Is Angel Investing In A Bubble?

(image appears courtesy of Aeioux)

I’ve done about 10 angel investments in the past couple of years, and there is definitely a trend towards higher valuations and more competitive deals.

The problem is that every investment asset class obeys Newton’s Law: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

The logic many follow goes something like this:

1) As an asset class, angel investments have delivered a great historical return.

2) Therefore, we should allocate more funds to angel investing.

The result is more money chasing the same number of deals, which changes the valuation equation. Deals are getting done at higher valuations.

But hey, you may say, even if company valuations are up, if you exit for $200 million, does it matter whether you paid a $2 million or $4 million premoney?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. If you pay twice the price for an asset, for the same eventual exit, you’re cutting your returns in half.

If the premoney valuations double, that attractive 20% long-term annual return that angel investments returned suddenly turns into a much-less-interesting 10%.

My response has been to be extremely disciplined at passing on deals, even attractive ones, if the valuations exceed the traditional limits of seed stage investments.

I predict that those who do not follow the same discipline will eventually come to regret that decision. To quote Casablanca, “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”

(originally posted as a comment on this GigaOm post)

4 thoughts on “Is Angel Investing In A Bubble?

  1. Smart move – although I would suspect the very nature of angel investors would make them robust against these kinds of bubbles.

  2. Gabe

    Or looked at another way, when the pre-money valuations double, the number of investments you can make just got reduced by half. (OK, the math isn't precise; you can invest $4 million in one company and 200K in another, but you get the idea…)

  3. do you ever do angel investing not for stock in a company but for an outright percentage of the net revenue of a business built on subscriptions? In other words, pull out the cash each month rather than hope for some eventual ipo or liquidation event.

  4. The issue is that you've assumed "more money chasing the same number of deals"

    Now with move out of the economic doldrums do not contend that the number of investment opportunities would rise as many would now believe that the time is right to launch their new venture?

    Also with the collapse of traditional forms of funding that more entrepreneurs would turn to angel investment?

    Furthermore, with the growing number and transparency of Angel Investment Networks do you not believe that they would, in themselves, become more attractive to entrepreneurs?

    Another question, however, is the level of risk that Angels would be willing to take. Are Angel's attitudes to risk the same this year to last or the year before?

    We think it’s dangerous to believe more factors are given in this equation that those that are variable (increase in the perceived rate of return for angel investment).

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