Friday, September 26, 2008

CFO's - More Guardian, Less Angel?

Just received this month's issue of CFO Magazine (yes, I know, it should be a very exciting weekend) and found an article I was interviewed for a couple of months ago. The article, "More Guardian, Less Angel" discusses how CFO's add value to angel groups by helping to kill deals. I spent most of the time with the reporter talking about Sand Hill Angels and how we add value to the start-ups and entrepreneurs that we partner with, which is why I just have a small mention in the article.

It is certainly true that we can pick apart the financial projections or pour through contracts, legal and financial diligence, but none of those areas tend to be the most important areas in deciding whether to make an early stage investment. No company's future ever matches their projections and it is the assumptions and how the entrepreneur understands the market and sees the opportunity evolving that we care about.

As I am quoted in the article, it is easy to pick holes in a business plan. It is certainly good to take an analytical approach to any investment opportunity and many venture capital firms and angel groups do an excellent job of diligence. However, at the end of the day, your gut can tell you a lot more about whether to make an investment or not. How passionate are the entrepreneurs about their business? Can they recruit and get others excited? Do I believe they can succeed? Does the business model pass the smell test?

While no real data exists on returns in angel groups vs. individual angels, I often wonder which is the better way to invest. I enjoy my colleagues at Sand Hill Angels and like investing as a group as it enables us to lead investments, take board seats and have more influence. The downside is the groupthink mentality, which can work in both directions, killing deals and also creating a bandwagon effect. In a lot of our deals, there is often a tipping point where the deal will either move forward or die.

Even though I am an active member of an angel group, I often advise entrepreneurs that they may be better off raising money from individual angels rather than groups. A lot is based on how much money they are raising, terms being sought, entrepreneur's experience, stage and total funding required for the business. I'm going to do some more thinking on this topic and write another post sometime in the near future.

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