At first glance, investing in technology startups looks highly attractive. The best ones grow into billion dollar companies in amazingly short timeframes and fortunes are made by those that spot the winners. Even without betting on individual unicorns David Rose of New York Angels estimates an annualised IRR of 25% for angel investors. Not bad by any standards.
So where is the dilemma? The problem is that when you look to make your first investment all technology startups look high risk and of course they are. There is at least a 50% chance that the startup you are reviewing will fail and only 10% that it will be that billion dollar unicorn. It is only when you diversify the risk over at least half a dozen startups that things start to look more rosy.
I recommend that the first decision to make is whether to be an active or passive investor. You can choose either approach but your tactics will vary depending on which strategy you follow. To passively invest, you will need to follow others. Pick investors who you trust, investing in sectors that they understand. These are often HNW’s who have made their money from successfully selling or IPOing a company. Let them do the due diligence and set the term-sheet and invest alongside them.
If you choose to be an active investor, you should do a lot more research up-front. This kind of investment has to be fun and is often best driven by a passion. The tech startup sector is very diverse and it is rarely possible to pick a sector that has more potential that the next because everything moves so fast. If you are based in a city such as London, you can predict the sectors which will get the most support from Government and corporates. In the case of London it might be FinTech and FashTech. You might alternatively choose to bet on the future and take a look at sectors such as EdTech or HealthTech. You can also take a technology focused approach, looking to back emerging technologies such as Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics or Big Data. Whatever choice you make, base it on research.
Active investors sometimes choose to invest in smaller portfolios. The reason for this is that it’s difficult to manage more than a few startups at once.
Finally, there is nothing wrong with taking a hybrid approach. This would involve investing in a small number of startups as the active lead and then build the rest of your portfolio by following other more active investors.
So the main tips to angel investors are;
- Always diversify your investment across multiple investments
- Only actively invest in what you understand
- Follow other angels when you don’t fully understand a sector or technology
Blog by Paul Dowling — Co-Founder of Dreamstake the world’s first tech startup platform to match over 16,000 founders with the most appropriate investors using a unique startup rating system. This allows entrepreneurs and investors to monitor startup progress and inject capital and support when most needed. Startup founders create profiles on the platform and get curated introductions to investors. We are constantly looking for great early stage tech startups. Investors please contact [email protected]
We have also recently launched an exclusive tech angel investment club in partnership with The Hoxton. HoxTech Angels will run invitation only angel