Differences between angel and VC investors

The primary time I attempted to lift enterprise capital was a flat-out failure. I used to be an operator turned founder, and my startup, though early, had actual velocity. However my makes an attempt at elevating went nowhere, and on the time I didn’t perceive why.

Again then, I had a way that angels had been completely different than VCs, and that some VCs invested greater than others. However largely I used to be simply targeted on my firm, and below immense stress to get funding. Any funding. So I plowed forward, handled all investors alike, my pitch a blunt instrument to be examined on anybody who would concentrate.

Within the 5 years since then, I went from failing to lift enterprise capital to operating my very own venture capital fund. Within the course of, I’ve met and evaluated 1000’s of corporations, first as a neighborhood chief, then as a mentor, then as an angel investor, and lastly because the managing director of Graham & Walker. To say rather a lot has modified is an understatement. I nonetheless have the instincts of an operator and founder, however I now consider corporations by way of the lens of a VC. It makes an enormous distinction.


To cite the nice Alanis Morissette, “Isn’t it ironic?” A lot of what I discovered would have helped me succeed again then. However I wouldn’t have discovered it if I hadn’t tried and failed.

Expertise has taught me that not all investors are alike. Angels make investments their very own cash, some with self-discipline, others freely, others sporadically. Most VC funds have strict processes and parameters in place that dictate how a lot they make investments, how typically, and in what kinds of corporations. However most founders I meet don’t know the distinction, identical to I didn’t again then. And when you don’t know who you’re pitching, the percentages—that are already towards you—get means more durable.

Channeling my journey from angel to VC, and with the enter of among the most outstanding rising enterprise capitalists immediately, these are the largest variations between how VC funds make investments in comparison with particular person angel investors.

Each funding VCs make will need to have the potential to “return the fund”

Outcomes which might be nice for angel investors might not be substantial sufficient for a VC, even when they appear like a certain factor. A easy instance as an instance what this implies: Think about an angel investor that comes throughout an organization and decides to speculate $50,000. Two years later, that firm will get acquired by a bigger competitor, incomes the investor $250,000 – a 5x return. It is a nice final result for the angel.

Now think about that very same funding from the attitude of a VC fund. Let’s say this VC fund has $1,000,000 to make 20 investments for $50,000 every. Most of these corporations will go on to fail, which implies the VC is not going to get any a refund. Let’s say 19 of the businesses fail, and the twentieth firm—the identical one from the instance above—will get acquired by a competitor. The VC will get $250,000, which isn’t even sufficient cash to pay its personal investors again for the total $1,000,000 that they invested. It is a very unhealthy final result for the VC.

Shila Nieves Burney, founder and managing associate at Zane Enterprise Fund, explains:


“I’ve a fiduciary obligation to seek out the very best offers that may have a return on funding for my LPs and my staff. Once I was an angel investor, potential returns weren’t essential, I simply needed to see numerous entrepreneurs succeed whereas constructing their dream firm. At this time, I wish to do each, with a eager eye to corporations which might be constructing the connective tissue financial system the place all of us thrive.”

For this reason VCs look completely for VC-sized alternatives, people who have monumental potential future income and enterprise worth, and can subsequently independently return your entire fund. There are numerous nice, stable companies that aren’t VC-sized alternatives, and there is no such thing as a worth judgment hooked up to that assertion. It’s the context that issues: VCs should not within the enterprise of investing in nice corporations of any dimension, we’re within the enterprise of investing in nice corporations which might be additionally probably large.

VCs do far more diligence

When pitching to VCs, founders ought to count on a a lot deeper and longer due diligence course of in comparison with after they pitch angel investors.

“I take the extent of accountability of investing different folks’s cash extremely severely. One of the crucial apparent locations this reveals up is within the due diligence course of,” says Kate Brodock, basic associate on the W Fund. “The diligence isn’t essentially much less thorough when investing as an angel, however it may well actually be much less formal, with extra room for the ‘intestine’ to indicate her face. When investing by way of the fund, our diligence is extra formal and frameworked, and purposefully includes a several-step decision-making course of.”

“The extent of diligence and help we offer to corporations is vastly completely different as we make investments our LPs cash,” says Diana Murakhovskaya, basic associate and cofounder on the Artemis Fund. “It goes rather a lot deeper than the overall market and founder match that I could have a look at as an angel. At Artemis, we do in depth founder references, deep dives into market analysis, technical diligence, and extra.”

So when you ever hear anecdotes of investors that write a examine on the spot, it’s most certainly that the investor in query is investing their very own cash.

VCs negotiate

For those who’ve solely raised capital from angels, you is perhaps stunned when your first VC asks you for “main investor rights” within the type of a “facet letter.” I can let you know as a founder that these are scary phrases, particularly if you don’t know to count on them.

Let me break it down for you.

Main investor rights usually fall into three classes:

  • Data rights, or the proper for the investor to be told about your online business outcomes and key points
  • Participation rights, or the proper for the investor to spend money on your subsequent spherical of financing (generally referred to as pro-rata rights)
  • Board membership, or the proper for the investor to have a seat on the corporate’s board when fashioned

If the VC is main a spherical, they may often require a voting board seat. If a VC will not be main a spherical, they may generally require a non-voting observer seat. The Artemis Fund’s Murakhovskaya reviews taking board or board observer seat on 90% of their investments.

VC funds are investing different folks’s cash, and we’ve a fiduciary accountability to speculate it responsibly, report back to our LPs, and to do all the things in our energy to make the fund as profitable as potential. Which means we wish to know the way the startup is doing, so we are able to report on it transparently and present assist when acceptable. And it means we wish to have the ability to preserve investing—a proper that generally must be shielded from extra aggressive investors that come down the road.

VCs have to speculate with self-discipline

“As an angel, I may make investments once I needed and how a lot I needed,” says Jenny Fielding, managing associate at The Fund. “Pacing was not a consideration.” That’s as a result of angel investors have full freedom to pick out what corporations they may spend money on, when, how typically, and how a lot. It’s their very own cash, in any case.


VC funds are the other. We’ve got strict parameters inside which each funding alternative is taken into account. These parameters are outlined by the fund’s dimension and investing interval, their goal firm stage, and their typical funding dimension. Following the instance above, the $1 million fund that intends to make 20 investments of $50,000 every. If the investing interval is 4 years, meaning the fund will intention to make 5 investments per 12 months.

Often, these parameters are selected earlier than the fund is even raised, and are a part of the authorized and strategic dedication that VCs make to their very own investors. The excellent news for founders is that this data must be simply discoverable. They might be listed on the VC’s web site and in public databases resembling Pitchbook or Crunchbase. Or you may make guess primarily based on what you learn concerning the fund’s investments within the press. If all else fails, ask different founders, or ask the VC themselves.

“Investing LP cash requires clear communications, managing expectations, and a lot of self-discipline,” says Pocket Solar, cofounder and managing associate at SoGal Ventures. “Our focus is on creating outsized returns for LPs throughout the fund time period, and we have to keep true to the framework we promised our investors. We additionally act with nice consciousness on how a lot we’ve allotted to what, and make each funding resolution with a holistic view in thoughts.”

VCs are operating corporations, too

Founders is perhaps stunned to listen to {that a} VC fund can be an organization, and as a fund supervisor, it’s important to run the corporate too. Recruiting, payroll, taxes, communications, conserving your web site up. Massive VC funds rent folks to do all this stuff. Small VC funds can’t afford to. We do all of the work with a fraction of the staff.

“Operating a micro-fund will not be the identical as being an investor,” says Fielding. “I spend one-third of my time managing the fund, one-third elevating capital, and one-third investing into corporations. I really like the range because it jogs my memory of my founder days but it surely’s very operational in order that was a shock!”

For that reason, it helps when founders perceive what kind of fund they’re speaking to. If it’s a big fund, search for job titles which might be clearly within the investing staff—titles like managing director, associate, or principal. If it’s a small fund, assume that the investor is unfold very skinny—however they’ve far more appreciation for what it’s prefer to run an organization.

Elevating enterprise capital is difficult. For first-time founders, a lack of awareness and expertise about how the system works acts as a real hurdle. First-time founders who’re additionally outsiders, disconnected from the startup and VC ecosystem, have it hardest. And if you add to {that a} non-traditional founder profile—somebody whose identification doesn’t match Silicon Valley’s extremely homogenous sample of success—enterprise capital goes from being exhausting to virtually a moonshot.

The excellent news is that many rising investors like myself and each VC quoted right here have a acknowledged dedication to opening doorways to a brand new technology of founders. I hope this helps you perceive our perspective a little bit bit higher, so maybe your first run at fundraising can have a extra profitable final result than mine.