What do Ryan Reynolds, Ashton Kutcher and Snoop Dogg have in common? Yes, they’re world-famous, but the trio are also known for their status as angel investors.
Angel investors – also known as private investors, seed investors or angel funders – are high-net-worth individuals who provide financial backing for small start-ups, typically in exchange for ownership equity in the company, and are an invaluable part of the funding ecosystem.
Kutcher is perhaps the best-known of the three for investment, backing companies such as Skype early on, into which he sank $1m into in 2009. Eighteen months later, Microsoft bought the company and quadrupled its value.
Ryan Reynolds may be riding high for his co-ownership of Wrexham AFC with Rob McElhenney, but he has also invested in wireless carrier Mint Mobile, which T-Mobile entered into a $1.35bn deal to buy in March of this year.
In 2019, Calvin Broadus, aka Snoop Dogg, became a minor shareholder at Swedish payment provider Klarna, as well as being the face of an ad campaign for the platform.
In the UK, celebrities are just as keen. David Beckham’s DB Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm, and Andy Murray has a “strategic relationship” with equity crowdfunding platform Seedrs. Through this he has invested in more than 40 companies such as ZoomDoc, a “doctor on demand” platform.
While angel investors generally invest smaller amounts than venture capitalists as some of the first investors in a company, they are often interested in supporting innovative start-ups, or those which align with their own personal values or interests.
And of course, they are not all celebrities: in fact, private investors are most often founders themselves, plugged into an ecosystem where their unique understanding allows them to spot a good bet. Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Marc Andreessen are all well-known to have provided seed funding for companies.
#1 – GoodBox
“GoodBox has the potential to revolutionise the way we donate to charity,” says angel investor Andy Murray. Founded on the insight that a cashless society is having a negative impact on the charity sector, the company is hoping to disrupt the sector and become the future of charitable giving.
Through implementing contactless technology via 8,650 devices across the UK and Ireland, its charity partners have seen an uplift of 64 per cent in their donation income, plus an increase in their cash donations.
#2 – RobinAI
Regtech start-up RobinAI has received angel funding from Tom Blomfield, the co-founder of Monzo and GoCardless. It provides contract infrastructure that is designed to take users’ contracts from draft to signed quickly. Using AI-assisted precision editing, it says it can slash contract review time by up to 80 per cent, negotiate consistently with pre-defined fallback positions, and minimise changes.
#3 – Sidekick
A wealth management platform dedicated to bringing its users the financial products and services typically reserved for the one per cent, Sidekick describes itself as “a modern investment manager for today’s world”. Its app allows you to save funds into a wallet and then select fund portfolios, manage progress and access your funds at any time.
Backed by angel investors Will Neale (the founder of Fonix and Grabyo) and Michael Pennington, co-founder and CEO of Gumtree, the platform is set to launch this year.
#4 – Penny
Aggregating all your pensions in one app, Penny is backed by Hristo Borisov, the founder of Payhawk, a fintech company which became Bulgaria’s first unicorn. Making what can be a headache of a process simple, Penny allows you to move your old pensions into your new Penny pension account in one tap, with the company handling the paperwork and taking care of all the admin.
#5 – Koyo
A credit check lending start-up, Koyo is the UK’s first open banking-powered lender and says it does things a bit differently, saying “only relying on credit checks is old fashioned, unfair and ineffective.”
Koyo offers easy loans with no need for payslips or bank statements, quick access to funds – and there are no penalties for paying loans back early. It has received angel funding from Matt Robinson, the co-founder of payments unicorn GoCardless, as well as the real estate platform Nested.
Kirstie McDermott works for our job board partner, Jobbio. Based in Dublin, she has been a writer and editor across print and digital platforms for over 15 years.