Jul 2, 2024 at 1: 36 pm

The Eight Angel Investor Types: Which One Are You?

Christian Rangen & Rick Rasmussen


In our work with angel investors, angel networks and startup ecosystems around the world we find eight uniquely different angel investor types. From Cairo to London, Palo Alto to Zurich, these angel types all show up, looking to invest, support and contribute; but first, they need to know which type of angel they are.

Understanding the business angel universe

Globally, there are 100’000’s of angels and 1000’s of angel networks. From Nairobi Angels (Kenya), Sand Hill Angels (California), Connect BAN (Norway), Dubai Angels (Dubai) EBAN (European), Doha Tech Angels (Doha), INSEAD Asia Angels (HK/Singapore), AfBan (Africa), SICTIC (Switzerland) these angel networks are critical, vital backbones in any tech ecosystem. From first financing, first coaching, early mentorship, early board roles and introductions to customers, employees and investors, angel networks serve as a vital glue in both mature and emerging ecosystems.

Yet, across these business angel universes, there are many different roles angels can take on.

Based on our work with 100’s and 100’s of angel investors and angel networks globally, through Masterclasses, online programs and ecosystem development, we started looking for similarities, telltale signs, angel personas and profiles. Over time, we identified five, six, later seven and eight different angel types. With Rick located in the heart of Silicon Valley, but also advising global startup ecosystems from Korea to Canada, Brazil to UAE (fun fact, while writing this, Rick is in Brazil teaching a week-long program on startup ecosystems), and Chris residing in the Nordics, but supporting angel networks, innovation agencies and governments in the Middle East, North America, SE Asia, Europe and Africa; we collectively see a vast number of angel types and angel networks around the world.

Based on these early personas, we then sketched out a simple 2 x 2, with ‘Value the angel investor brings’ on the Y-axis and the ‘value creation the angel investor brings to the startup’ on the X-axis. Naturally, different angels will bring different levels of value and support, but we quickly found a significant difference among the angel types.

Once identified, and sketched out, we labelled this visual construct the Business Angel Universe Map. Our goal; visually map out the different types of angel investors we were seeing and help the larger ecosystem make sense of it, grow and develop. Ultimately, we hope, this may lead to better angel networks and better angel investors around the world.

Download the Business Angel Universe Map

Why use the Business Angel Universe Map?

Having used the Business Angel Universe Map over the past 10 months, we find six primary use cases for it.

  • Self-assess
    Where would you place yourself?
  • Self-develop
    Where would you like to develop as an angel investor?
  • Map the angel network
    What does your current angel network look like?
  • Develop the angel network (this is the big one, we find)

How and where would we like to develop the angel network

  • Best practices
    What does ‘great angel investing’ actually look like?
  • Educate
    Educate aspiring angels, active angels, students, entrepreneurs and the larger ecosystem; not all angels are created equal, and just like you know the difference between a pre-seed and Series B investor (at least, you should), you also know the difference between a dipping Toes angel and a Value Creator angel.

What is an angel investor?

Before we proceed, it may be useful to define what is, actually, an angel investor.

In our view, and by most accounts, an angel investor can be best described as a:

  • Individual investing in early-stage companies, exchanging cash for equity ownership
  • Investing her or his personal wealth, not investing on behalf of anyone else
  • An angel investor will typically invest between $10.000 to $250.000, but sometimes as little as $1000, to get started
  • Often taking an active role in supporting, coaching, and mentoring the startup(s) in the early days of the founder’s journey
  • Often holding a full-time job, often in banking, consulting, investments or startup founder, with the investments being a (small) part-time activity outside of work
  • May be retired. With a bit of discretionary funds and time on their hands.
  • In some cases doing angel investing full-time, often as a successfully exited founder or retired consultant, banker, or executive. Thinking about formalizing into a small fund.
  • Very often involved in local or national angel networks, for deal flow, co-investments and follow-on investments
  • Globally, angels are recognized as supplying ca. 90% of all early-stage financing
  • Globally, we estimate there are between 1 million – 1,5 million active angel investors

The Investment Process


Looking for investments or having investments look for you. Maybe you want to see as many deals as possible, or simply take those that are referred to you by friends or colleagues.


Investing in a startup. This can be done via any one of a number of vehicles. First-time starters will typically use a SAFE agreement or Promissory Note.   The same agreements can be found online.  If you’re part of an angel group, there will be plenty of help available.


Some angels are passive. Invest and forget. Others are very active, trying to help the company get to the next steps by advising, mentoring, coaching and more. An angel investor will rarely become part of the board but it does happen.


Normally this is the purview of later-stage, professional, venture capital investors and/or board members but a strong, well-networked angel investor can play a role and potentially reap the benefits.

Deep dive into the eight angel investor types

While a generic definition of angel investors is useful, we believe you need to get the far more granular and nuanced view to truly understand the different angel roles.


A Dipping Toes angel will often say they are here to learn. They are just taking their first steps as an angel investor. Angel investors in this category may have recently sold a business or saved up some money for early-stage investing. They are primarily looking to learn. This can be a great starting point for any angel investor, looking to build skills over time.

Joining an angel network is a good way to get started.  You will be able to see deals, and get advice from peers, others will be there to help with due diligence and the form of investment will likely be set for you. You will learn a lot in a short period of time.

Beware of getting overly excited too early, allocating too much money too quickly (splurge) or over-allocating into a single company (concentration risk). Our recommendation to Dipping Toes is to see at least 100 deals before making a single investment. As you probably can imagine, this never happens…..


The Spray & Pray angel is quite common in growing ecosystems. There may have been some wildly successful angel investments in the ecosystem, and people are looking to ‘get luck fast’. A Spray & Pray angel understands it is all about building an angel portfolio, possibly needing 50-100 investments to have a good shot at significant returns.

Yet, the Spray & Pray often happens without much plan, discipline or portfolio construction.

If you’re part of an angel group, perhaps you are the person who says “yes” more often than not.  It’s OK, you’re playing the odds. In our experience, this angel type is mostly focused, even excited, about making the investments (cash out), but has limited attention on what follows next (follow-ons) and how to generate exits (cash back).


We have met many wealthy angels. They might have made their respective fortunes in real estate development, holding a C-level position or even inherited the capital. What they have in common is that they have more capital than experience as an angel.

As such, they might come in a take large positions (20% – 50% equity stake), drive up valuations and generally shift the local market for early-stage investments, yet not always in a good way. We have seen ample examples of a wealthy angel, with the best of intentions taking an exuberant ownership stake in the first round, without understanding the founders’ journey and the need to develop a long-term capital strategy.

Typically not part of an angel group.  No real desire to share the company with other, smaller,  less sophisticated investors.

On the flip side, any founder able to catch a wealthy angel knows they likely have first-hand access to further follow-on financing, effectively cornering the angel to keep investing and not lose their investment. Of course, the flip side to that again, is that founders quickly get overly diluted by doing this.

We have seen many wealthy angels quickly grasp angel investing, and ‘stepping up’ in their active angel roles over time.


The angel participant can be described as the most innocent, supportive and naïve player in the angel universe. As a participant, this angel is just happy to invest, to join rounds and get some deals done. Will often rely on angel networks and club deals. Will rarely spend any significant time with founders, boards or due diligence.

An angel participant may also be a more experienced operator, executive or investor, but choosing to sit in the back of the bus, to join rounds, but without the hassle of getting involved.

We believe the more passive angel participant is important and very welcome, but would also recommend this investor type to develop a strong, trusted network of co-investors who can lead the due diligence and get deals done.   Angel group perhaps?

These first four types can best be described as somewhat new or passive in angel investing. They may be here to learn, to get deals done and to get investments completed, but they bring somewhat limited value and network to the startups. Equally, they are likely to spend less time in the role of an angel investor.

The following four types, however, are different. All four are more active, more experienced and bring vastly more value to their investments.


The Strategic Networker Angel is using all her might to connect, support and network the founders. She may be more selective on making investments, often asking “Can I bring these founders into my network of trusted relationships?”; but when she does, she is able to open doors, get access to clients, secure follow-on investors and generally use her network to the fullest.

What clearly separates her from the previous angel investors, is her ability to proactively lean into the deal and guide founders through tight-knit networks and relationships. Often, she will say things like “I want to bring you into the CXO of this large company, to discuss a possible M&A” , or “I want to set up a dinner with a former executive to discuss taking a board seat with you”.

The downside to the Strategic Networker is usually the capacity and sufficient time to work with too many founders.


The Angel Lead is a very different role from the previous five. This angel is often in charge of structuring rounds and bringing a large number of angels together in the same round.

The Angel Lead acts as the point of contact, due diligence manager and overall deal manager between a larger angel group and the founders. An Angel Lead may be part-time or full-time employed by the angel network, or at a minimum partially compensated for the work performed on getting deals done.

A solid Angel Lead will be able to establish a streamlined work process, efficiently providing angels access to documents, while easily handling term sheets, investment proposals and closing documents, including signature and payments, in some cases handling 20 to 50 angels in the same deal.

In our work with angel networks, we view the Angel Lead as one of the absolutely most important pieces to any angel network. If your angel network do not have 1-2 clearly defined Angel Leads, that should be a key priority for the coming year. In our Angel Masterclasses, we cover the role of Angel Leads in-depth, as a key success factor to any angel ecosystem.


The first time I (Chris), met a Value Creator Angel he said “You know, before I make any angel investments, I take the deck and go talk to all my VC friends. I ask them two questions. 1. How likely are you to invest in this founder, and 2. What do you need to see from this startup to make an investment (traction metrics)? Then I go back and make my decision to invest or not”.  With a track record of 7X DPI (cash paid back), Marc has built himself into a true Value Creator angel investor.

A Value Creator angel investor works almost as an early-stage venture capital firm.
Strategy, processes, portfolio development and value creation; the tools we find these angels use are almost identical to any early-stage VC firm.

The Value Creators we have met are often ex-founders. They understand the journey and the challenges. They understand the importance of getting the next 3-4 financing rounds right. They work tirelessly on building exit networks, exit options and exit partners.

A superb Value Creator can seemingly ‘create magic’ by doing deals and getting deals done.

In many of the emerging ecosystems we work with, there simply aren’t a lot of Value Creators, due to the limited number of exits and repeat founders in the market. Due to this, angel networks should consider developing a more ‘elite’ cohort of advanced angels, with the ability to ‘step up and lead’, beyond the skills and impact of regular angel investors.


The final type is what we call the Super Angel.
In our experience, every market may only hold a single Super Angel. The Super Angel sits head and shoulders above the majority of angels, but at the same time works to include others, build the network and expand the ecosystem.

A Super Angel can take a very active role with the startup (as an investor, mentor, not necessarily as a board member), and guide the company through the next 3-5 years of growth. The Super Angel also brings a vast, unparalleled network of follow-on investors and exit candidates. Sometimes, the Super Angel may act as an official scout of a larger VC firm (Scout Program), but many Super Angels may also decline that invitation, as they are perfectly capable of investing and doing a large number of deals by themselves.

What separates the Value Creator and Super Angel is the reach of their networks (access to talent globally) and their overview of the market, from dealflow, and follow-on to exits.

Notable examples of Super Angels include Ron Conway, who defined the term, ex-Googler Chris Sacca (and later founder of Lower Carbon Capital), Swiss Angel of the Year, Thomas Dübendorfer, with 9 startups founded, founder of SICTIC (now on its 130th investor day) and author of the Swiss Angel Handbook and former McKinsey Partner, Trond Riiber Knudsen (and more recently active GP in funds like Katapult and Antler).

In our work, we point to the uniqueness of the Super Angel and recommend ecosystems to develop ramp-up programs to get more founders (Thomas), engineers (Chris) or advisors (Trond) to step up into the Super Angel roles.

Eight types, which one are you?

With these eight types mapped out, the next question is, which one are you?
From Dipping Toes to Super Angel, you should be able to recognize your current profile.

Perhaps, more importantly, which are you striving to grow into? Looking ahead, which is the type of angel investor you want to be?

Pulling it all together

With over 50 years of collective experience working with angel investors, we have seen the good, the bad, the shady and the impressive. Fully recognizing that successful angel investing requires access to a strong deal flow pipeline of founder talent, combined with a rich ecosystem of customers, partners, follow-on investors, board talent, M&As, secondaries and various exit opportunities; being a great angel investor is not (just) about doing the deal. It is just as much to be the active partner in year zero, year one and year two. All angels start somewhere, but growing into the roles as Angel Lead, Value Creator or Super Angel is the result of years of work, supporting founders, structuring deals, managing cap tables, and balancing power dynamics between capital holders and founders that build the future.

If you are just getting started, maybe you should check out our next article, What’s Your Angel Strategy?

For angel networks, angel investors, innovation agencies and anyone with a keen interest in angel investing, we hope that the Business Angel Universe Map can serve as a useful tool, a guide to developing both your personal angel skills as well as your larger angel investor network. Angel investors and angel networks make up a critical part of any startup ecosystem – and we hope to see many more successful angel investors in the future.

Christian Rangen & Rick Rasmussen

Christian Rangen & Rick Rasmussen


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