Angel Investor Roundtable – 22nd December 2009, Mumbai.
Canaan Partners hosted a roundtable discussion with over 30 angel investors. This note summarizes the key discussion items.
Individuals and Groups
The participants included members from Angel groups (Indian angel network and Mumbai angels, each of which have made 18
investments till date) as well as individual angel investors. Many participants also reported that they invest both individually and
through these groups. Members of the groups pointed out to several advantages of organizing themselves, including:
• Ensuring adequate capital availability through syndication
• Sharing the effort involved in making investments as well as managing them
• Availability of wider domain knowledge within the investing group
Time, not just money
Most participants agreed that angel investments entail high level of involvement and time commitment. While there was consensus
that the operating team needs to be given enough operating freedom, investors mentioned wide range of involvement from finding
office space, to recruiting talent, to helping find customers. Some of the investors emphasized on the need to define concrete value
add before making the investment, such as a specific list of customer contacts that could be useful to the company. Some
participants reported spending as much as two full days a week with investees.
There was emphasis on defining and working towards milestones that can be achieved with the often meager angel capital. Some of
the suggested milestones were towards business progress; others towards ensuring that the next round of financing can be secured.
More than just IT
While the earlier stages of angel investing witnessed a bias towards IT oriented investments, angel investors are now looking at a
wide range of sectors. There was a view that sometimes brick and mortar businesses have a wider set of potential acquirers. At the
same time, many participants pointed out that since angel investee companies need to raise their next round of financing from VCs,
the sectors are limited by where follow-on investments are expected to be available.
Profile of Entrepreneurs
Majority of the group indicated a growing preference for entrepreneurs with strong domain expertise and operating background.
Both the lack of compelling differentiation in ideas, as well as the difficulty in building strong operating team under inexperienced
entrepreneurs was cited as reasons.
There were differing views on the importance of pedigree of the entrepreneurs. While principally most people agreed that there was
a lot more talent than just from top engineering and business schools, there was also a view that entrepreneurs with pedigree stood
a better chance of raising follow-on venture capital, hence being better bets for angel investors.
Suggestions for development of Angel capital
There was consensus that there is very little seed stage capital available, and there were several suggestions that could be taken up
on a collective basis, and in collaboration with organizations such as TiE.
• Having tax breaks for accredited investors, similar to those prevalent in other countries
• Devising investment structures that allow for returns even when the investment turns into a lifestyle business, with no
acquisition or IPO in sight, and with lower dependence on future rounds of financing.
• Expanding the themes and geographic spread of angel investment, perhaps by attracting local capital. Case studies of
successful angel investments, as well as training on investing and portfolio management could be useful.
• Devising management structures to allow distinct roles for passive investors and active members, to allow maximum
leverage on engaged investors.