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Mastering Diversification in Angel Investing or the art of building a Portfolio (EN)

Are you ready to embark on a rewarding journey as a Business Angel? How exciting to give your resources, time, and expertise back to the community.

Your entry into the world of angel investing promises to be a thrilling adventure. However, before you take the plunge, remember a crucial piece of advice: always approach it with your exit strategy in mind. In this article, we will explore the art of constructing a diversified angel portfolio to maximise your chances of success.

First, let’s set the stage. Business Angels are the very first, after fools and families, to invest in very young yet innovative startups.

Necessary for the emergence of innovation but risky business indeed !

These startups are most often pre-revenue, with just a proof of concept and a micro team!.

It’s essential to note that only a modest 10 to 20% of these ventures will endure in the long run. With this level of risk, the last thing you want to do is put all your hard-earned eggs (money) into one or two baskets.

The global Angels Community widely concurs on a fundamental principle: diversification is your best ally. A well-rounded angel portfolio should ideally comprise around 20 (if not more) carefully chosen companies.

When asked about his investment strategy, G.P.A, a very successful international Business Angels, tells us

“My strategy in my business angel investment relies on dynamic, exponential, differentiated concentrated diversification or more simply concentrated diversification.”

Here’s why diversification is the key to success.

Risk Mitigation Through Diversification

Diversifying your investments means spreading your risk. Even if a few startups in your portfolio don’t make it, the successes can more than make up for all those souls lost along the way. This risk mitigation strategy is crucial to protecting your capital.

1. Diversify Within Industries

If you possess substantial expertise in a particular industry, don’t limit your investments to just one niche, such as medical devices for heart monitoring. Explore other monitoring devices or delve into digital health solutions. Broadening your focus within your area of expertise can provide valuable opportunities.

2. Diversify Across Geographies

We know that only 10% of European angels venture into cross-border investments but as I once wrote, startups are not like vegetables i.e local is not always better. Explore the business angel scene in different countries or even continents which will increase your ESG impact. If you feel uncomfortable with going international than look at opportunities closer to home. Some regions offer favorable non-dilutive solutions and environments for nurturing startups.

3. Diversify in Business Models

Diversifying across different sectors or sub-sectors will introduce variations in business models, market trends, and potential revenue streams. Consider various business models, as it is a vital element (along many other factors) for the growth of the company.

4. Diversify by Stage of Development

The earlier the stage of development, the riskier the investment. So check out companies that may have a higher valuation but are also better demonstrating market viability, effective solutions, and potential sources of revenue.

5. Mix Direct and Indirect Investments

For high-net-worth individuals with ample resources, consider both direct investments (with your name on the cap table) and indirect investments (becoming a Limited Partner in a fund). This approach can also be mixed with different investment tools – crowdfunding , SPVs etc enabling you to invest varying amounts and participate in different size rounds.

6. Rational vs. Sentimental Investments

While rational decisions are essential, if you come across an exciting project in a niche market with no visible venture capital presence and limited exit prospects, you can follow your heart, but be prepared to accept the possibility of losing your investment. This is what we refer to as a sentimental investment.

7. Join a Network

Joining an angel investor network, whether specialized or agnostic, grants you access to a broader dealflow, collective pre-screening of high-quality opportunities, expert due diligence support, portfolio management assistance, and access to training courses on the due diligence process and its potential pitfalls.

8. Get Actively Involved

Many successful Business Angels have reported that their greatest successes were with companies they were actively engaged with. This takes us back to point 1: by investing in a sector you know well not only will you be able to identity the right investments but you will also be so much more impactful to those companies. Maintaining a close relationship with the CEO and monitoring their development can be key to your investments’ success.

As our guest GPA underlines :

“ The more start-ups in a given sector, the more you can make the whole more powerful than the sum of the parts, the more you can get start-ups to partner together and help each other in cross-selling, outsourcing complementary services, investor introduction,etc.”

9. Think Exit Strategy

Stay informed about industry trends, regulations, key industry players, and the performance of your portfolio. Ensure that your investments not only prosper within a scalable market but also offer viable exit strategies, allowing you to reinvest in the ecosystem and continue fostering innovation. This is all about maintaining the virtuous circle of early-stage investment.

In conclusion, building a diversified angel portfolio is an art, one that requires thoughtful planning and strategic decision-making. As Peter Thiel once said “Successful people find value in unexpected places” so by embracing dynamic diversification, staying involved, and keeping your exit strategy in mind, you can contribute to both your success as an angel investor and the innovation ecosystem at large.

Article by Caroline Saï

Head of Angels Santé and the European Health Investor Network

Board member of EBAN (European Business Angel Network)