Here Are 4 Great Tips on How to Be an Angel Investor
For business leaders, executives, entrepreneurs, and professionals looking for a new challenge, angel investing allows you to support high-potential startups in the critical early stages while also potentially generating significant investment returns. It connects experienced veterans with emerging innovators.
Let’s first get grounded on how to be an angel investor.
Understanding the Basics
As an introduction, angel investors are high-net-worth individuals who provide early-stage capital to startups, typically in exchange for an equity stake in the company. Often, angels are former entrepreneurs or industry veterans themselves now looking to pay it forward by backing the next generation of talented founders.
Unlike traditional venture capital firms that invest pooled third-party capital and have to answer to limited partner investors, angel investors deploy their own personal wealth. This gives angels more flexibility and discretion to follow their instincts and passions when selecting specific startups to fund based on personal interests.
Angel investors fill a pivotal funding gap by providing the initial seed capital many entrepreneurs need to get started when their companies are still too new and unproven to qualify for bank loans or venture capital. These first checks from angels give founders the rocket fuel to build initial prototypes, conduct critical market validation, recruit team members, and accomplish other foundational milestones to turn their vision into reality before raising larger rounds.
Steps to Becoming an Angel Investor
If angel investing strikes your interest, but the path ahead seems unclear, don’t worry. Many successful angels today started from square one. Here are some practical steps any aspiring angel can take to methodically build up their capabilities:
- Immerse yourself in your local startup ecosystem – Attend networking events, conferences, university pitch competitions, incubator/accelerator demo days, angel group meetings, and informal gatherings. Introduce yourself to founders, fellow investors, advisors, and startup service providers. Understand the landscape of key people, organizations, and activities shaping local startups. Sign up for relevant email newsletters and groups.
- Join an established angel investor group – Partnering with an organized angel group like New York Angels or Keiretsu Forum can turbocharge your learning. These membership-based groups allow individual angels to source deals, pool due diligence, make joint investments, and leverage each other’s expertise. You’ll gain access to vetted deal flow before mass marketing. Learning from experienced co-investors helps avoid painful rookie mistakes.
- Take online courses on venture capital and angel investing – Many top universities like Stanford, MIT, and Harvard offer courses for aspiring angels to learn best practices on topics like deal sourcing, startup valuation, term sheet negotiation, portfolio construction, risk management, and more. Learn from battle-tested investor-instructors. Apply the frameworks directly to actual investment opportunities for hands-on learning.
- Develop one or two sector specialties – It pays dividends to start developing expertise as an angel in specific sectors where you have deep professional experience or a personal passion. Become a recognized subject matter expert in areas like biotech, fintech, space, tech, AI, etc. Follow all the startups, news, and competitive moves in your sector spots. Your insights will help you identify the best opportunities and assess teams.
Four Great Tips for Success In Angel Investing
Given the risks and complexities of angel investing, what are some proven strategies that can tilt the odds for success in your favor? Here are the top recommendations from the experts:
- Bet on determined, visionary founders – When evaluating a potential investment, the qualities of resilience, integrity, and vision in the founders themselves are even more important than the business model. Look for relentless persistence, product intuition, and grace under pressure. These founder intangibles are hard to instill later. Watch how founders respond to tough questions and criticism. The idea will surely evolve anyway. A dynamic founder makes selling any future vision plausible.
- Specialize your expertise, but diversify investments – Become a true subject matter expert in your sector niche through deep experience, but make actual angel investments across at least 8-10 different market spaces like software, biotech, consumer goods, fintech, healthcare, etc. Your sector specialization provides an edge in your domain, but diversification mitigates the risk of any single underperforming category ruining your entire portfolio.
- Start with smaller checks to learn the ropes – Given the risks involved, consider starting out with initial angel investments under $50k to learn the ropes before increasing check size. With less capital at stake early on you can better afford small missteps. Review the experience after each deal – wins and losses – to constantly improve. $50k hits to your portfolio during the learning phase won’t sink you.
- Negotiate key legal protections upfront – When negotiating investment terms, stay flexible on items like valuation if you believe in the founders. But do hold firmer on pro-rata rights, liquidation preferences, voting rights, and protective provisions that concentrate control. Don’t let initial excitement cloud hard-nosed dealmaking. Retaining governance controls matters greatly down the road.
While certainly not an exhaustive list, these tips can help position angels for success. Above all, maintain flexibility, enthusiasm for founders’ visions, balanced portfolio risk management, and incentive to make a positive impact – the monetary upside will follow. With dedication and thoughtful deal selection, angel investing can be a highly rewarding pursuit.
Indeed, it’s clear angel investing provides an unparalleled opportunity for business veterans to pay it forward to emerging innovations in areas they care about while benefiting financially if those risky bets pay off.
Angel investing comes with substantial risk, illiquidity and demands intensive hands-on commitment. But for sophisticated individuals with extensive networks, operational experience, demonstrated business judgment, access to proprietary deal flow, patience for volatility, and a passion for startups, it can be tremendously rewarding – both financially and in relationships with inspiring founders.