How do you find an angel investor?
Networking is vital to finding any investor, angel investors included. Some potential areas or methods entrepreneurs may wish to explore to identify angels include those detailed below. Please note that the ‘cold-calling’ methods are not generally recommended given their yield, e.g. success ratio, may be quite low and may actually make you reek of desperation. This goes for mail-merge or email processor software. As a potential investor emerges, find out what they’ve invested in historically and whether he or she prefers a phone call first, a meeting, a complete business plan, a summary memo, email, fax, or whatever.
If you know what an investor has invested in formerly, you may be able to connect with the angel investor via one of their portfolio company CEOs. This type of introduction via a known entity can be very powerful and help you scale some of the initial walls that an angel may put up given the number of people who may be pitching or wanting to pitch them.
But aside from the not recommended cold-calling, here are some tips on where angel investors may be and where you may find them. Please note that some of these recommendations are ones we’re skeptical of but have included in the interest of exhaustiveness. Please be sure to read each one in full as it may help you in prioritizing your efforts and refining your approach.
- Call your chamber of commerce and ask if it hosts a venture capital group. Many such groups have a chamber affiliation.
- Call a Small Business Development Center near you and ask the executive director if he or she knows of any angel investor groups. Ask the SBA if you don’t know where an SBDC is.
- Ask your accountant. If your accountant doesn’t know, call a Big Four Accounting Firm and ask for the partner who handles entrepreneurial services. Ask him or her to point you in the right direction. This is one that we have heard may work, but we are skeptical. If you are someone at a large accounting firm, (a) you may not have time to answer calls from random businesses or startups and (b) you may not wish to stick your neck out at all for someone who you don’t know to angels who are or who may be clients in the future.
- Ask your attorney. Lawyers always know who has money.
- Call a professional venture capitalist and ask if he or she is aware of an angel investor group. See the same disclaimer as that given for accountants. Venture capitalists may be willing to refer you if they know you and think your idea has some merit but blindly passing you off to someone in their network carries the risk that you could tarnish their reputation. Plus, venture capitalists are busy people so getting in touch with them to ask for a recommendation is not necessarily an easy thing to do.
- Contact a regional or state economic development agency and ask if anyone there knows of an angel investor group.
- Call the editor of a local business publication and ask if he or she knows of any groups. These professionals often write about such activity. Like accountants and VCs, these are busy people and also would presumably like to have angels as sources in the future.
- Look at the “Principle Shareholders” section of initial public offerings (IPO) prospectuses for companies in your area. This will tell you who has cashed out big.
- Call the executive director of a trade association you belong to. Ask if there are any investors who specialize in your industry.
- Ask your banker. If you do business at a small bank, ask the president of the institution. If yours is a larger commercial bank, ask your lender. If you do not have a lender, ask for a lender who works with loans of $1 million or less. A good small-business banker knows of such groups because companies that have received an equity investment are good candidates for a loan
- Look for angel group pitch events. There are 300 organized angel groups in the US alone (most if not all have profiles on ChubbyBrain) so look at their websites to understand how to send your ideas to them. Please note that some groups charge fees and that irrespective of fee structure, there is no guarantee that you’ll get the opportunity to pitch even if you submit. But remember that you have to be in it to win it.
- Many larger cities have regular pitch events where young businesses or startups get a few minutes to pitch angel investors for feedback. Even though you are going for feedback, assume you are pitching them for money. If they like what they hear in your pitch, they’ll definitely say “let’s talk” afterwards. Angels don’t come to these events purely out of some altruistic, charitable motive but out of what we’d call “enlightened self-interest”, e.g., they can help entrepreneurs but at the same time, they can get access to early dealflow which may fit with their interests, areas of expertise and investment goals.
- Of course, go through the ChubbyBrain Funding Discovery Engine which will recommend both venture capitalists and angel investors who match your business’ criteria.
As you’re finding angels, realize they are not all the same so entrepreneurs should remain flexible and be prepared to tweak a business plan based on what you know of an angel you are about to pitch or to satisfy an angel investor’s concern about a particular issue.