#33 – The Stoic

Peter Cowley is a successful angel investor and business man. But it was his tragic private life which prompted this interview.

SUMMARY

Peter Cowley has been a business man for 50 years. He was Business Angel of the Year and has invested in 76 start-ups, exiting a quarter of those, including a 100+ bagger in 6 years. He has mentored over 1000 entrepreneurs., received an honorary doctorate, and chaired and been a director of number of charities. Yet, his private life has been a stark contrast to this business success.

Cowley’s brother died of leukemia, aged 21. His sister dies of alcoholism in her 50s. Cowley too was an alcoholic, enjoying gin or vodka for breakfast, leading to what he calls his “lost decade”.

In his autobiography, he talks about the early death of close friends and his ex-wife. But these pale into insignificance when you read that not one, but two of his three sons committed suicide.

Cowley was diagnosed with terminal cancer which was successfully treated but the cancer mutated and he was diagnosed with 18 months to live. Just nine are left. Cowley is remarkably sanguine about his fate, and in our discussion, to my amazement, called himself fortunate.

This is not my usual podcast interview. I have learned a lot about investing from these conversations and a few have taught me some life lessons.
But every day since I met him, I have thought of Cowley and felt grateful. I hope many of you will feel the same.

ABOUT Peter Cowley

Peter Cowley is a tech entrepreneur and angel investor, based in Cambridge. He has founded a number of tech and property business and has invested in over 75 technology startups. He was on the board of the UK Business Angels Association, where he was awarded UK Angel of the Year in 2014 and he was President of the European Business Angel Network.


Cowley authored a book on angel investment titled The Invested Investor and a second titled Founder to Founder. He has been suffering from late stage cancer since late 2021. His book about his experience of personal tragedy, terminal illness and business success Public Success Private Grief is published on April 17, 2024.

 

 

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

Peter Cowley’s book chronicles his achievements in business but more powerfully, in private, his personal grief and calamity have been unfathomable:

  • Two of his three children lost to suicide
  • Their mother died unexpectedly
  • His sister lost to alcoholism
  • His brother died aged 21 from cancer
  • Two decades in recovery from alcoholism

Now diagnosed with terminal Stage 4c cancer, Peter wrote his final book in his last few months, together with his wife, Liesbeth.

Public Success, Private Grief details for the first time the succession of tragic events which have shaped Peter’s life and fuelled his relentless drive and ambition. Peter shares how he has managed to find positivity and strength in the face of abject adversity, turning post-traumatic stress into post-traumatic success instead.

This book doesn’t make easy reading. But it is, at its heart and as is intended, an inspirational and self-empowering memoir about overcoming tragedy and forging resilience, which many will benefit from.

Amazon UK link

Peter Cowley website

HOW STEVE KNOWS THE GUEST

Steve read Peter’s story in the Times and asked him to come on the podcast. Hopefully, it will also make people aware of how common suicide is among young men. Surprisingly, Peter is not the only guest to have had this horrific experience. Steve feels we should be more aware of this risk.