Top 10 angel Investors to watch in 2021

By Joanna England
This year looks set to be a major event for insurtech globally. We profile the top 10 angel investors with a penchant for innovative technology...

 
The global fintech market was worth US $127.66bn in 2018, and has a predicted annual growth rate of 25%, which will continue until 2022, to $309.98bn. With such a burgeoning marketplace, the environment for new insurtech startups is fertile and brings with it many new investment opportunities. 

The term ‘angel investor’ refers to typically high net worth individuals who, in exchange for equity in the company, invest in the early stages of a startup. 

Angel investors typically require a 20 to 25% return on the money they invest in a company. But Venture Capitalists may take even more, especially if the product is still in development. For example, an investor may want 40% of the business to compensate for the high risk it is taking by investing in a startup.

The purpose of an angel investor is also usually a one-time funding injection, and the main focus is on the entrepreneur launching the business and seeing through a brilliant idea, rather than a usual investor who is concerned with long-term business gains. 

10: Fabrice Grinda

 

Number of investments: 245

Capital in: spotflux, eve Sleep, ecomom, Zesty, Xango.com, WiseStamp

Named the number one Angel Investor globally by Forbes, French entrepreneur Fabrice Grinda is classed as a ‘super angel’ with more than 240 investments around the world, including Alibaba Group, Airbnb, Beepi, FanDuel, Palantir, and Windeln. Grinda also has served as CEO for three multinational companies and is currently running the startup studio and venture fund FJ Labs, which he co-founded with business partner Jose Marin. 

Before FJ Labs, Fabrice co-founded OLX, one of the largest classified websites in the world with over 300 million unique visitors per month. The company operates in 30 countries and has over 5,000 employees. OLX operates in India, Brazil, Pakistan, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Portugal and several other emerging markets.

A technology fan, Grinda believes mobile and smartphone advances have changed the world. He says, “The most important impact on society and the world is the cell phone. Cell phones have actually been one of the primary drivers in productivity improvements.”

09: Naval Ravikant

 

Number of investments: 200

Capital in: Vurb, Visually, Uber, Twitter, Trusted, Topguest, Tinychat

An Indian American investor and entrepreneur, Naval Ravikant is the co-founder, chairman and former CEO of AngelList. A Fellow of the Edmund Hillary Fellowship, he is also a podcaster who shares advice on pursuing wealth and happiness.

Though he is yet to reach billionaire status (his current wealth is estimated at $60m) his key passion is connecting investors and entrepreneurs. Following a short stint as a venture capitalist, Ravikant discovered he enjoyed investing in start-ups the most and found his calling. Since then, he has provided capital to some ultra-prominent companies including Twitter, FourSquare, and SnapLogic.

As an investment mentor, one of his best-loved quotes is, “Forty-hour work weeks are a relic of the Industrial Age. Knowledge workers function like athletes — train and sprint, then rest and reassess.”

08: Talmadge O'Neill

 

Number of investments: 168

Capital in: Abra, 500 Startups, Facebook, Hitch, Linkedin, Mattermark

Talmadge O'Neill is currently the general partner at JuvoCapital, a VC firm that has invested more than $40m in both start-ups and late-stage companies. Exits include Facebook, LinkedIn and Tesla Motors. His investments range from startups like LoveIt.com to pre-IPO companies like Chegg and SolarCity. O'Neill also has a particular interest in space travel, digital currency, cryptocurrency and blockchain markets.

O'Neill made his fortune after co-founding MeziMedia with fellow investor, Harry Tsao. It operated coupon and comparison-shopping websites and the company’s first website, CouponMountain.com, cost just $10k to launch. Five years later, MeziMedia had a turnover of $100m in revenue and offices in 10 countries, at which point Tsao and O'Neill sold it to Valueclick for $300m.

O’Neill says, “I enjoy getting involved in understanding the business and identifying the key drivers to success.”

07: Saad AlSogair

 

Number of investments: 158

Capital in: Abra, Onfleet, Ripple, Skykick Tovala, Wefunder, Spire

A graduate from the University of Jordan, who is currently residing in Saudi Arabia, Saad AlSogair is a well-reputed dermatologist, who is also a founder of two startups. In addition to being an angel, he has made more than 150 investments in well-known startups including Buffer, Unsplash, and Notion. 

AlSogair continues to practice dermatology and specialises in aesthetics alongside his investment commitments. 

Describing his motivations, he said, “It takes more than an innovation to succeed. Unique methods and new solutions make a difference. I think of myself as a person who invests in what matters, not what is predictable and I don’t mind throwing something out in favour of a better idea, because frankly speaking, that’s what startups need.”

06: Paul Buchheit

 

Number of investments: 154

Capital in: reMail, lvl5, Zesty, Wufoo, Weebly, Virool, URX

With an estimated personal fortune of $600m, Paul Buchheit is the American computer engineer and entrepreneur who created Gmail. Bucheit also developed the original prototype of Google AdSense as part of his work on Gmail. 

Along with three other former Google employees, he then co-founded social network aggregator FriendFeed. 

He now runs Y Combinator Core and decided to shift his focus towards angel investing following FriendFeeds acquisition by Facebook in 2008. His preferred market area is media investment. Bucheit’s latest investment projects include companies in information technology, health, enterprise software and analytics that operate in Silicon Valley and Mountain View.

He once famously said, “I don't have to work. I choose to work. And I believe everyone deserves the same freedom I have. If done right, it's also economically superior, meaning we will all have more wealth. We often talk about how brilliant or visionary Steve Jobs was, but there are probably millions of people just as brilliant as he was.”

05: Wei Guo

 

Number of investments: 148

Capital in: tbh, YesGraph, Worklife, VetPronto, Verbling, TalkIQ

One of China’s most prolific startup investors, Wei Guo has backed numerous companies through his firm Wei Fund.

He later launched Uphonest, his $50m second investment fund. Guo’s exits already include Scout, Chariot, Worklife, Virtroid and tbh. One of his main goals is to help companies globalise their operations.

Guo is listed as a Forbes 30 under 30 investor whose portfolio includes startups such as Lime and Boom and several companies based in North America and China. Guo launched Wei Fund in 2015 and UpHonest Capital in 2017, raising investment from both US and Chinese investors. 

He once told journalists, “We focus on people who want to expand globally, who have this global DNA.”

04: Mark Cuban

 

Number of investments: 138

Capital in: The Mobile 360, Superfeedr, Soundwave, Ranku, Meta Saas

Mark Cuban has a net worth of $4.3bn and is an American entrepreneur, media personality, media proprietor, and investor. Cuban also ranked number 177 on the 2020 Forbes 400 list.

An entrepreneur and pro sports team owner, Cuban is markedly diverse in his business interests. The bulk of his wealth was generated in the 1990s through the sale of his business startups, Broadcast.com and MicroSolutions. 

A Pittsburgh native, he showed his entrepreneurial spirit, when, at the age of 12, he set up a stall selling refuse waste bags so he could buy a pair of shoes that he liked. The creativity persisted into high school where he picked up an interest in stamps and old coins. 

Following a job with a bank, Cuban got a job selling software which led him to create his own consulting business, MicroSolutions. In 1990, he then sold the firm to CompuServe for $6m.

He once famously said, “Sweat equity is the most valuable equity there is. Know your business and industry better than anyone else in the world. Love what you do or don’t do it.”

03: Scott Banister

 

Number of investments: 130

Capital in: iLike, Zappos, Wavii, Vamo, Uber, ToutApp, Topsy Labs

California resident Scott Banister is an American entrepreneur, angel investor and startup founder. He co-founded the anti-spam company IronPort, and he was also an advisor and board member at PayPal.

A technology buff from the get go, Banister started his career as an innovator in the email business. He then became the founder and vice president of technology at ListBot, the largest ASP for business email list hosting. 

Later on, Banister continued working with start-ups including eVoice, inventors of the first email-enabled home voicemail service, which was acquired by AOL in 2001. He served as vice president of ideas at Idealab! Banister then became an early investor in Powerset, a startup building a natural language search engine, and is still on the company's Board of Directors.

Today, Banister is the co-founder and chairman of Zivity, a social networking site, and was an early investor in Facebook. He also sits on the Board of Directors for Slide, a start-up founded by PayPal co-founder Max Levchin.

02: Peter Kellner

Number of investments: 127

Capital in: Social Finance, LearnVest, Beepi, Contactually, Polymorph

Peter Kellner is an investor in early-stage technology companies across five continents. He’s also co-founder of Endeavor and has been a Startup lecturer at Princeton University for the last 14 years.

A true believer in the power of technology and progress, Kellner has invested in a broad market space throughout his career. His interests lie in clean technology, consumer internet enterprise software, personal finance, e-commerce, mobile commerce, finance technology, financial services and more. 

Kellner is so passionate about the entrepreneurial spirit that he spearheaded Endeavor – a leading, high-impact entrepreneurship movement that encourages startups worldwide.

He describes the organisation as, “Changing the world through using my experience and trusted others to back, create, and promote entrepreneurship and innovation on a global scale.” 

 On what attracts him to an idea, he says, “First, I need to understand why your product or service is different and why you are behind it. Then, I want to see if we can scale it globally.” 

01: Ty Danco

 Number of investments: 125

Capital in: Stitch, Localmind, Crashlytics, Codeship 

A former two-time Olympian competing as part of the USA winter Olympics Luge team, who later had a career on Wall Street, Ty Danco is used to life in the fast lane. The investor turned entrepreneur has founded two major fintech companies (eSecLending and BuysideFX) and facilitated an estimated 125 investments to date.  

Danco was also director of Techstars, an American seed accelerator founded in 2006 in Boulder, Colorado, but now classifies himself as a ‘retired entrepreneur and private investor’. A cancer survivor, he now focuses much of his energy and funds on projects that support the health profession. 

He said of his latest goals, “After I had cancer a couple years ago, I was determined not to invest any more in trivial companies... It's not my field, but not only are they looking at those kinds of meaningful problems, they have an incredible membership, you know with a variety of expertise from surgeons to pharma R&D people, to reimbursement specialists.”

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