Earlier this week, we sat down with Naval Ravikant, cofounder of five-year-old AngelList, a popular platform that matches startups with early-stage investors. Three million people, including 50,000 accredited investors, have created profiles on AngelList since its founding, and AngelList now uses that information to pair startups with capital, pair startup employees with employers and, more newly, pair startups with customers.
It’s become a big business, as well as a confusing one, Ravikant readily admits. And while we can’t report on one interesting new, performance-related wrinkle that’s coming soon, he walked us through many other stats and initiatives. Our chat has been edited for length and clarity.
TC: A few years ago, AngelList introduced Syndicates, essentially pop-up funds that allow angel investors to syndicate their investments in exchange for some upside. It was fairly transparent at the outset, but that’s been changing. Why?
NR: Seventy-five percent of the deals are now private, up from 45 percent a year ago. It’ll be default private soon because a lot of the hot deals tend to be private. Also, that public-private dichotomy is always really hard for entrepreneurs [in fundraising mode] to figure out, so they start associating our brand [with a place to share information publicly to accredited investors], which is a negative, so they don’t want to go on here. We might take a hit on liquidity by making the default private, but at the end of the day, it’s all about getting the high-quality companies.
TC: An investor, Gil Penchina, has built a big business on the platform. Are more leads starting to see a kind of of network effect?
NR: Gil is a unique case. He’s the one who’s always breaking the system. We’re more catering to operator-angels, meaning people who have operating jobs, or VPs at big companies or who’ve started their own startups. It’s people who aren’t professional VCs but who do four to six deals a year, investing in alumni and people they know.
TC: How many of them close a deal each month? And are the investors on the platform mostly based in Silicon Valley?
NR: We had 55 deals led by 41 leads close in June; we had 44 deals led by 38 leads close in July. The average for most leads on the platform is a couple of deals per year. As for demographics, I’d say over half [the people who lead deals on the platform] are in Silicon Valley.
TC: You’d said publicly somewhere that you were getting into special purpose vehicles, which come together quickly to invest in a single, later-stage company. Why would someone create an SPV on the platform?