Sunday, March 6, 2011

Angel investors should be viewed as customers

When an entrepreneur comes to me for advice on raising capital from angel investors, I ask him or her "Do you know why angels make investments in early stage companies?" Inevitably, the answer reflects superficial thinking and deserves an "F." Most entrepreneurs do not have the foggiest idea about what it takes to raise capital from angel investors and make little effort to find out. They seem to think that if they have a good business plan and enthusiasm, angel investors will invest.

Any entrepreneur who decides to raise capital from angel investors should conduct as much research on why angels invest as they do on why customers buy their products or services. Few entrepreneurs even read a book on how to raise capital from angels when there are many books on the subject through Amazon. It's no wonder that most entrepreneurs who set out to raise capital from angels fail miserably.

Every angel investor is different, just like every customer is different. But, there are some characteristics that are common to most angel investors. If an entrepreneur would come to me for advice on raising capital and demonstrated the same degree of ignorance about his or her customers as the entrepreneur usually demonstrates about angel investors,I would tell the entrepreneur to find another occupation.

Why is it that entrepreneurs make little effort to find out the same type of information about angel investors, yet will work really hard to find out about the characteristics of potential customers? I attribute this to an underlying sense in most entrepreneurs that an angel investor is not a "buyer or customer" but is a "seller or supplier." An erroneous view is that an angel investor is "selling capital" to the entrepreneur and the price to be paid is an equity interest in the entrepreneur's company. Not true. The seller in this case is the company, selling an equity interest to the angel investor who is buying, not selling. If an entrepreneur would only take this view of angel investors, the entrepreneur would do extensive research into the characteristics of the angel investor market. How many angel investors will the entrepreneur have access to, what is the decision making process for an angel investor, who influences the angel investor to make the investment, what is the competition for the angel investor's funds, what will it take to get an angel investor to seriously consider the entrepreneur's opportunity, etc. These are the types of questions the entrepreneur would seek answers to for his or her customers; why not seek this information about angel investors?

Finding out the characteristics of the angel investor market is difficult, but not impossible. It is inexcusable for entrepreneurial companies who set out to raise capital from angel investors not to know as much about the angel investor market as they know about their potential customers.

1 comment:

  1. Bill:

    Excellent thoughts. On the book front, I really like Susan Preston's Angel Financing for Entrepreneurs. Very well written, lots of good examples including financials. I highly recommend it, and you can usually find it in one of the large, chain bookstores.

    Tom Kruczek