David B. Lerner

Dave Lerner, 3x Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, Host of Venture Studio
Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, Director of Columbia University Venture Lab, Blogger, Community Organizer, Golfer-in-Exile.

Angel Profiling (4): The Wild and Wooly (and Expanding) Angel Universe

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 This is part of my Series on Angel Investing.

In the first post of this mini-series I pointed out that the landscape of angel investing is quite sprawling and diverse with many constituents. In fact, many are calling 2010 the "Year of the Angel", although this is often uttered ironically by those who believe we are witnessing (and participating in) a seed-stage bubble these days with requisite inflated valuations. During my recent interview with him, Mark Suster made the classic remark that "everyone is an angel today" and it's true. The Venture Hacks Angel List seems to be adding new angel investors by the hour!

So bubble or not, as promised, below is an infographic that illustrates this rapidly expanding and overlapping angel universe in a tongue-and-cheek manner. The entire wild and wooly cast of characters are represented below including the aforementioned "Susterian Mugs", the ubiquitous Friends and Family investors, the two varieties of Maniacs, the Celebs and of course, the so called "Pro-leaguers" or nearly extinct "SuperAngels" (most of whom are now running their own micro-funds).

The full dramatis personae are as follows:

  • Friends and Family supporting "our own": The largest contingent of all pumping $60B/year into startups
  • "Mugs" who don't know what the heck they are getting into and don't realize it (me circa 2001)! 
  • Maniacs Tilting at Windmills who don't know what they're doing, realize it, and don't care
  • Maniacal Wisemen Tilting at Windmills Although these guys are maniacs, there is a method to their madness. They are trying to fund companies that will make a massive and positive difference in the world and solve important problems and carry their checkbooks with them. Paige Craig is one such dude.
  • "Weekend Warriors" of varying skills and motivations, (this includes participants in Angel Groups)
  • Entrepreneurs Giving Back and supporting the younger generation
  • Celeb Angels Ashton Kutcher, Will.i.am, etc.
  • VC Angels VC's who do some angel investing on the side
  • Professional Angels (the pro-leaguers or "super-angels" who more and more are becoming micro-VC's)
  • What I call "Dark Angels" These characters are not often seen in the light of day. They are elusive, shun the spotlight, and yet appear somehow through various corporate vehicles on the cap tables of many of the top-tier funded companies out there. The further I've descended into the rabbit hole of angel investing the more I run into these figures. It's amazing really as the few I've met are serious bad-asses with deep domain expertise that just like to keep a low profile for whatever reason. The last "dark angel" I met showed up at an evening meeting the CEO had arranged a few weeks ago wearing darkly- tinted glasses and hardly said a word. To me this is the most fascinating category of all.
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