Why Angel Investors Don’t Make Money

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Andy Rachleff is President and CEO of Wealthfront, an SEC-registered online financial advisor. He serves as a member of the board of trustees and vice chairman of the endowment investment committee for University of Pennsylvania and as a member of the faculty at Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he teaches courses on technology entrepreneurship. Prior to Wealthfront, Andy co-founded and was general partner of Benchmark Capital.

Everywhere I go in Silicon Valley I hear people discussing their angel investments. The conversations remind me of fish stories. People love recounting the one time they caught a big fish, not the many futile hours they spent waiting for a bite.

My skeptical perspective on angel investing is colored by my 25 years in the venture capital business and the data I use to teach my students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

I know that many of our clients at Wealthfront are tempted to become angel investors after they sell their company stock post-IPO. It’s not that I think becoming an angel is a bad idea; it’s just that most people who expect to make money as angel investors are fooling themselves.

To understand why I think this way, bear with me for a few paragraphs about what makes venture capital firms successful. There aren’t many successful firms, as this Kauffman Foundation research makes clear. Cambridge Associates, an advisor to institutions that invest in venture capital, says that only about 20 firms – or about 3 percent of the universe of venture capital firms – generate 95 percent of the industry’s returns, and the composition of the top 3 percent doesn’t change very much over time.

More details: Techcrunch.com

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