A recent article by Andy Rachleff published in TechCrunch entitled Why Angel Investors Don’t Make Money … And Advice For People Who Are Going To Become Angels Anyway, paints a very dismal picture for the potential returns to angel investors. Rachleff uses as a proxy for potential returns to angel investors, data from the venture capital industry where he cites that ” about 3 percent of the universe of venture capital firms – generates 95 percent of the industry’s returns” and that overall returns for the industry are less than compelling. Rachleff cautions angel investors not to enter this investment class with an expectation of making money.
In response, Robert Wiltbank, PhD a professor at Willamette University, has shared the research he has conducted on angel investing in conjunction with the Kauffman Foundation, NESTA, the University of Washington, and Willamette University. In his recent TechCrunch article entitled Angel Investors Do Make Money, Data Shows 2.5x Returns Overall, Professor Wiltbank concludes from his research that the best estimates of overall angel investor returns is 2.5 times investment over a four-year holding period.
As an angel investor, this is a very interesting debate to follow and both Rachleff and Wiltbank have interesting perspectives to share. Where Rachleff and Wiltbank agree is that a portfolio approach is important when investing in this sector as the probability of success for any one investment is less than 50%.