Angel Investors vs Venture Capitalists: Key Differences

Explore the distinction between angel investors and venture capitalists, and their investing style
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By Mike Hinckley
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    If you are a professional who is looking to land an early stage venture investing role, then understanding the distinction between angel investors and venture capitalists is important.

    While the two investor types seem to occupy similar places in the startup world, there are notable distinctions you need to be aware of.

    After reading this comprehensive article, you’ll have a better idea of how angel investors differ from venture capitalists. You’ll gain clarity about their distinct process and general nature when making investments.

    Angel Investors vs. Venture Capitalists

    Angel investors are individuals who invest in startups using their own money. In return, the angel investor receives ownership in the startup (either convertible debt or equity).

    While not every single angel investor is accredited, the majority of them are. So to ensure regularity, US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) established two requirements that accredited investors should satisfy:

    • Annual salary of angel investors should be at least $200,000 for the past two years, and should be projected to stay consistent in the near future.
    • Their total net worth, regardless of tax filing status and marriage, should be at least $1 million.

    On the other hand, venture capitalists (VCs) are professional investors who fund startups and early-stage businesses using other people’s money. They usually work under a professional investment firm or fund, and they typically make larger investments than angel investors.

    In return for their investment, VCs usually receive equity in the business and they frequently have a large say in how the business is operated. VCs sell their equity to make profit when the firm goes public or is acquired.

    Here are some of the well-known VC firms:

    Key Differences Between Angel Investors Vs. Venture Capitalist

    Angel InvestorsVenture Capitalists (Seed Stage)
    DefinitionIndividuals with high net worth who are capable of providing financial support for entrepreneurs and small startups.Venture capitalists are professionals under venture capital firms that invest other people’s money (which they hold in a fund) into companies.
    Investor TypesIn general, wealthy individuals who financially back up companiesTypically, a firm which hires expert professionals to choose investments and manage funds in one big pool of money.
    Typical Investment Amounts$10,000 – $500,000$1,000,000 – $10,000,000
    ExampleWhen Jeff Bezos and Amazon received $300,000 and $50,000 stakes from his parents and 20 wealthy people, respectively.When Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook got $12.7M Venture Capital funding from Accel Partners.
    Benefit of the CompanyDrives initial startup growthSame
    Benefit of the InvestorAngel Investors receive their investment return through appreciation of the value of their ownershipSame

    Similarities & Differences Between Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists

    Let’s further explore the similarities and differences of these investor types, and take a closer look at their general nature, investment strategies, and overall approach to financing companies.

    • An angel investor typically works alone, while venture capitalists are part of a company or firm. Angel investors are usually individuals who invest their own capital in startups. On the other hand, Venture capital firms are composed of a team of professional investors. VC firms invest capital that comes from other individuals, corporations, pension funds and foundations.
    • Angel investors and VCs invest different amounts. Typically, angels invest between $10,000 and $500,000 of their own money, though sometimes they invest more or less. Venture capitalists, on the other hand, invest large sums (usually million) in each investment.
    • Angel investors and VCs have different responsibilities and motivations. Angel investors primarily offer financial support. While they might want to generate a financial return, oftentimes they are motivated by supporting and empowering the founder. Many venture capital firms tout their ability to help portfolio companies (e.g. marketing, finance, or business development support); though many entrepreneurs are disappointed by what they actually get from the VCs relative to what they were “sold” before the deal.
    • Angel investors only invest in early-stage companies while VCs support companies at different stages. Angel investors specialize in early-stage businesses (e.g. Seed or Pre-Seed). Venture capitalists, on the other hand, in companies across other later stages (e.g. Series A, B, C, etc.), depending on the focus of the venture capital firm.
    • Angel investors and VCs differ in due diligence. Some angels do almost no due diligence — and they aren’t bound to, given that the money they invest is their own. Venture capitalists need to do more due diligence, given that they have a fiduciary responsibility to their limited partners.
    • Angel investors and VCs have different investing timelines and exit strategies.  Angel investors often have a longer investment horizon and can withdraw their money through an initial public offering (IPO), merger or acquisition. On the other hand, VCs typically sell their investments within five to seven years via IPO or acquisition.
    • Angel investors and VCs have different sources of funds. Most angel investors are previously startup executives or operators themselves, so they have earned enough cash which they use to invest in companies. On the other hand, VCs manage money from high net worth people or institutional investors which they use to invest.
    • Angel investors and VCs have different levels of risk tolerance. Angel investors are often willing to take higher risks so they can gain better rewards. Meanwhile, VCs tend to focus more on minimizing risks than achieving higher returns.
    • Angel investors and VCs don’t have the same investing criteria. Angel investors are more flexible, while VCs (who have made promises to their LPs) are more “by the book” and require companies to meet specific milestones.
    • Both angel investors and VCs want to help companies they invest in, but they have different ways in doing so. Angel investors tend to become mentors, while venture capitalists might require the company to form a Board of Directors and offer them a seat on it after they invest.

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    Typical Angel Investment vs. Venture Capital Investment

    According to Statista, the median size of venture capital deals in 2020 was: 

    • $1.2 million in seed stage businesses, 
    • $4.5 million in early-stage businesses, 
    • $9.9 million in later-stage businesses

    On the other hand, angel investments vary widely, but typical falls between $10k and $50k.

    Angel investors often prioritize early-stage businesses and startup companies that need help getting off the ground. These startups usually don’t have sufficient track record to get the attention of VCs and they need capital funding for product development and acquiring customers.

    Top Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists

    Betaboom recently studied the performance of top angel investors in the U.S. from a recent year:

    NameInvestment CountExit Rate (percentage)
    Marc Andreessen3773
    Roger Ehrenberg2263.6
    Keith Rabois5761.4
    Mark Goines2360.9

    Meanwhile, Forbes ranks these as the top U.S. venture capitalists:

    Neil ShenSequoia China
    David FrankelFounder Collective
    Chris DixonAndreessen Horowitz
    Richard Liu5Y Capital


    Angel investors are not “better” than venture capitalists, and vice versa. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages, which makes them suitable for specific situations and stages of companies.

    Angel investors can provide personalized guidance, longer investment horizons, and support particularly to startups, while VCs provide significant investment size, industry expertise, and a huge network. The choice between the two types of investors entirely depends on several factors such as requirements, business stage, and strategic vision.

    If you are looking to be part of any of these investment firms, I highly suggest you check out my Growth Equity Interview Guide. It’s a self-paced online course for professionals who want to ace their interviews and land their dream role in finance.


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    Mike Hinckley

    Founder of Growth Equity Interview Guide


    Coached and assisted hundreds of candidates recruiting for growth equity & VC

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