Blog Archives

StrictlyVC: August 19, 2014

Hi, happy Tuesday morning, everyone!

Last week, while at the helm of StrictlyVC, Semil Shah interviewed renowned investor-entrepreneur Elad Gil in a two-part conversation, the second half of which we’re running today. If you have any questions about the chat, feel free to reach out to Semil directly at @semil. If you have a question, complaint, or juicy gossip for me, you can find me at @cookie and @strictlyvc.

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Top News in the A.M.

“Government bean counters have given the Federal Communications Commission the green light to find out whether big telecom companies are charging other businesses too much for connectivity,” reports the Washington Post.

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Elad Gil on Angel Investing, AngelList, and His New, Stealth Startup

In 2009, Elad Gil sold his company, Mixer Labs, to Twitter, where he worked another two-and-a-half years as a VP before plunging back into the world of startups — and startup investing. Recently we talked with Gil about how, more precisely, he’s spending his time these days.

​As an individual investor — what stage do you prefer to invest in today, and how has that changed over time?

I’ve always been pretty stage agnostic as an investor, which I think is a bit contrarian in the individual angel market. Most of my investments have been seed rounds, but I’ve also invested in a reasonable number of Series A, B and C rounds.

One of the reasons I’ve always invested in a broader range of companies is my background as an operator. My role at Twitter was effectively to help scale the company. Since I was involved in a lot of aspects of managing hockey-stick growth — internationalization, user growth, scaling recruiting process, M&A, analytics, product, etc. — a number of later-stage breakout companies have asked me to get involved as an investor or advisor as I have been through the same terrifying growth curve they are now seeing.

From a purely financial perspective, I only invest invest in companies that I think may have anywhere from 10x to 1000x upside left. Obviously that’s easier as an early-stage investor.

How do you plan to use a platform like AngelList in the future, if at all?

AngelList is going to transform whether branded individual angels eventually transition to larger firms. If an individual angel has the access and deal flow, we’re very close to the day where they can effectively run a fund in a friction-free manner on top of AngelList. AngelList helps with the fundraising, as well as takes care of the ongoing back office — accounting, legal, fund set-up, carry management, etc. — for the angel. Already, you see people like Scott and Cyan Bannister and Gil Penchina making use of AngelList as an LP and back-office platform.

For newer angels, AngelList provides any angel the opportunity to have an instant fund — in other words, the syndicate — back the angel. The angel can take carry this on, while AngelList manages that person’s back office. So it may also create the opportunity for new angels, with much less personal capital, to start effectively a micro-VC firm. I wouldn’t be surprised if some interesting dynamics emerged on the platform, like if every YC batch had one founder who raised an AngelList-based fund to invest in all of his or her YC batch mates. Maybe [AngelList] turns YC into an inadvertent launching pad for micro-VCs as well.

You’re working on a new startup. Without giving up too many details, can you share what space you’re working in and what you anticipate happening in the industry over the next three to five years?​

My prior startup was a developer platform product that Twitter acquired. More recently I co-founded a genomics company and, in particular, software to make genetic testing and genomics widely available. This industry has seen a 10,000x drop in cost over the last few years, but software and other aspects of these services haven’t kept up. While I’m skeptical that anything fundamental has shifted in biotech as a whole to make it more attractive investing-wise, I’m very bullish on the shifts occurring in genomics.

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New Fundings

Algolux, a 1.5-year-old, Montreal-based startup that specializes in computational optics for better photographs, has raised $2.6 million in Series A funding led by Real Ventures. Numerous unnamed angel investors also participated in the round. Betakit has more here.

Algorithmia, a 1.5-year-old, Seattle-based marketplace that gives algorithm developers in academia and elsewhere a way to share their work, has raised $2.4 million in seed funding led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Rakuten VenturesDeep Fork CapitalOren Etzioni and Charles Fitzgerald.

AppNexus, the seven-year-old, New York-based ad tech company, has raised $60 million in fresh funding from “a large, Boston-based public equity and asset management firm,” CEO Brian O’Kelley tells Business Insider. Other earlier and strategic investors are considering adding up to $40 million more to the round, too, according to the report. AppNexus has now raised roughly $230 million, including from First Round CapitalKhosla VenturesKodiak Venture PartnersVenrockTribeca Venture Partners, and Technology Crossover Ventures. The money allows the company to steer clear of the current IPO market, which has “crushed” ad tech stocks this year, notes O’Kelley.

GuardiCore, a 1.5-year-old, Tel Aviv cyber-security startup whose software reroutes and analyzes malicious traffic, has raised $11 million in Series A funding led by Battery Ventures. Other participants in the round included Greylock IL and undisclosed strategic partners.

Poppin, a five-year-old, New York-based maker of fashionable workplace products, has raised $17 million in Series C funding from new investors Fifth Third Financial Corp. and West Capital Advisors, as well as earlier investors Shasta VenturesFirst Round Capital, and Creative Capital Fund. Poppin has now raised $34.1 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Purplebricks, a months-old, Birmingham, England-based company that charges low, fixed fees to help people both sell and rent their homes, has raised $11.7 million from Neil Woodford, one of Britain’s highest-profile fund managers. Citywire has more here.

Self Health Network, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based software platform that healthcare providers use to ensure their patients are following their aftercare instructions, has raised $5.6 million in equity and debt, shows an SEC filing. VentureBeat has more here.

Tutum, a year-old, New York-based company lets developers manage and run lightweight, portable, self-sufficient containers from any application, has raised $2.7 million in funding, shows an SEC filing that lists Kirill Sheynkman of RTP Ventures, among others. The company had previously raised $65,000 in seed funding from NXTP Labs andTechstars, shows Crunchbase.

uBiome, a 1.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company that’s trying to map the human microbiome with citizen science (users receive a kit that harvests the organisms in their body), has raised $1.5 million from angel investors and $3 million from Andreessen Horowitz, reports TechCrunch. The company had raised roughly $350,000 through an Indiegogo campaign last year.

Unified Office, a four-year-old, Portsmouth, N.H.-based company that sells cloud-based virtual office services to small and medium-size businesses, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Bill McCullen, CIO at LaunchCapital, and Rick Burnes, who cofounded the venture firm CRV.

WebLinc, a 20-year-old, Philadelphia-based commerce platform provider for online retailers, has raised $6 million in Series A funding from publicly traded Safeguard Scientifics.

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New Funds

HealthQuest Capital, a year-old, Menlo Park, Ca.-based firm founded by Sofinnova Ventures partner Garheng Kong, has closed on $110 million for its debut fund, Kong tells Xconomy. HealthQuest, which operates out of Sofinnova’s offices and shares many of its limited partners, intends to use the capital to fund medical devices, diagnostics and health-care information technology startups — companies it hopes will complement those backed by Sofinnova, which primarily focuses on biopharmaceutical investments.

OpenView Venture Partners, the eight-year-old, Boston-based firm that focuses exclusively on expansion-stage SaaS companies, is raising a fourth fund, according to an SEC filing that doesn’t list a target and says the first sale has yet to close. OpenView closed its debut fund in 2006 with $108 million; it closed its second fund with $131 million in 2009; and it closed its third fund with $200 million in 2012, after targeting $150 million. The firm had said at the time that it secured all of its commitments in the span of three months.

Orios Venture Partners, a new, Mumbai, India-based venture capital fund, has closed on more than $50 million to back India-based Internet and B2B software startups, reports VCCircle. Orios was founded by Rehan Yar Khan, a prolific angel investor and serial entrepreneur.

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IPOs

Ten ways that Google has changed the world since its IPO a decade ago. (And here are 10 of its zaniest projects over the same period.)

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Exits

Blockr.io, a popular explorer for the Blockchain, has been acquired by the wallet and merchant processing company Coinbase, in a transaction that TechCrunch characterizes as as talent acquisition.

GetViable, a two-year-old, Melbourne, Australia-based social collaboration startup platform that helps startup founders get their ideas off the ground, has been acquired for undisclosed terms by Bigcolors, a Hong Kong-based startup crowdfunding platform and venture capital firm. More here.

Xenotis, an 11-year-old, Australia-baesd maker of biosynthetic grafts that are implanted in patients getting below-the-knee bypass surgery, has been acquired by LeMaitre Vascular, a publicly traded company in Burlington, Ma. The purchase price was $7.7 million. The Boston Business Journal has more here.

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People

Former Vice President Al Gore is suing Al Jazeera, claiming the satellite news provider that Gore once described as having the “the highest quality, most extensive, best climate coverage of any network in the world,” owes him and partner Joel Hyatt $65 million from a deal to buy his network, Current TV.

Corey Griffin, a 27-year-old associate at Bain Capital Ventures, died in the early hours of Saturday morning, following a diving accident. According to Bloomberg, Griffin joined Bain “as an analyst in an internship program and stayed on for three years ‘because nobody wanted him to leave,’ said Jeff Schwartz, a founding partner of the unit.” Griffin, who was named an associate in 2012, had jumped from the roof of a two-story building into Nantucket Harbor, say local police. He suffered two crushed vertebrae.

One of Russia’s newest technology tycoons, Lev Leviev, has unveiled his first foray into the bitcoin world, a block chain visualiser called BlockTrail that launched publicly yesterday. More here.

For Yuri Milner, the “ice bucket challenge” is a family affair.

Thomas Montag, a former Goldman Sachs executive who has helped build Bank of America into an investment banking powerhouse, has been named the bank’s sole chief operating officer, reports Dealbook.

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Happenings

HauteDay: It’s just one of the 85 companies launching today out of Y Combinator‘s Demo Day. Here are another five.

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Job Listings

State Street is looking for an alternative investment analyst. The job is in Boston.

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Data

A calculator to help you decide if your startup should pay to advertise.

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Essential Reads

Google is seeking out new customers: Kids.

The rise of the anti-Facebook.

Levi’s Stadium — home to the San Francisco 49ers — is now the most high-tech stadium anywhere in the world.

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Detours

The ten most exclusive golf courses in the world.

The case for always talking to strangers.

Matthew Weiner on the end of “Mad Men” — and the beginning of his new movie.

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Retail Therapy

The Confederate X132 Hellcat Speedster. If there’s a better-looking bike, we haven’t seen it.




Elad Gil on Angel Investing, AngelList, and His New, Stealth Startup

elad-gilBy Semil Shah

In 2009, Elad Gil sold his company, Mixer Labs, to Twitter, where he worked another two-and-a-half years as a VP before plunging back into the world of startups — and startup investing. Recently we talked with Gil about how, more precisely, he’s spending his time these days.

​As an individual investor — what stage do you prefer to invest in today, and how has that changed over time?

I’ve always been pretty stage agnostic as an investor, which I think is a bit contrarian in the individual angel market. Most of my investments have been seed rounds, but I’ve also invested in a reasonable number of Series A, B and C rounds.

One of the reasons I’ve always invested in a broader range of companies is my background as an operator. My role at Twitter was effectively to help scale the company. Since I was involved in a lot of aspects of managing hockey-stick growth — internationalization, user growth, scaling recruiting process, M&A, analytics, product, etc. — a number of later-stage breakout companies have asked me to get involved as an investor or advisor as I have been through the same terrifying growth curve they are now seeing.

From a purely financial perspective, I only invest invest in companies that I think may have anywhere from 10x to 1000x upside left. Obviously that’s easier as an early-stage investor.

How do you plan to use a platform like AngelList in the future, if at all?

AngelList is going to transform whether branded individual angels eventually transition to larger firms. If an individual angel has the access and deal flow, we’re very close to the day where they can effectively run a fund in a friction-free manner on top of AngelList. AngelList helps with the fundraising, as well as takes care of the ongoing back office — accounting, legal, fund set-up, carry management, etc. — for the angel. Already, you see people like Scott and Cyan Bannister and Gil Penchina making use of AngelList as an LP and back-office platform.

For newer angels, AngelList provides any angel the opportunity to have an instant fund — in other words, the syndicate — back the angel. The angel can take carry this on, while AngelList manages that person’s back office. So it may also create the opportunity for new angels, with much less personal capital, to start effectively a micro-VC firm. I wouldn’t be surprised if some interesting dynamics emerged on the platform, like if every YC batch had one founder who raised an AngelList-based fund to invest in all of his or her YC batch mates. Maybe [AngelList] turns YC into an inadvertent launching pad for micro-VCs as well.

You’re working on a new startup. Without giving up too many details, can you share what space you’re working in and what you anticipate happening in the industry over the next three to five years?​

My prior startup was a developer platform product that Twitter acquired. More recently I co-founded a genomics company and, in particular, software to make genetic testing and genomics widely available. This industry has seen a 10,000x drop in cost over the last few years, but software and other aspects of these services haven’t kept up. While I’m skeptical that anything fundamental has shifted in biotech as a whole to make it more attractive investing-wise, I’m very bullish on the shifts occurring in genomics.

Sign up for our morning missive, StrictlyVC, featuring all the venture-related news you need to start you day.




StrictlyVC: August 14, 2014

Good morning, everyone, Semil Shah here, filling in with a shortened version of StrictlyVC while Connie is out for a few more days. If you’d like to talk about today’s column or anything else, you can find me on Twitter at @semil. For an easier-to-read version of todays’ email, you can click here.

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Top News in the A.M.

Zelda Williams, the 25-year-old daughter of Robin Williams, tweeted on Tuesday that she was deleting Twitter “from my devices for a good long time, maybe forever,” after being bullied by Internet trolls following her father’s death. Twitter has vowed to improve its policies in the incident’s aftermath.

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Elad Gil on the Angel Investing Lifecycle

Elad Gil is like a lot like other smart, accomplished Silicon Valley angel investors. His credentials include an advanced degree from M.I.T. He has worked at both small and big companies, from Plaxo to Google (where the mobile wireless team he started acquired Android). He’s also an entrepreneur himself, starting Mixer Labs, a service that helped developers build geo-location apps.

When Twitter acquired the company in 2009, Gil stayed on as a Twitter VP for two-and-a-half years, becoming an active angel investor — or a “startup helper,” as he describes himself on LinkedIn — more than two years ago. Unlike a lot of his peers, Gil is content to remain an angel investor for the foreseeable future, too, for a variety of reasons. We’ll delve into some of them early next week. In the meantime, here’s Gil on why angel investors tend to pursue certain, predictable trajectories.

There aren’t many true individual angels left. Why is that?

It seems like there is a natural lifecycle to individual angel investors, especially if they stop being operators. At some point many individual angels who were successful investing chose one of two paths — raise your own fund, or join a traditional venture firm. This isn’t something I’m planning on, but many have, and I think this transition has a few drivers:

1.) People want leverage on time or run out of capital. If you’re an individual angel writing small checks, eventually you may realize you are investing an enormous amount of time working hard for your portfolio companies. But you may not have a lot of skin in the game relative to other, less engaged investors. In my own case, there are a number of companies I am involved with where I have put in a lot more work then people with 10X or even 100X the financial position. At some point, angels may want to have more leverage on their time. If an angel is putting in so much work, why not also participate more in the upside by investing a larger amount? Or, an angel may want to expand their role to be able to lead seed or larger rounds and to set terms. This is actually starting to be enabled by AngelList.

Alternatively, you may at some point tap out financially or be too illiquid to keep investing your own money. This supposedly happened to Elon Musk for a period when he had all his capital tied up in SpaceX and Tesla and neither company was public. So raising a fund or joining a VC is a way to keep investing without tying up all your own cash.

2.) People want to learn or do something new. Some institutional venture capitalists have a really strong process or perspective on investing. Benchmark and Sequoia are two that come to mind. Some individual angels feel they have a lot to learn at these institutions. [It’s also the case] that many individual angels don’t take board seats or get involved with other aspects of a company, and joining a traditional venture firm allows them to do things they have not done before.

3.) People stop operating. Running a company can be exhausting. Many individual angels are often former operators. Once an entrepreneur or executive gives up their day job, they may want to still to be involved with startups day to day. A firm — either their own or one they join — provides them with a regular outlet and a job without the soul-crushing 24/7 grind of an operating role.

4.) People get lonely. It’s nice to have other people to bounce ideas off of. As an individual angel, if you spend time bouncing investment ideas off of other angels, you may be violating the confidentiality of the startup — or you may fall into group think. An institution provides people with a framework for tapping into other folks regularly and having a firm and culture to be part of. (That said, I hear that many VCs feel they are “lone wolves” and the job of the VC is not one where you spend a lot of time with your partners. I guess all things are relative.)

5.) Prestige. Some people are really attracted the societal prestige associated with being a venture capitalist. It is sort of like the people who join Goldman Sachs straight out of school so they can brag about it to their friends.

One of the cool things about Silicon Valley is the ongoing cycle of capital and talent. The pool of individual angels keeps getting renewed and refreshed as entrepreneurs or early hires at breakout companies make enough money to start angel investing. A small handful of these folks end up either generating a sizable brand or a good return and reputation, many of whom then transition into VC. (Of course many individual angels end up loosing money and dropping out before building a reputation, so there is also the “dark side” of being an angel).

Y Combinator has its own interesting version of this, where a number of YC alumni cycle back as partners at YC and/or raise their own funds. So YC is functioning as a farm system for its own investors, which reenforces it.

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New Fundings

AuditFile, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based maker of SaaS-based auditing software, has raised $3 million from investors, reports VentureWire. Its backers include Iron Yard, a Greenville, S.C.-based accelerator that AuditFile attended last year; the Upstate Carolina Angel NetworkCaffeinated CapitalGrey Corp.500 StartupsBoostVCGreenvisor CapitalRothenberg Ventures and dozens of individuals.

Axial, a five-year-old, New York-based network for professionals who run, advise and finance private companies, has raised $11 million in Series B funding led by Comcast Ventures. Earlier investors Redpoint Ventures and First Round Capital also participated in the round, along with individual investors. The company has now raised $19.5 million altogether, shows Crunchbase.

Desire2Learn, a 15-year-old, Kitchener, Ontario-based education tech company whose core product helps teachers deliver digital content to students in the classroom and at home via is cloud-based offerings, has raised $85 million from investors, including Columbus Nova Technology PartnersGraham HoldingsFour Rivers Group and Aurion Capital. Earlier investors New Enterprise Associates and OMERS Ventures also participated in the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $165 million, shows Crunchbase.

DripDrop, a 6.5-year-old, San Francisco-based company that’s developing a medical-grade rehydration drink, has raised $5.6 million from investors, reports the WSJ. Its backers include musicians Sammy HagarBob Weir and Joe SatrianiAurum Partners; and others. The company has raised roughly $11 million to date. More here.

Luminal, a two-year-old, Frederick, Ma.-based startup developing next-generation cloud operations and management software, has raised $10 million in Series B funding led by New Enterprise Associates. Previous investors, including Core Capital Partners and Maryland Venture Fund, also participated in the round, which brings Luminal’s total funding to $13.8 million.

Silk Road Medical, a seven-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based company that makes stents used to treat neurovascular diseases, has raised $15 million from four investors as part of a $22.5 million round, according to SEC filings that were flagged by MedCity News. The round brings the company’s total funding to roughly $50 million. Its previous investors include Warburg Pincus and The Vertical Group.

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People

Cisco is cutting 6,000 employees as part of a restructuring plan.

Scott Ernst is the new CEO of L2, a four-year-old, New York-based subscription business intelligence company that helps brands gauge their digital performance. Ernst joined the company from Millward Brown Digital — formerly Compete — where he spent much of his career as president. L2 is backed by General Catalyst Partners, which plugged $16.5 million into the company earlier this year.

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg are among a growing number of CEOs getting doused with ice water for a good cause. More here.

Mark Vranesh is the newly appointed CFO of home-cleaning marketplace Homejoyreports Venture Capital Dispatch. Vranesh was previously the CFO and chief accounting officer of social games maker Zynga, and before that, the VP of finance at the computer and network security company Fortinet. As Venture Capital Dispatch notes, in “both cases, Mr. Vranesh helped venture-funded tech startups evolve into large public companies.”

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Job Listings

LinkedIn‘s corporate development group is looking for a senior manager. The job is in Mountain View, Ca.

Providence Health & Services, one of nation’s largest Catholic-sponsored medical systems, is looking for a senior venture capital associate to help source new, early-stage investments. The job is in Renton, Wa.

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Essential Reads

It’s not too late to ditch the ad-based business model we have and build the web we want, argues The Atlantic.

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Detours

Fully 99 percent of Warren Buffett’s wealth was earned after his 50th birthday (and 16 other surprising facts about him).

Apparently, Discovery’s Shark Week has begun to alienate the very scientists who supply its content.

Why we procrastinate.

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Retail Therapy

Fully 99 percent of Warren Buffett’s wealth was earned after his 50th birthday (and 16 other surprising facts about him).

Apparently, Discovery’s Shark Week has begun to alienate the very scientists who supply its content.

Why we procrastinate.

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Elad Gil on the Angel Investing Lifecycle

Elad GilBy Semil Shah

Elad Gil is like a lot like other smart, accomplished Silicon Valley angel investors. His credentials include an advanced degree from M.I.T. He has worked at both small and big companies, from Plaxo to Google (where the mobile wireless team he started acquired Android). He’s also an entrepreneur himself, starting Mixer Labs, a service that helped developers build geo-location apps.

When Twitter acquired the company in 2009, Gil stayed on as a Twitter VP for two-and-a-half years, becoming an active angel investor — or a “startup helper,” as he describes himself on LinkedIn — more than two years ago. Unlike a lot of his peers, Gil is content to remain an angel investor for the foreseeable future, too, for a variety of reasons. We’ll delve into some of them early next week. In the meantime, here’s Gil on why angel investors tend to pursue certain, predictable trajectories.

There aren’t many true individual angels left. Why is that?

It seems like there is a natural lifecycle to individual angel investors, especially if they stop being operators. At some point many individual angels who were successful investing chose one of two paths — raise your own fund, or join a traditional venture firm. This isn’t something I’m planning on, but many have, and I think this transition has a few drivers:

1.) People want leverage on time or run out of capital. If you’re an individual angel writing small checks, eventually you may realize you are investing an enormous amount of time working hard for your portfolio companies. But you may not have a lot of skin in the game relative to other, less engaged investors. In my own case, there are a number of companies I am involved with where I have put in a lot more work then people with 10X or even 100X the financial position. At some point, angels may want to have more leverage on their time. If an angel is putting in so much work, why not also participate more in the upside by investing a larger amount? Or, an angel may want to expand their role to be able to lead seed or larger rounds and to set terms. This is actually starting to be enabled by AngelList.

Alternatively, you may at some point tap out financially or be too illiquid to keep investing your own money. This supposedly happened to Elon Musk for a period when he had all his capital tied up in SpaceX and Tesla and neither company was public. So raising a fund or joining a VC is a way to keep investing without tying up all your own cash.

2.) People want to learn or do something new. Some institutional venture capitalists have a really strong process or perspective on investing. Benchmark and Sequoia are two that come to mind. Some individual angels feel they have a lot to learn at these institutions. [It’s also the case] that many individual angels don’t take board seats or get involved with other aspects of a company, and joining a traditional venture firm allows them to do things they have not done before.

3.) People stop operating. Running a company can be exhausting. Many individual angels are often former operators. Once an entrepreneur or executive gives up their day job, they may want to still to be involved with startups day to day. A firm — either their own or one they join — provides them with a regular outlet and a job without the soul-crushing 24/7 grind of an operating role.

4.) People get lonely. It’s nice to have other people to bounce ideas off of. As an individual angel, if you spend time bouncing investment ideas off of other angels, you may be violating the confidentiality of the startup — or you may fall into group think. An institution provides people with a framework for tapping into other folks regularly and having a firm and culture to be part of. (That said, I hear that many VCs feel they are “lone wolves” and the job of the VC is not one where you spend a lot of time with your partners. I guess all things are relative.)

5.) Prestige. Some people are really attracted the societal prestige associated with being a venture capitalist. It is sort of like the people who join Goldman Sachs straight out of school so they can brag about it to their friends.

One of the cool things about Silicon Valley is the ongoing cycle of capital and talent. The pool of individual angels keeps getting renewed and refreshed as entrepreneurs or early hires at breakout companies make enough money to start angel investing. A small handful of these folks end up either generating a sizable brand or a good return and reputation, many of whom then transition into VC. (Of course many individual angels end up loosing money and dropping out before building a reputation, so there is also the “dark side” of being an angel).

Y Combinator has its own interesting version of this, where a number of YC alumni cycle back as partners at YC and/or raise their own funds. So YC is functioning as a farm system for its own investors, which reenforces it.

Sign up for our morning missive, StrictlyVC, featuring all the venture-related news you need to start you day.