This is often a tough question to answer. To the SEC, it means that you are an accredited investor and To the man (or woman) on the street, a minimum qualification would seem to be an interest and ability to invest in early stage ventures. However, that is not always the case as there is no qualification to set out your shingle as an angel investor or form an angel group. I often wonder if saying you are an angel investor is the 21st century version of being a consultant in the early 1990's after the corporate layoffs, a euphemism for someone without a real job.
I attended the ACA Summit in San Diego earlier this month. I ran into a friend who was wearing a nametag from another angel group and I inquired as to why she had never shown an interest in joining Sand Hill Angels. Her response was that we required our members to make investments and the other group didn't....Silly us, with that kind of a requirement. I think this sentiment has given angel groups a bad name. An entrepreneur will pitch their business plan to what they think is a group of angel investors and will get a number of follow-up calls afterwards, but they are pitches for services not investment interest.
The ACA is an interesting organization and is providing support in a number of ways to its member angel groups, from public policy, networking, sydnication, and best practices. The National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) was also represented at the conference and is forging closer links with the ACA. In fact, there are some members of both groups, as a number of angel groups have raised funds (that is an entire discussion that I'll leave for a future post).