How to Attract an Angel Investor



If you’re looking for an angel investor as an early stage company, you know you need to present a well thought-out plan, right?

Basically, your product must be superior with a competitive advantage and your team must be highly competent.

Not only will you get the funds you seek with an angel investor, you’ll get added value in expertise. Angels will give you added experience, executive wisdom, contacts and creative ideas.

You might also find they’re more advantageous for your venture vis-à-vis going the initial public offering route.

woman glasses b&wWhy?

Early-stage financing by angel investors is more advantageous than venture capital money.

That’s according to a University of New Hampshire study.

The 2009 study – “Initial Public Offerings and Pre-IPO Shareholders: Angels Versus Venture Capitalists” – shows evidence of under-pricing by venture-supported IPO groups in initial public offerings vis-à-vis angel investors. The study was conducted by Professors William C. Johnson and Jeffrey E. Sohl.

So what else do you need to know to land an angel investment?

Noted angel investor John B. Dimmer offers seven tips.

Acknowledging the difficulties of entrepreneurship, the successful angel investor in Tacoma, WA, likes technology.

Mr. Dimmer says he looks for tenacity.

“I want people with the moral integrity and intestinal fortitude to make the difficult journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death and come out the other side,” explains Mr. Dimmer.

“It’s fun to greet them on the other side, hand them a margarita, and toast the success of their achievements,” he adds.

Mr. Dimmer’s graciously explains his comprehensive approach in how he selects investments:

Q: What mistakes do new companies make in applying for funding?

A: As I indicated, people are the single most important element in making an investment. As such, I generally don’t see business plans unless I know the people who are involved, or I know someone who knows the people involved. I think that to a large extent, most venture investors share this philosophy.

The business plan always comes first. I want to see a compelling market opportunity, and I want to know how the company intends to capture a meaningful share of that market. Mistakes I often see in this segment of the presentation almost always center around unrealistic sales assumptions. Overly aggressive projections relative to the percentage of market share the company will capture is one common mistake. Another mistake is a fundamental lack of understanding of the sales cycle, and the organizational structure required to produce the target revenues.

Q: Preference on projections?

A: Three years worth of financial projections is adequate, but five years is preferred. I would like to see the first year broken down into some detail, but future years can be prepared on a condensed basis. Having been involved with a myriad of start-up companies, I know that the financial projections will not be accurate; however, the forecasts provide valuable insight into the thought process of the people involved.

The most common mistake companies make in this area is a failure to understand and exhibit the financial metrics of their particular business. For example, software companies should normally generate 90 percent gross margins. If you are coming to me with a software investment, and your forecasts show a 55 percent gross margin, unless you have a very good answer as to why you deviate from the norm and how you are going to make money, I will assume that your business will fail because you don’t understand the financial metrics. Likewise, if you present me with an opportunity in the professional services space, which normally generates 50 percent gross margins, and you tell me that you are going to generate an 85 percent gross margin, I will assume you don’t know your financial metrics and pass on the opportunity.

Overly aggressive projections relative to the percentage of market share the company will capture is one common mistake. Another mistake is a fundamental lack of understanding of the sales cycle, and the organizational structure required to produce the target revenues.

Q: Structuring the deal?

A: Angel investing is risky business, with many of the portfolio companies ultimately failing. Accordingly, angel investors need to see an opportunity for substantial returns in order to offset the losses on bad deals and generate a reasonable return on the entire portfolio. What kind of a return is required? Well, a lot of that depends upon the timeline between the initial investment and exit, but traditional metrics suggest angels are targeting five to ten times their money back from a successful deal. It should be a given that any company approaching me for funding will have established the asking price for my initial investment.

Q: Exit strategy in proposals?

A: This should include the type of exit transaction, which may be a merger, an IPO, or something else, the timing associated with the exit, and the valuation metrics at exit. The mistakes I see here fall into one of two categories, those being an initial valuation that is set too high, or an unrealistic assumption about the exit timing and valuations. As the exit strategy is simply a forecast of a future event, my solution to either of these problems would be to try and negotiate a lower initial valuation.

As an example, I recently looked at a company that had their financing pulled out from under them. They had a big business opportunity ready to go, and needed capital to execute. While I liked their business plan, I felt their valuation was exceptionally high. I compared their valuation metrics with those of similar publicly-traded companies, and found that I could own these public companies for about 20 percent of the price they were asking. I ultimately went back to them with a proposal, but slashed their valuations. They weren’t too happy and so went looking for money elsewhere, presumably under different deal terms.

Q: Legal controls?

A: I believe that items such as voting rights or preference provisions should be allocated and enjoyed equally between all the parties involved with a company. Periodically I see instances where the founders have preferential rights to voting or liquidation. I’d like to think that we are all on the same team, which means if one person wins, we all win. Preferences then make it possible for one party to win, and another to lose, cause the creation of multiple agendas and ultimately lead to failure.

Q: What are the components of a successful presentation?

A: It’s pretty simple: brevity, clarity, honesty. A quality opportunity should be somewhat self-evident. I might need a little help starting down the path, but if I don’t pick up on it pretty quickly, I’m never going to buy into the deal. So, don’t be too long, don’t get overly complicated, and don’t try to pull a fast one on me.

The other thing I am going to look for in a presentation is the ability of the entrepreneur to think on their feet. If you really know your stuff, this shouldn’t be too hard. I periodically like to ask questions where I already know the answer just to see if the entrepreneur knows what they are talking about. Likewise, I sometimes like to ask questions that are outside the box just to see how the entrepreneur handles obtuse ideas. If you know your stuff, you can digest the inquiry and quickly formulate a meaningful response. If you stumble, you don’t know your stuff, and if you don’t know your stuff, I don’t want to give you any of my money.

Q: What trends would you care to predict?

A: I do not consider myself a visionary, but I’ve certainly worked with visionaries. My strengths come in the form of listening and then determining if there is a realistic opportunity for the vision to be commercially implemented within a reasonable time period. The only prediction I will make is that as our world advances, each advancement creates more opportunities…More opportunities for services, products, and technologies to be developed and delivered to consumers. The world of the entrepreneur is expanding at an ever-increasing rate, and I don’t see this changing any time soon.

From the Coach’s Corner, the other articles featuring Mr. Dimmer:

“If a business does well, the stock eventually follows.”

-Warren Buffett


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.