Angel Investors: Distinctive Components of Start-up Ecosystems

Today I spent time listening to a local angel group host a panel discussion. The purpose of the discussion was to demystify the process of getting investment from the group. The audience was primarily early founders.

This angel group’s members are mostly current and former entrepreneurs, so they have a wealth of start-up knowledge. They’re also civic-minded. They want to see their community prosper and believe entrepreneurship can have a material impact. The group evaluates deals across the country but emphasized that local entrepreneurs who meet their criteria get preference. And they made the point that they’re not a charity—they seek to get a return on the capital they invest.

This angel group (like many others) has a profile that makes them vital to the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. They seek to do good (help founders) while doing well (making money). Given their backgrounds, they’re uncommonly qualified to help with something most people have never attempted and can share invaluable experiences. You may get one or two of these qualities in the profile of another sort of investor, but probably not all three.

Today reinforced my belief that operators turned angel investors are essential ingredients in a successful start-up ecosystem.