2011 Valuation Survey of North American Angel Groups

October 8 2011 7 Commented

During the summer of 2010, I developed a workshop, A New ACEF Valuation Workshop for Angels and Entrepreneurs.  To provide some reference points, I surveyed thirteen angels groups in North American to determine their recent experience in negotiating the pre-money valuation of pre-revenue companies.  See the 2010 data reported here:  Current Pre-money Valuations of Pre-revenue Companies.

Because of the interest in the 2010 survey, I decided to survey a larger number of North American angel groups this summer (2011).  I requested data from the leaders of 46 angel groups in 26 states (plus DC) and 2 provinces.  Specifically, I asked each group leader for the current average or typical pre-money valuation of pre-revenue companies they are funding and the trend in valuation over the past year.

Thirty-five angel groups in 20 states and 2 provinces responded with the requested data.  Seven groups in five additional states answered that they had insufficient data to reply – a total response rate of 91%.  A table of replies can be found below.

2011 Angel Group Valuation Survey
Pre-money Valuation of Pre-revenue Companies
    Current Average  
Organization Location Valuation Trend
    (in millions)  
Boise Angel Alliance Boise $0.8 up slightly
Fargo/Morehead Angels Fargo, ND $0.8 flat
Maple Leaf Angels Toronto, ON $1.0 flat
New Mexico Angels Albuquerque $1.3 up pressure
Desert Angels Tucson $1.5 flat
Hawaii Angels Honolulu $1.5 flat
RAIN Funds St. Paul, MN $1.5 sl lower
Tech Coast Angels San Diego $1.5 flat to down
Valley Angels Grand Forks, ND $1.5 flat
Vancouver Angels Vancouver, BC $1.5 decreasing
Angel Forum Vancouver, BC $1.6 decreasing
Atlanta Tech Angels Atlanta $1.6 sl down
Ohio TechAngels Columbus $1.8 flat
Queen City Angels Cincinnati $1.8 flat
SeedStep Angels OKC $1.9 flat to up
Mid-Atlantic Angel Group Philadelphia $2.0 unchanged
Pasadena Angels Pasadena $2.0 increasing
DC Dinner Clubs DC/Virginia $2.0 up slightly
Sierra Angels Incline Village, NV $2.0 flat
St. Louis Arch Angels St. Louis $2.0 unchanged
Wilmington Investor Network Wilmington, NC $2.0 down 10%
Launchpad Angels Boston $2.1 unchanged
Golden Angels Milwaukee $2.3 up slightly
Alliance of Angels Seattle $2.5 flat
Hub Angels Boston $2.5 up pressure
Sand Hill Angels Silicon Valley $2.5 up ~ 20%/yr
Virginia Active Angels Charlottesville, VA $2.5 declining
Golden Seeds NYC $2.9 down 10%
Central Texas Angel Network Austin $3.0 up
CommonAngels Boston $3.0 unchanged
NY Angels NYC $3.0 rising
S. Valley Angel Fund ND $3.1 flat
Life Science Angels Silicon Valley $3.3 flat
Blue Tree Angels Pittsburgh $3.3 increasing
Band of Angels Silicon Valley $3.4 up
  AVERAGE $2.1 Bill Payne  October 2011

Before providing any analysis, all involved would agree that this is simply a survey and no statistical significance should be applied to this report.

The average pre-money valuation of the 35 responding angel groups was $2.1 million.  Two-thirds of the groups reported pre-money valuations between $1.5 million and $2.5 million.  Fourteen groups reported that the trend in valuation is flat, while twelve reported higher valuations and nine suggested the trend in valuation was down.

Here is a summary comparison of the 2011 results to last year’s survey of only 13 groups:

  • The average valuation increased from $1.7 million to $2.1 million
  • The reported results ranged from $1.25 million to $2.7 million in 2010 while the range is broader in 2011, from $0.8 million to $3.4 million.
  • Groups that provided data in both years showed that valuations of pre-revenue deals are increasing, quite significantly in some regions.


I’ve been asked by many why valuation varies so much from group to group.  In this 2011 survey, ten groups reported average valuation of $1.5 million or lower while seven groups reported valuation of double that or more.  Speaking with many angel leaders, I believe we have identified several possible explanations for group-to-group variations:

1)      Clearly, startup ventures in some business verticals command high pre-money valuations that others.  Biotech, life science and medical devices are usually funded at higher pre-money valuations than, say, software and Internet companies.  Groups focused on the life science sector, as an example, will likely fund deals at higher valuations than those funding a broader set of deals.

2)      Competition for deals in regions, such as Silicon Valley, New York City and Boston, has resulted in higher and, in many cases, rising valuation.  Here is the data for the eight groups in these three areas:

     (a)      Boston (3 groups) – $2.5 million

     (b)      New York (2 groups) – $2.9 million

     (c)       Silicon Valley (3 groups) – $3.1 million

These eight groups all reported typical valuations in the highest 40% of all groups reporting.  We have heard that Super Angels (many in these three areas) do not negotiate valuation as rigorously as do angel groups.  Some Super Angels have been quoted as suggesting that valuation is not particularly important to their strategy.  They intend to invest in as many as 100 companies quickly, looking for the next Facebook or Groupon. 

3)      Some groups invest $2 million or more in pre-revenue companies, while others typically invest less than $500,000 in these very early stage ventures.  Since angel groups prefer purchasing less than majority ownership in these early rounds, a higher pre-money valuation is more likely for larger pre-revenue round size.  This trend is particularly applicable to angel groups who syndicate seed/startup stage deals with a large number of angel groups and seed VCs in their region.  Syndication among angel groups is a real advantage when larger round size is required (at any stage) but can increase the valuation in early rounds.

4)      Finally, a few groups reported that entrepreneurs and their advisors were very aggressively negotiating high valuations based on reports from the national press (stories from Silicon Valley and New York) when no local competition for such deals exists.  In some cases, this resulted in deals done at higher valuations than anticipated by local angels.

At a final disclaimer, this report is simply a survey of angel leaders in North America.  No statistical significance should be assumed from any data included here.  Finally, all analysis and conclusions are those of the author.  Any errors or misinterpretations are his.

Those interested in more information or in participating in the 2012 survey (if any) should contact the author by email at bill@billpayne.com.  More information on the author can be found at www.billpayne.com or by Googling “Bill Payne” angel.

7 Responses to “2011 Valuation Survey of North American Angel Groups”

  1. Brad Feld says:

    Bill – I think it’s awesome that you do a survey like this and publish the numbers. It’s extremely helpful from a directional perspective, especially relative changes year over year. It’s also nice that you are very clear that the numbers aren’t statistically significant, since many people that publish data like this leave something like that out with the implication that the survey has statistical validity.

    I’d suggest four things that I think would significantly improve the value of this data.

    1. Instead of “average”, ask for “median” data. Average is a useless measurement here and often is skewed by data on either end (extremely low or extremely high). Median gets rid of the data on the tails and often forces people on the receiving end of the survey to be more precise.

    2. Ask for the underlying data voluntary. My guess is some folks will have it; some won’t. For those that do, you can expect their numbers will be more valid. For those who don’t, they are merely giving you their qualitative feedback which will have provider bias that could be significant. For example, I’d assert that most investors (whether they are angel groups or VCs) will have downward pressure on the provider bias – reporting lower numbers qualitatively based on this bias. And – when you have large underlying data sets (N > 40) you can highlight that data as statistically significant.

    3. Include seed VCs in the survey. I think it’s a mistake to only have angel data for both bias and completeness. In my experience there is very different lead and follow behavior by angels (e.g. in Colorado there is a great blend of both – angels are very comfortable leading seed deals, but also very comfortable participating in VC-backed companies that leave room for some angels to participate). You’ll get a more robust picture of what’s going on.

    4. Segment by industry, at least at a high level. I see very different seed valuations for different segments. In Boulder, we have five primary segments: Software/Internet, Natural Foods, Bio, Cleantech, and Outdoors/Retail. Totally different valuation dynamics, which I think you’d expect based on a variety of factors including upside potential, company velocity, capital needed, and supply/demand dynamics.

  2. Basil Peters says:

    Bill – this is an extremely valuable contribution.

    Even before this, through your angel education workshops on valuation, I believe you have done more than any other individual to educate angel investors, and entrepreneurs, about fair valuations.

    This original research validates some of the key points in your workshops.

    The regional valuation variations are extremely interesting.

    Thanks for helping investors and entrepreneurs everywhere!

  3. admin says:

    Thanks, Brad – I appreciate your positive feedback
    1. I agree that “average” is not as useful as median. We will ask for median next year. Relating to our acknowledged statistical insignificance, some groups did respond with guestimates…all of which is still helpful.
    2. Regarding the underlying data: I am simply pleased to have received as many responses as I did. I surely agree that obtaining the investing data would be even more useful. Your suggestion of a low side bias to undocumented responses is probably also quite true.
    3. In 2010, I gathered data from only 13 groups and was pleased to get it. I was frankly and pleasantly surprised with the 2011 response (91% of 46 groups). Perhaps we should seek data from seed stage venture capital in 2012.
    4. As noted in the blog, we are quite aware of the valuations differentials among industry verticals. There is no doubt segmentation by vertical would be quite useful in the future.
    Your feedback is quite useful!

  4. hernando rivas says:

    Very good effort Is is possible to get the value by each of the five sector than Brad said or any other clasification?

  5. admin says:

    Perhaps in the 2012 survey. Thanks, Bill

  6. John says:


    I agree with Brad’s comment. This could be most valuable if cut by industry and stage. For example, for medical tech companies, it suspect valuations average higher but have a flatter curve based upon stage of development and type of FDA approval needed.
    We find this here in MN.

    Great effort – keep up the good work


  7. admin says:

    Thanks for your feedback! I certainly agree that a cut by industry would be useful, but I must tell you that the database will be much more skinny and difficult to obtain. This is a one-person, volunteer effort. Nonetheless, the 2012 survey will add a few angel groups, a few seed/stage VCs and give investors the opportunity to input data for multiple business verticals. I intend to continue to focus on the pre-revenue stage of development.