Image of Anh-Tho Chuong Degroote, who thinks startup pivot culture needs to change in Europe


March 8, 2024

The Angel Code: How to act like the top 1%

There are good, bad and brilliant angels — here's how to be an expert investor

As a founder — and an angel investor in 15+ companies — I’ve seen good, bad and (a few) absolutely brilliant investors. 

Being bad is easy. Being brilliant — one of the 1% — is harder.

When fundraising, I once needed to ask some of my early angel investors to sell their shares to make room for new, strategic investors on the cap table.

That was, in many senses, a bad deal for them. The company was doing great, and while they were going to get a good return on their investment, if they held on they could have gotten an even better one.  


Yet my best angels didn’t mind. They said they’d do whatever I needed them to do — and some even thanked me for the opportunity to be part of the journey.  

My other angels were mad at me — asking why I was screwing them over when all they’d done was believe in me. My worst angels simply ghosted me. 

Is there a template for the 1%? I think so — and so does Jean de la Rochebrochard, managing director of Kima Ventures and an investor in 1,200+ companies. Together, we’ve defined a potential standard for “angel etiquette”.

It begins with always putting yourself in the founder’s shoes — and leaving your ego at home.

Level 1: Basic

  • Do what you say — If you commit on a call, and the conditions of your commitments are filled, you must sign and wire. Don’t ghost, don’t renegotiate, and no, you can’t have second thoughts if you commit. 
  • Always show up — If you commit to speaking don’t reschedule unless it’s necessary. Be on time and be fully present, physically and mentally. 
  • Clear guidance — Don’t blur the lines. During the first call, provide clear guidance. If you feel like it’s likely to be something for you, tell the founders what you need to make a decision. If you know you won’t get there, let them know straight away.
  • Sunk investment — Invest what you’re able and ready to lose.
  • Share with consent — Make sure that you’re allowed to share the deck and information you’ve received.
  • Abnegation — Consider every investment a favour. Regardless of the size of your allocation, if you’ve decided to invest, don’t complain about it afterwards and don’t think you're special. Only your acts make you special and even then, it’s a donation, not an exchange.
  • Be fast — Whenever you receive a document, sign it quickly. If you believe some information is missing, only ask for what is absolutely necessary. Dilution, Stock Options, Special Conditions, that’s it. And trust the process.
  • Do not reproduce past trauma — Sometimes, angels who have experienced bullying from their investors about dilution, specific conditions or their lack of empathy can adopt the same attitude, without even noticing. Level up, not down.

Level 2: Intermediate

  • Double opt-in — Only make intros after the founders and the counterparts — whether it’s an investor, candidate or else — have agreed to it separately.
  • Respond to investors' reports — Founders invest time drafting them and rarely get answers. By only replying, “Congratulations on the progress, working on your ‘asks’ and keep it up”, you’re already in the top 1% of angel investors. 
  • Perspective — Your advice is based on circumstantial experience. Don’t estimate that your answer is the answer. Your job is to help the founders gain as much perspective as possible.
  • News amplification — When a founder needs support on LinkedIn, Product Hunt, X or elsewhere, please like and comment at least. Public support matters.

Level 3: Expert

  • Founders first — Don’t think about your interests, think about the founders’ and the company’s interests. Act in that regard. For you, it’s one investment out of many; for them, it’s everything.
  • Get in touch — Occasionally text or email a founder to see how they are doing, with no agenda. Building a startup is hard; be the one they can vent with, take them out for a nice coffee or lunch and build a safe space for them. You don’t need, and probably can’t find, the solutions for them — but be a great listener. 
  • Agree to sell — Sometimes during the journey of a company, you will be asked to sell part or all of your investment. Often this is because it’s how the company manages to increase its valuation or enables a next-stage investor to get in without pushing too much on dilution. Don’t feel offended if a founder asks.
  • Momentum — Great companies need momentum. You can be instrumental by sharing your genuine excitement with other investors at the right moment. Talk to the founders to figure out when it will be a good time to do so.

(Good) angel investors are much needed in Europe for the ecosystem to thrive. Are you in?

Anh-Tho Chuong

Anh-Tho Chuong is the cofounder of Lago.

Jean de la Rochebrochard

Jean de la Rochebrochard is managing director of early-stage French VC Kima Ventures