This excerpt is serialized from a whitepaper titled Angel Investing for Single Family Offices (SFO’s) by The Family Office Association and Vaux les Ventures. For a complete copy, visit the FOA website.
I am often asked how I have dealt with risk as an entrepreneur and now more often as an angel investor. Short answer is I have just become accustomed to it, and at least always know when it’s there. Here are a few risks that both angels and entrepreneurs should consider:
Structural Risk must also be considered before making angel-type investments. While there are several angels who’ve become well known with their “spray and pray” philosophy, diversity won’t save an investor if the structure of the investments isn’t optimized. Unless the criteria are to be entirely passive and devoid of value-add to the company, then an SFO might consider putting some basic protective structures in place. These can be as simple as board and information rights for the SFO or one of its angel partners; basic protective provisions in the stock purchase agreement or reasonable valuations that still leave room in the cap table for another, larger investor later on.
Super-long hold periods are a recent – and generally unwelcome — development in the angel market. These are primarily a result of the moribund IPO market in the tech market over the last few years, as well as VC’s managing billions of dollars in committed funds. As a result, most companies are being forced into “hold” periods that can last 7-10 years — without liquidity. The VC’s have a vested interest in funding the company for a bigger exit (as they’re paid in part based on the amount of funds they manage). Entrepreneurs and angels are on the other side of this argument, as many have committed their lives, livelihood, and capital, and continue to risk significant portions of their net worth (in the entrepreneur’s case) and investable assets for the sector (for the angels) over an entire decade of risk exposure. The pressure has begun to release in the form of secondary funds like Second Market and Millennium Technology ventures, which purchase founder and angel shares far before the respective VC would consider doing so.
There are so many risks to being a start up, and those risks can be compounded (and/or mitigated) through how you go about angel investing.
Best rule of all: go in with eyes open!