You’ve looked at your options for financing your new business and you’ve decided that your best bet is to find an angel investor — an individual who invests his or her own money in your company. Now you have to find one. How do you do that?
If you are looking for an accredited angel investor — a person whose income or net worth exceeds thresholds that lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to view them as financially sophisticated and therefore exempt from certain disclosure requirements and other forms of government protection — you have three choices of where to go:
- Angel groups
- Online platforms
The process of finding each of these is different.
How To Find An Angel Investor
Finding an Angel Group
Angel groups are organizations of individual investors who have invest together. According to the Angel Capital Association (ACA),the industry trade association, there are nearly 250 angel groups in the United States. Some of these are set up as funds and others as more loosely structured networks, but because they are organized groups, most of them have websites and a mechanism to submit funding requests to them. In fact, the ACA conveniently provides a directory that lists most U.S.-based angel groups on their website.
Finding an Online Platform
Online platforms are websites that provide information on businesses seeking funding. Angel investors use these portals identify businesses in which they would like to invest. Some of these platforms focus exclusively on accredited investors, while others will begin to allow non-accredited investors invest, beginning in late May when the SEC’s rules for non-accredited investor crowdfunding go into effect. In addition, some of these platforms are curated, and select only a small fraction of submissions for posting, while others are open and merely make the information about startups seeking financing available to potential investors.
The ACA lists many of the platforms focused on accredited investors on their website. Some other online sources identify a variety of crowdfunding platforms, including non-accredited investor equity crowdfunding sites.
Finding Individual Angels
Most accredited angel investors are not part of an angel group or online platform. The ACA reports that the membership in angel groups is approximately 13,000 people, while SeedInvest, one of the larger accredited investor platforms, and one that I have invested through, reports roughly 17,000 investors. By contrast, the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire indicates that there were just under 150,000 active angel investors in the United States in the middle of 2015.
Identifying appropriate individual angel investors is much more difficult than finding online platforms or angel groups. One strategy is to conduct an online search. AngelList is a website that matches investors and entrepreneurs and includes about 25,000 investors. Moreover, a search of the term “angel investor” on LinkedIn brought up just over 30,000 profiles at the time I was writing this column. Examining profiles on these two sites can help find entrepreneurs to identify and find an angel investor. Once entrepreneurs know which investors they want to reach, they can network to get a warm introduction to the financiers. A couple of my portfolio companies have used this approach to find me.
Another strategy is to approach people you know who have connections to angels in your community. Promising targets are lawyers and accountants that do a lot of work with young companies, venture capitalists and angel investors, and directors of accelerators and incubators in your area. All of these people should know the angel investors in your area.