I hate the phrase “angel investor.” I hate it with the fiery rage of one thousand Betelgeuses. There is nothing angelic about investing. In my mind, the phrase conjures images of wealthy patrons of the Renaissance who supported talented but destitute artists. In return, these patrons would obtain the erstwhile equivalent of karma points, Klout or whatever. Perhaps even a flattering portrait (your face with the “Brad Pitt” Instagram filter applied to it). Whoever coined the phrase “angel investor”, I want to have a few words with you. Hint: the first one starts with an f.
The problem is that I fit the definition! I like to occasionally make small-time investments (low 5-figures) in seed-stage startups with the following criteria:
- I really like the founding team. I enjoy chatting with them, sharing experiences, feeling like I’m playing a minor role in their potential success.
- I have a decent understanding of what they are trying to do (e.g. things that I’ve had professional experience with such as search software).
- They know what they want, and won’t be easily steered by professional investors.
- They have a very strong sense of ethics, and believe that what they are doing will add value to the world somehow.
- Needless to say, I believe that there is an expectation of a positive return on my investment. This is no charity. I don’t wear a halo.