“People First”: Talking PR and Chicago Tech with Hyde Park Angels’ Alida Miranda-Wolff

Alida Miranda-Wolff

Can you give our readers a brief overview of Hyde Park Angels and the work you do?

Hyde Park Angels is the most active investor in the Midwest. We’re an investor in early-stage startups, and we only invest here in Chicago. We did 27 deals last year at $8 million; to give you some perspective, the next most active investor in Chicago did 14 deals.

What types of companies can one find in the HPA portfolio?

We invest across three verticals: Digital Media and Technology, Business and Financial services, and Consumer Products and Services. About 90% of our companies are tech-enabled. They may not be profitable — most are not — but they’ve all shown that they’ve built something and that they have traction. Some are further along than others, but they’re typically Seed to Series A.

What do you do specifically at HPA?

In my role as Director of Platform, I focus on four core areas: investors, partners, brand, and portfolio support as it relates to those three.

How did you become part of the HPA team?

I attended the University of Chicago. Education is super important to me, and I was very hungry to work immediately, both in and out of school. I was a double major in English and Law, Letters and Society (an interdisciplinary major), with a minor in Romance Languages, so I knew I had valuable, but not marketable, skills. For the first two and a half years of college, I wanted to be a lawyer. But I was the type of person who would have loved law school, but not being a lawyer, which led me down a different path.

How does early-stage investing in Chicago compare with other cities?

From a metrics standpoint, Chicago is a great place — in fact, the best place — to be an investor, because there are better returns than in the rest of the country. The cost of living is lower, cost of operations is lower, and employee retention is higher (people tend to be close-knit and stay together). All that has a real impact on metrics. We see 10x more exits than any other region.

What trends are you noticing within the Chicago tech scene over the past few years?

From an industry standpoint, there’s been an eruption of IoT. Chicago has become a real powerhouse in that area. We’re also strong in data analytics, and AI is becoming bigger for us.

How can startups utilize PR? And when is a startup ready for PR?

It all comes down to the objectives of a company. My biggest piece of advice for marketing and communications is that each company make a strategic plan around communications. Starting with a core plan is critical. I don’t have a lot of catchphrases, but one that I often repeat is “first minute over last minute.” Do all of your work upfront, so when you execute, it’s seamless.

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