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November 21, 2012

What holds back the Angels?

Businessworld has an interesting Cover Story focused on Angel Investments - or rather their lack.

The article starts of with data from Venture Intelligence showing how the recognized angel networks and well known individual angel investors have together funded about 50-60 startups last year, which is a tiny fraction of the angel investment activity in in the US and even China.

The article also has an interesting table on the ratio of companies that apply for funding to the angel networks are actually successful in raising capital. In FY12, Chennai Angels received 123 applications and funded 3 companies, while Mumbai Angels received 100+ applications and funded 12. Indian Angel Network’ numbers were eye-popping: It received almost 5,000 applications; met with 50 of those companies and finally funded 11!

Issues faced by the angels:Quality of Startups
The article quotes Hemant Kanakia, a Silicon Valley based angel investor who also invests in India as part of IAN saying that there is a shortage of quality deals in India. “We still see me-too kind of models. There is no real innovation happening,”

Lack of Exits
The other reason for such a shortage of angels, according to Rajesh Sawhney of Global SuperAngels Forum, is that unlike the US where there have been large cashouts, in India a majority of angel investment is still locked up in companies. Out of the 30-odd investments (Sasha Mirchandani) has made in 8-10 years, he has had 10 full and partial exits. InMobi, Greendust and Myntra are a few feathers in his cap. “There have not been too many exits that would have created tonnes and tonnes of wealth to be ploughed back,” says entrepreneur-turned-investor Gaurav Kachru, who has recently started an early-stage fund 5ideas to mentor startups.

Real Estate is a better bet
According to a study by consulting firm BCG, India has at least 190,000 multi-millionaires. But there are only 500 angels. The vast disparity is explained by the lure of real estate for the rich.....Ask them about their love for real estate and the HNIs will tell you that it is a better bet than entrepreneurs because India is yet to see success stories (100x returns) such as Facebook, Google or Twitter, for instance.

...Not to forget the fact that the inflow of new angels may be hampered because most of the second and third generation entrepreneurs in India are traditional businessmen who do not understand the digital or technology space. Given that 80 per cent of the startups are in these areas, they are inhibited from bringing their money into the tech domain.
Regulation & Tax Breaks
Angels demand that the government introduce a set-off on taxes on their investments like in Israel (which allows investors to set off 50 per cent of the investment in a firm against that year’s taxes) and the US (15 per cent break on funding in Colorado to 100 per cent in Hawaii). The Budget 2012 measure to tax angel investments in a company higher than its net worth as revenue (which was rolled back later only for recognised angel networks) is another big deterrant. The cumbersome proces of closing a company is another pain point for these high risk investments.

The article also quotes a lot of entrepreneurs who have tried to raise angel capital - both successfully and unsuccessfully.

Angels are just “Mini VCs”:
“People do not invest in ideas in India unlike the US. A lot of business calculations are done even before writing the first cheque — what is the market size, what will be the valuation in one year, how much revenues you earn, what is the customer base,” says Rana Atheya, founder of Dogspot, a petcare portal. 

“When I approached VCs, they told me the market was small and I need to go to angels. When I contacted angels, they asked me what the VCs were saying,” says (Rana Atheya, founder of Dogspot, a petcare portal). For him, it was a wait-and-watch game till this month when, after a two-year wait, he closed angel funding, with foreign investors, though. 

Too Much Time & Too Less Transparency
Despite a strong network, (Amit Naik, an alumnus of IIM Lucknow and co-founder of  feels that the turnaround time of angels and such networks is “very, very long” and that there is no transparency in how they work. “In a startup, every day is crucial. After applying to some of the angel groups, we did not hear from them for months; we had no idea what was happening to our applications.”

Too much stake demanded for too little money
Archit Gupta, co-founder of ClearTax: “They ask for so many rights and want to gradually steer the business. They forget that the word is angel and not investors,”
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