Adapted from Josh Maher's blog....
I hear a lot of misnomers about angel investing. Some are grounded
and some are far from grounded. Before you completely discount angel
investing or early stage investments from your investment portfolio -
read through these and let me know what other misnomers are out there...
I'm a great financial analyst and therefore I'll be a great angel investor
- sorry, one does not follow the other. You may be a great financial
analyst AND a great angel investor, but often there is limited financial
detail to analyze at the stage of investments that angels participate
in. There is certainly a requirement to understand the capitalization of
the business, how many rounds will be required, and who will invest in
those rounds - but there is very limited current financial analysis
It's called angel investing because I am giving my money away
- don't confuse angel investing with philanthropy. One thing the
majority of the fifty or so top angel investors I interviewed from my
book agree on is a broad diverse portfolio is important for angel
investors. Meaning you have to have enough investments to make the power
law work for you. Granted, investing in public markets generally does
not require the same type of strategy because it is easier to invest in
five public companies that consistently return a specific amount. In
early stage investing, there will be a lot of losers so the thought of
"throwing money away" is grounded. It is the ones that aren't losers
that provide outsized returns that make all the difference though, these
return more than enough to make up for the losers. The term "angel"
comes from the need these businesses have to be saved - they are
continually on deaths bed at the early stages, spending every last dime
to grow the company. Angels are swooping in to provide capital,
mentorship, connections, and sometimes hands-on work. The more expertise
or support an angel can provide to the company the less likely the
investment will be thrown away.
I like to build or turn around businesses so I am going to angel invest
- whoa... slow down a little, try your hand at private equity - not
angel investing. Unfortunately many angel investors think they will have
deep hands on roles in the businesses they invest in. In some cases
this is true, more often the involvement is from a mentorship point of
view or from a connections point of view (connections to customers,
partners, employees). The majority end up being very hands off though,
most angel investors are relatively passive in their activities even
though they do get regular updates and opportunities to provide feedback
and make connections. If you really want to be operational, look harder
at being an employee, consultant, or enter into a private equity
relationship where you are buying a controlling stake for the purpose of
operations. If you would rather provide assistance as needed and have
something of value to offer on a couple hours a week basis, angel
investing is suitable. If you want to be passive, build in a great
portfolio management strategy such as investing in a curated
(pre-screened) list of startups or following great investors into deals.
I don't know enough about startups to be an angel investor
- well you know more than you think. Especially if you are investing in
deals with other investors (whether that be curated (pre-screened)
deals or following top investors). If you have quality deals to select
from you really can look at the companies where you understand the
industry or the business model and make investments based on that
Investing in the public markets is safer
- this is what everyone said about real estate right? Honestly though,
it is more about managing your portfolio than it is about investing 100%
in early stage companies. Yes these are risky, yes there is an
opportunity for outsized returns. Many investors only invest 3-10% of
their portfolio and understand that they could lose the entire amount.
That small percentage of your portfolio should really be invested in 25+
companies to be properly diversified. If you are at the low end of the
accredited investor qualification you are probably only investing
$1k-$10k per investment to get that many companies into your portfolio.
In this way you are relying on the effect of a power law where a couple
of those 25 companies will make up the entire return for your early
stage investment. When you plug the numbers into a spreadsheet you are
risking 10% of your entire portfolio for the opportunity to return 27%
IRR or 2.6x return on 10% of your portfolio. You should be making
similar calculations with every other asset you allocate towards in your
portfolio and can do the math to see how safe or not safe the
investment really is.
Only the wealthiest people in the world are angel investors
- I think we need to define wealthy a little more precisely. Accredited
investors only have $1m in net-worth, this is actually a huge number of
households (especially considering how few do invest). That said, the median wealth of accredited investors is $2.5m so not that much higher considering angel investing can return 27% IRR when done properly.
What other reasons have you heard or said yourself about angel investing?
Check out my blog for more thoughts about including early stage companies in your portfolio.