What Is The Definition of An Angel Investor?

Yesterday I had a good conversation with Nivi, the co-author of the great Venture Hacks blog.  He recently added me to AngelList, a directory of angel and seed investors that Nivi curates.  Our discussion covered a variety of things, including trying to define the parameters that qualifies someone to call themselves an angel investor.

Historically, I’ve always said that someone can call themselves an angel investor only if they actually make angel investments!  I’ve been exposed to many “angel investors” who have actually never written a check for an equity investment.  These non-angels come in many shapes and sizes and often end up either offering to become “advisors” for equity (or worse – a retainer), “brokers” (where they help you raise money for a percentage raised), or employees (where the end up trying to get a job).  Now, there is nothing wrong with this, other than them presenting themselves as “angel investors.”  Oh, and some people just like to be in clubs with other people who presumably make investments hang out.

My historical viewpoint was an angel investor is defined as someone who makes at least one equity investment in a seed or early stage company each year of at least $25,000.  So, if an angel investor has been investing for four years, they have at least four separate investments of at least $25,000 each for a total of at least $100,000 invested.  Basically, if you can’t (or don’t) invest at least $25,000 per year, I don’t think you should call yourself an angel investor.

As we worked through the StartupVisa stuff, we realized this wasn’t a high enough threshold for the type of angel investors we thought should be able to sponsor a Startup visa.  So, we came up with the definition of a “Super Angel.”  A Super Angel is an angel investor who has been investing for at least three years and has made at least two equity investments of at least $50,000 each in each of the three years.  This is a total of at least six equity investments totaling at least $300,000.  Most of the people I consider Super Angels are substantially above this threshold.

What do you think of these definitions?  Too strict or too loose?  Any other thoughts on how to qualify someone as an angel investor?