A common adage in angel investing is “invest an amount that you don’t care about losing.” Now, it isn’t that you want to lose any money as cash is cash, whether it’s $10,000 or $100,000. Yes, angel investing is risky, but there’s also no liquidity for an extended period of time, if ever. So, if you’re going to invest $25,000 into a startup, it isn’t like putting $25,000 into the stock market where if you change your mind you can take the money out at the prevailing price.
No, once the money is invested, not only is there no timeline to be able to get it back, you also have to put in more money to maintain your ownership position, assuming pro-rata rights (I’ve always heard that you should save $3 in reserve for every $1 you invest). Once you’ve invested in the startup, it’s truly like the money is gone, and the lack of liquidity is the main culprit.
While lack of liquidity is a big challenge, angel investing is much more interesting and rewarding than making traditional investments in places like the stock market. The opportunity to help entrepreneurs change the world, develop a mentor/mentee relationship, and invest in the next generation of leaders provides its own value. Access to cash matters but there are intangibles that are difficult to measure.
The next time you think about making an angel investment, remember the lack of liquidity challenge and make sure that the money isn’t needed for a long, long period of time.
What else? What are some other thoughts on lack of liquidity with angel investing?