Recently we’ve seen more entrepreneurs invest in startups. They run their company and invest in others at the same time. An old colleague from Google, Brian Axe, calls them ‘angepreneurs.’ This isn’t a new trend but definitely one that has ramped up.
I have mixed feelings about this. I learned from Ron Conway that “dabbling” (as he likes to call it) is generally frowned upon. Doing anything outside of building one’s company was frowned upon, for that matter. I felt the same way. When you take other people’s money, you have a moral - if not legal - duty to devote all your time and energy to building a company. My Dad started his own company. I learned from my Dad that it requires a certain level of single-mindedness.
I also realize that it’s a different environment than even 5 years ago. More openness and transparency. Founders share their experiences and ‘best practices.’ It’s a way of giving back and also probably informs their “day job.” Running a company and investing in others aren’t mutually exclusive. And it’s great for us when a portfolio founder invests in another portfolio company. Active founders are frequently some of the most value-add investors.
I thought about this recently when I heard a few Facebook folks make the same observation about Mark Zuckerberg. They effectively said that they don’t think he’s socially awkward as the press likes to portray. He’s just so focused on Facebook and that’s all he thinks about. So even when he’s talking to you, you can almost see him thinking. That gave me chills. That level of single-mindedness and competitiveness. I have never seen Zuckerberg at a social or tech event (uh, probably because we run in different circles). I’ve never seen him on a cap table except his own. There are rumors that he’s not even going on his IPO roadshow.
I ended the first draft of this post here. My first thought was that even though I wasn’t crazy about it, it wasn’t going away. But I’ve heard too many stories in the past few weeks to change my mind. With that said:
One risk of lots of individuals investing (ie, a party round) is the bystander effect. A founder asks for help, and no one responds. There’s either no incentive to do so or they think “the other guy is doing it.” We have seen that happen often and that factored into my first thoughts.
But I’m now hearing more stories where founders say that the most value-add investors are other active founders. More so than the “professional angels” or VCs. It’s happened enough where I think this trend is definitely a welcome one. It’s up to the entrepreneur to decide the composition of their investor syndicate. It’s great they have more choices.