Why more non-technology investors will form the bigger pool of angels by 2020

It is only 7 years to 2020, and I’d like to speculate a bit and make a fool of myself by taking a stab at the future of tech angel investing. To do a good enough job of predicting the future (or a hopeless job of it) you have to know the current state well enough.

In the US there are about 250,000 angel investors across all sectors and about 25% of them are in the technology sector alone. The number of active technology angel investors is claimed to be about 40,000 – active being defined as someone who does at least 1 investment in a calendar year.

Of the 40K angel investors, fewer than 5,000 are classified as “lead investors”. These are folks that will take the pole position in funding a startup and get other investors to rally around them. In India, those corresponding numbers are 500 angel investors in technology and about 25 lead angel investors.

Currently word of mouth networks rule and tend to be the large part of deal flow for investors. Most lead investors get pitched by people they know first or have worked with, then via referrals and finally from random others. This means that typically angel investors tend to put money in things they (mostly) understand or people they know well. That makes logical sense, since they tend to want to add value, learn from and coach entrepreneurs instead of just providing the money and checking in once in a while.

The increasing need for speed to make decisions, means that most angel investors are forming affiliations with others who complement their skills and are beginning to pursue “expertise” in certain areas.

I am noticing another trend that’s starting to make waves in the angel investor ecosystem.

Non-technology angel investors are increasingly becoming due diligence experts in deals.

I spoke with 5 of the top investors in the US a few weeks ago in the technology space and their preferred co-investors were ALL non-tech. That’s amazing and bodes well for startups.

The example I was given is the work being done in agri-tech (intersection of Agriculture and technology). Most of the technology portions are relatively easy to understand for a technology expert, but the non-technology parts of soil testing, crop selection and cold-chain storage were all alien to most technology founders. So they enlisted the help of local (Seattle) farmers and food supply chain experts. In this case it was cheese processing.

In places such as India, where technology founders are a small part of the ultra-rich, this is a dramatic change and a great way to expand the angel investor ecosystem.

I can see how we can enlist more non-technology high-net-worth individual to form teams of investors to help get deals done faster. Since they have good working knowledge of the space and sectors, they are more likely to provide insights and connections that matter.

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5 thoughts on “Why more non-technology investors will form the bigger pool of angels by 2020”

  1. Interesting idea. You make the case for why they are needed, however the case for why they will isn’t strongly audible.

    Besides, the number of 500 and 25 angels and leads in India part of some official survey? Or is it just Indian Angels + Mumbai Angels etc. membership numbers plus a clutch of angel funds? There are a few private angel groups and with SEBIs new regulations encouraging many to seek registration, there will hopefully be accurate numbers reported.

  2. Great post Mukund. When I ran an energy software company, we picked folks with the energy domain and others with a pure software technology domain to balance out the skill sets and even out the advise flowing to the operating team. In this case, it was tech-investors and domain experts in the agriculture business. Definitely the way of the future!

  3. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit
    my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.

    Anyhow, just wanted to say excellent blog!

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