What I learned as the first analyst on the AngelList investment team
In 2016, I closed over 100 venture-backed tech deals, helped launch a $50M business, and worked with some of the best investors in the world. I’m the first graduate of AngelList’s analyst program and this is the inside story of my year in the trenches.
When I first saw the job posting I wasn’t sure what to expect. Was this an investment or business role? I had already been a VC analyst at an early stage VC fund in Hong Kong, which I left to co-found an education startup that the firm funded. After seeing glowing endorsements from VCs on Twitter, however, I decided to throw my hat in the ring.
I learned that being an analyst at AngelList is much different than being an analyst at a VC firm. Most VCs will only do a handful of deals a year. As a VC analyst I once spent months sourcing and evaluating a single startup. AngelList does over 500 deals a year.
The Analyst Role: Venture Capital at Scale
To source so many deals, AngelList relies on a network of 300 “syndicate leads” — experienced venture investors who hunt down deals and bring them to AngelList’s platform.
Syndicate leads include famous angel investors (like Gil Penchina, Semil Shah, Cyan Banister) and even small VCs (like 500 Startups, Precursor Ventures, Arena Ventures). AngelList then invites investors and pools them into a single-deal fund that invests in the company. Investors range from other angels to professional venture funds set up specifically to invest on AngelList (like the $400M fund CSC Upshot).
The main job of an AngelList analyst is to make sure these 500 deals close.
Analysts sit in the middle of the marketplace, coordinating and managing the relationships between leads, founders, investors and the lawyers on each deal. It’s a mixture of account management, customer success, and legal operations. Since you’re on the front lines, you often become the resident customer expert and product specialist that the engineers and designers will consult when they ship new features. Analysts also get the chance to do special projects, usually related to launching a new feature or scaling a process.
Early in your career you should be optimizing for two things: learning and building your network. So: what do you learn as an analyst and who do you work with?
Learning #1: Early Stage Tech Investing
VCs say that the best way to become a better investor is through pattern recognition, developed over decades of seeing which deals get funded, exit, or fail. Analysts at AngelList build pattern recognition at hyperspeed.
I managed over 100 deals in my year as an analyst. They ranged from pre-seed to monster pre-IPO rounds, were located everywhere from San Francisco to Bangalore, and were almost all rounds led by top VCs like Andreessen Horowitz or Founders Fund, or smaller but equally prestigious firms like Floodgate and Freestyle. In general, AngelList facilitates investments in 20–30% of venture rounds in Silicon Valley. Analysts have their finger on the pulse of early stage tech investing.
Analysts also get to see the details of each deal: the price, terms, cap table, pitch deck and diligence materials. You hear the syndicate leads’ investment thesis and often talk to founders. You quickly learn things like what kind of traction a company needs to raise an A or what the best VR investors think will happen with Oculus.
Unsurprisingly, many employees also angel invest. I even started my own syndicate. My first syndicate was a $300K investment into a seed startup called Numerai that is disrupting AI-based quant trading in a similar way that AngelList is disrupting VC financing.
They just recently announced a Series A follow-on round led by Union Square Ventures.
Learning #2: How to Scale a Tech Marketplace
Analysts at AngelList are managing a complex and growing technology marketplace. Because the team is so small there are plenty of opportunities to go after high impact projects.
I started tinkering on an idea to grow the investor side of our marketplace that took off. The project now manages $50M in annualized spending and we’ve built a cross-functional team dedicated to Capital Growth. Another analyst quarterbacked the fundraising process for our Access Fund. Not many people in their 20s can say they helped raise an 8-figure venture fund.
I joined AngelList because I figured it was at the center of the startup universe. The quality of the network here is hard to beat.
The CEO, Naval Ravikant, has been ranked one of the top angel investors in the US and was an early investor in Uber and Twitter. Three months into the job I was charged with managing Naval’s syndicate, which gave me an incredible look into how a top investor evaluates and closes deals. I’ve worked on product management with Graham Jenkin, our COO and Chief Designer, a former Google executive who led the redesign of AdWords. Another AngelList heavyweight is startup guru Parker Thompson (the great Startup L. Jackson), who knows seed stage investing inside and out.
Analysts also get to know the investors and founders on the site. I’ve worked with the investor who runs the largest programmer conference in the world, the VP of Business at Checkr, and the largest early stage tech investors in Belgium and Turkey. Half of CB Insights’ list of Top 20 Angel Investors have used AngelList to syndicate deals.
I’ve enjoyed my analyst experience and gotten a lot out of it, but it’s not for everybody.
First: it’s very different from a VC firm. VC analysts dig deep into each investment in a very intellectual way. You don’t do that as much as an AngelList analyst.
Second: analysts are responsible for the down and dirty tasks that need to get done. Expect late night calls from frantic syndicate leads worried that the deal won’t close in time or financing docs from lawyers with hundreds of markups. Much of the work is not glamorous — you’re not making investment decisions or advising founders on business strategy — but it’s valuable learning.
Third: AngelList is still small and light on structure. Most employees are either ex-founders or “future founders”, so things can get chaotic. You’re not getting your hand held like you would in McKinsey’s analyst program.
But if you’re entrepreneurial, know a little bit about venture and startups and want to learn more than you ever thought possible, then there’s nothing else like AngelList.
Thanks to Victor Ghitescu, Richard Freling, Simon Pickert, Mike Daugherty, Parker Thompson, Naval Ravikant, Nivi, Graham Jenkin, and James Gibson for reading drafts.