Should Entrepreneurs Pay Angels?

Should entrepreneurs be asked to pay angels and angel groups for the opportunity to present their business?

As the seed stage/angel asset class becomes more prominent and popular, this becomes an ever more frequent question. There was a blow up about a year ago when Jason Calacanis took on the Keiretsu Forum and the amount they charged early stage companies. Not much has changed, but the number of people trying to part the entrepreneurs from their money has done nothing but increase.

Let me start with my emotional answer. It is hard for me to understand why an entrepreneur who has quit their job, mortgaged their home, and gone “all in” on their startup should pay a bunch of rich people for the privilege of pitching their deal. It just seems wrong. And, from my point of view, not something I would do.

But, if I take an entrepreneur’s point of view, I need to raise money. It’s such a daunting task and many entrepreneurs really neither have the time nor resources to pull it off. So, unless I see an alternative, if someone offers me a path to raise money, I take it. If I have to pay $10-25k to raise my needed $500k, I probably take it. I don’t ask questions like:

  • “Are the investors coming in aligned with our strategy?”
  • “How many investors are in my deal?”
  • “What impact do they have on my structure?”
  • “Do the deal terms mesh with raising more money later?”
  • And perhaps most importantly, “If I take this money, does it eliminate other sources, especially if I pay a fee to a broker?”

Experienced, professional angels have been through this lots. Groups like the Alliance of Angels don’t charge a fee for raising money for entrepreneurs. We help get deal terms that are fair to both entrepreneurs and investors, and allow for the necessary future financings (even when the plan says there won’t be any other financings).

It is hard to clean up the mess from a poorly constructed and overpriced financing. Most investors won’t do the clean up and instead will just pass on the deal.

2 thoughts on “Should Entrepreneurs Pay Angels?”

  1. Maybe an application fee, or a “Bozo” filter to keep insincere applicants at bay, but only to the tune of $100 or so. I am suspect of groups that are ‘trying to earn a living’ while screening entrepreneurs seeking funding. It’s an ethic I was raised in at Tech Coast Angels…

  2. Absolutely correct. There is a big difference between a “bozo fee” and trying to “rip off” entrepreneurs. At the Alliance of Angels (AoA), we found that without any fee, we were inundated with business plans (typically submitted over the weekend); it was cheaper to stay home and have “fun” writing a plan than to go out for a few beers. Once the fee was in place, we seemed not to loose any “serious” entrepreneurs, but it did eliminate the trivial ones.

    There are some organizations that charge entrepreneurs what I’ve heard is as much as $25k to “get them ready” to present to angels. This is a service that the AoA provides for free – it’s just a part of getting the best deals to our members.

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