Tag Archives: friends and family

What’s the Difference Between Angel Investor and VC?

I see this confusion a lot: People use the terms “venture capital,” “venture capitalist,” and “VC” to apply to any outsider investing in a startup. However, it’s really useful to draw some distinctions in this area, between three important classifications: venture capital, angel investors, and anybody else. 

angel investment VC

Venture capital means big-money investment managed by professional investors spending other people’s money. The money comes from extremely wealthy people, insurance companies, university endowments, big corporations, etc. Think of Kleinert Perkins et al., First Round, Softbank, Oak, etc. Venture capital usually comes in millions of dollars. 

Angel investment is people who are accredited investors as defined by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commision (SEC), which sets wealth criteria:

they must have a net worth of at least one million US dollars, not including the value of their primary residence or have income at least $200,000 each year for the last two years (or $300,000 together with their spouse if married) and have the expectation to make the same amount this year.

Those rules were going to relax with the Jobs Act of 2012, which people would open the gate to crowdfunding, but hasn’t yet.

The most important distinctions between angels and VCS are: 

  1. Angels invest their own money; VCs invest other people’s money. 
  2. Angel investment is much more likely to be in hundreds of thousands than in millions of dollars. 

Aside from those two distinctions, it is generally true that VCs will be more rigorous in studying (called “due diligence”) the investment before they make it. Both angels and VCs will have similar processes for looking at summaries, then pitches, then business plans. 

Anything else is called “friends and family,” which really means “not VC” and “not angel investment.” The laws on investment allow a few so-called friends and family, but there are limits. The intention of all the regulation in this area is to prevent the kind of stock frauds that were rampant during the great depression. 

Q&A: How Do I Finance My Company Without Losing Control?


I need $250,000 to get my business started, but from what I see on the web, I’m going to have to give away the business, practically, to get that money from investors. And I don’t want to borrow the money because it’s a startup and I can’t be sure I’ll succeed.

cash ball and chain

My answer:

  1. You may be worrying about the wrong thing entirely because investors want know part of you or your business. Don’t even try to get angel investors unless you can convince them that there’s a reasonable chance that the money they give you today will give them ownership in a company that they’ll be able to sell to somebody else for 5, 10, or more times that amount of money in 3-5 years. “Reasonable chance” is just that, a decent shot at it, we know you can’t be certain. But can you convince people that it’s worth spending money on your business for their chance of return?   Ask yourself: do you have what investors want? If you don’t, then don’t waste time on this.
  2. Investors write checks. They expect something back in return. If they they write checks for your business instead of to buy a fancy car or second home, that’s because they expect to own something for a while and make money on it when they sell it. Don’t complain about giving them ownership.
  3. Real investors want control for good reasons. Good investors end up as partners. Don’t give up control if you don’t have to, but depending on how good your business looks, and how much startup experience you have, sharing control might be the only way to go. Or the best way. 
  4. I’ve written it many times, although this isn’t mine originally: choose an investor like you would choose a spouse. Find somebody compatible, who can offer help and advice, and ad to your team.
  5. If you manage to convince friends and family to invest in your business and give them a bad deal, you’re going to have to live with that problem for a long time.
  6. 10 good reasons not to seek investors for your startup.
  7. You don’t want to borrow the money because there’s too much risk? But it’s your startup, right? Why should anybody else take the risk you don’t want to take. Banks aren’t supposed to take risks either; it’s against the banking laws.
  8. Not that you should borrow the money, even if you can because you have house equity or something to pledge as collateral. Weigh your own risks and returns.
  9. If you want peace of mind, scale that business plan back to a size you can manage with your own resources. It’s possible for some businesses.
  10. Look for alternative financing like early prepaid sales, or share of future revenues, etc. Read 5 non-traditional ways to get startup money.

(Image: cash chained, bigstockphoto.com.)