More than half of business angel investments fail, but why? How much of this can be put down to the innate vulnerability of start-up businesses?
Surely having an enthusiastic angel investor on board, eager to provide a timely injection of funding to ensure success should mean failure rates i.e. those leaving the business angel out of pocket come exit time should statistically be on the better side of half.
Yet this clearly isn’t the case. In an ideal world entrepreneurs and the angel investors are made for each other, a real match made in heaven as the title to this blog suggests. Put simply most start-ups require money and if it seems like a good idea, most angel investors on the lookout for new opportunities are eager to supply it – and make a decent return in five years or perhaps less. Perfect, the entrepreneur gets his money, establishes a viable business and the angel investor rides off into the sunset profit in hand ready to fund the next venture.
But life isn’t that simple. Good relationships are crucial to the stability and success of a business. Relationships need not necessarily be cordial at all times, debate and alternative viewpoints are healthy and can be productive , but like all relationships in life, certain elements must be in place to ensure relationships don’t unravel and become destructive.
While some angel investors will be looking more at business structures and the ideas and innovations those businesses are bringing to their market, it would be wrong to ignore the importance of the individuals who run businesses – the management team and the person(s) leading them.
The most successful investors should put fairly large sums into two or three businesses they know something about and whose management is trustworthy, at least this is what the most astute investors like Keynes and more recently Warren Buffet would tell you.
Finding out if the managers of the business you invest in are trustworthy isn’t easy. First you must establish a relationship. We often speak of relationships as having the right chemistry and it is crucial for the angel investor to feel that chemistry when he meets the entrepreneur he’s willing to invest in for the next four, five or maybe more years.
This is no easy task. Not all angel investors are entrepreneurs and many entrepreneurs don’t have the right instincts or ideas to make their business a success even with the help of investment as the statistics show. There can often be gaps in age and experience between business angel and entrepreneur. Take for example an ambitious 18-year-old fresh out of college, full of ideas and exuberance, the business angel who invests in the business may have a wealth of experience to offer, but will he/she be able to pass that knowhow, as well as money, on to ensure a successful future? There may well be gaps in age and understanding as well as experience.
If both angel investor and entrepreneur lack experience of starting up and developing a business, the relationship might turn into a voyage of discovery for both which may then flounder on rough seas. No matter how much money is invested, at least one party should know how to make the best use of it and both investor and entrepreneur must be able to work together and have their interests in alignment to achieve success and a positive return on investment.
Increasingly these days, angel investors are opting to join business angel networks and groups to spread risk rather than be faced with the possibility of choosing the wrong business to invest in. While this approach may have its advantages it will naturally create a distance between them and the entrepreneur. The cash may well pour into the business, but can the entrepreneur be trusted? This is a major question to consider, and also is the entrepreneur self-disciplined to spend the money wisely?
Investing too much money too soon can be toxic for a start-up particularly when an entrepreneur may lack focus or is prone to taking risks with your money.This brings us back to relationships, put simply, the business angel’s role is to invest not only money but also add value. For the relationship to work, therefore, the entrepreneur must be flexible, be willing to be mentored, work as part of a team and frugal with the money at his/her disposal.
Keeping these tips in mind should ensure that at least (market forces permitting) it will be the business that fails rather than the business relationship.