Lessons for Budding Angel Investors from Y Combinator’s AngelConf: Part 2

On Monday I published the first part of a double-header post excerpting the most interesting talks from last week’s AngelConf event at Y Combinator in Mountain View, CA. Attended by some 120 nascent angel investors—very few of whom looked more than 35 years old—the conference was designed to give a group of experienced angel investors a chance to talk with newbies about the basic challenges and rewards of being an angel.

Yesterday we heard from Jeff Clavier, Greg McAdoo, Mitch Kapor, Andrea Zurek, and Paul Graham. Today, I boil down some remarks from Naval Ravikant, Joshua Schachter, Mike Maples, Paul Buchheit, and Sam Altman. (Affiliations listed in parentheses.)

Naval Ravikant (Venture Hacks, AngelList) on seven things he’s learned as an angel investor:

1. Don’t move in a herd, but do be a pack animal. Not everybody has all the information. One angle might know the market, one might know the founder, one might know the customer base. Every time an angel comes into a round, they bring a piece of information. Ride on their coattails.

2. Say no early and often. You should be doing one deal for every 20 to 30 that you see. If you do more than that, you’re overinvesting.

3. You need to have a brand. The really great deals are obvious, and everybody wants in, and if you want to get in you need a brand. That could be that you have been successful with great companies in the past. And building a brand does not mean taking coffee meetings. Shallow connections do not mean much. If you have a fancy office on Sand Hill Road or Market Street, the best deals are not going to come to you. If you’re not out there running around getting to know people, then you are really just practicing the VC model.

4. Humility. When you’re sitting there all day and people are asking for money and more often than not you are saying no, it eventually goes to your head. The problem is that when a Mark Zuckerberg walks in, those guys have more offers than they have room for. If you come across as arrogant, they will drop you.

5. Your job is to be a little dispassionate. Don’t try to run the company. Don’t even take the power—if you don’t have it, you won’t be tempted to use it.

6. Filters. Every winner is unique by definition, because what they’re doing is new. But the losers tend to cluster around common mistakes, such as … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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