand the opportunity. I don’t think you can follow a set plan to be a good investor anymore, and that’s an opportunity for Angel investors to come in.

If you strictly follow a set of steps that are not relatable, no one is going to gravitate towards you. No one is going to feel comfortable speaking with you, and you’re not going to understand a founder’s pain because you never went through that same pain of growing a business yourself.

How much time do you spend on your investments?

I believe it correlates with the relationship I have with them. Often, I’ll try to reconcile the business needs of my portfolio companies with what CDW offers. As long as I do good business with them, the company benefits, and, as long as CDW provides the correct services that the company needs, that works out too.

With every startup I invest in, I’m actively thinking about how to make that company grow. I’m good at networking. So an active goal for me is getting new customers for them. After becoming an Angel investor, I’ve come to realize I can only invest in companies that I can truly do something for. Simultaneously, my hard work doesn’t go unnoticed and I get more customers eager to work with me.

Capital is not so much an issue for me as are my concerns, which are investing in a company with potential and watching its progress over time.

Since you mentioned networking, how would you describe your network development efforts?

I’ve personally come from nothing, so I understand that having no connections is the same as having nothing. What I do have is drive and ambition. My buddy Ethan, who created Give Forward, had the best advice: “Just show up.”

From there, I decided to go to every single event in the Chicago ecosystem in the startup space. What I realized is that there are a lot of other hustlers out there who will create a sense of community and take you in, as they did with me because they saw I had a burning desire to do and be better and they wanted to connect with me. They allowed me to show my value and to prove that I’m not only here just to take and wait, but because I want to work for it.

It all ties to my idea of working harder while also being surrounded by hard workers. Those who can scale good people can scale good things, and that has endless potential. I believe in doing at least three solid introductions that help another person. But if you’re just keeping things to yourself, that will never scale because no one wants to just hear you winning. People love to participate in your wins and be part of your journey.

How do you source your deals?

One of the ways I source deals is through TechStars, I’m always looking out for unicorns. Recently, I was at a Pritzker event for the Chicago summit; I walked in open to the premise of finding my next customer or expanding my network and it’s there that I met Cameo.

Another source for my deals is my connections, who get in touch with me to talk about a possible unicorn. These methods have worked for me, and now I have VCs contacting me to ask for an opinion.

And when you find a company, what does your diligence process look like? How do you assess the potential, the value, the challenges, and the risks?

That’s more difficult. While I believe everything can be resolved by revenue, there are still other aspects to take into consideration: if there’s a fit, how to leverage your network to accelerate the company, the team’s ambitions and personalities, etc. All of these determine a company’s growth speed and success.

Another skill that helps is being able to see ahead of the market, picking up on trends, and having good instincts about taking risks. Ultimately, investing always involves risk.

It seems like you’re not niche-specific – you like to have either a personal connection to the startup or some challenge that gets you excited. Is that a fair summary?

Yes. I’m involved in different industries but one thing they have in common is that they correlate with my life. For example, I’m a big believer in protein and healthy eating so I invested in an egg white chip company. My investments are part of my life.

Also, if I’m not stimulating myself, it doesn’t work. If I’m not grinding, what’s the point? I also like building a team because then we all work together and get energy from one other, and I like having that vibe within the people in my group.

You mentioned giving more than you get and personally supporting your portfolio. In addition to introductions, do you have any other examples of how your network helps you do that?

Thanks to my track record, the connections I have will be there and waiting to see my next move. They trust me and know I always tell the truth; if I didn’t they’d be able to pick up on that immediately. I think a lot of times if you’re ‘wishy-washy’, people can’t ever take your word at face value. And so at least for me, I try to be completely honest with them. That’s worked out well so far.

Do you have any systems or software that helps you keep track of your network?

I do use a little more LinkedIn now as I think people are using that platform better than other platforms; so there’s some relevance. I do like the aspect of building connections and understanding an individual’s network.

However, as a salesperson, Salesforce doesn’t resonate with me and for my mode of business. It feels a little robotic and the information required from me doesn’t directly impact the deal in my opinion. It’s very much a rinse and repeat, rather than intuitive and relationship-based.

That’s the good thing about 4Degrees! We can read the emails from customers and tell if there was a good relationship or not, and if it was professional. It provides useful information to interpret; a human aspect. Just data without a human context, it doesn’t do me any good.

It’s been an interesting year; do you have any predictions for the future of investing and entrepreneurs?

The unfortunate part is that a lot of people are out of work, but I’m hoping that they can readjust their lives and find something more fulfilling. I hope they find new opportunities for happiness.
I’m heartened to see that people at least have the opportunity to do what they want with their life, though. Sometimes, pain and hardship have the silver lining of motivation. That’s what I believe.
I also feel that people are finally realizing the worth of time and the worth of salespeople.

With the adjustments that everyone has had to implement into their lives, people are realizing the lost time previously dedicated to the commute and other time-consuming activities, is it really necessary to put in 80 hours a week when they can’t spend their money on gratifications? At some point, America focused too much on consumption. I think we are now shifting our time towards experiences, with the people we like.

2020 has seen an elevated focus on diversity and investments. Do you think there should be additional attention or consideration here?

I think it’s too late for people to start paying attention because they’re already on the wave. Minorities are working hard and they are succeeding, and so are the Angel investors working hard for a deal. As a minority myself, I do it to prove to both myself and others that it is possible.

I do it in hopes that the kid who reads this will hit me up on LinkedIn to tell me about their startup idea. Truth is, no one resonates with the perfect person. But rather, with the person that admits their mistakes, acknowledges their failures, and still continues trying. That’s why I do it.

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