Investor Mosaic was used to algorithmically assess AngelList Syndicates. Jason Calacanis, Scott Banister, Tim Ferriss, Gil Penchina and Elad Gil came out on top.

We’ve been doing a lot of work with LPs to help them assess VC firm quality using our Investor Mosaic algorithm.

Today, we’re going to take the algorithms we apply to venture capital firms and assess a set of elite angel investors to see who, based on cold-hard data and predictive algorithms, are the top angel investors.

Specifically, we’re looking at the top money getters who are part of the AngelList Syndicates program.

Based on Investor Mosaic:

  • Jason Calacanis comes out ranked highest
  • Having a large AngelList Syndicate backing doesn’t necessarily translate to scoring well based on the data

This post is structured into the following sections (just click a section heading below to be directed there):

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AngeList Syndicates – What are they and why is it hard to pick syndicates?

AngelList allows startups to raise equity or debt investment via its platform.  It has rightfully been described as one of the most impactful innovations to hit the venture capital industry in a long time.

Towards the end of 2013, AngelList announced its syndicates program which allows angel investors to raise committed capital and charge a carry for the performance of each deal that their backers participate in. Last month, Maiden Lane, a fund that will invest in AngelList Syndicates and deals, launched with over $20M in funding from a variety of investors.  The Syndicates program has gained momentum with several well-known figures in the tech community creating syndicates.


The challenge of picking the right syndicate

Unless you are personally familiar with one of the angels behind a syndicate, choosing an AngelList Syndicate to invest in is highly uncertain.  Some of the challenges:

  • Popularity contest – Without a measure of performance, it has the potential to become a popularity contest.  Well-known personalities may garner more syndicate dollars, but does popularity translate to investment success?  Of course, there may be a wisdom of crowds here so total dollars raised by any one syndicate is useful but not a clear or data-driven way to make the determination.
  • Selection bias - Almost all investors (VCs, angels, PE, etc) have a habit of shouting about their successes and burying their dead quietly.  Understanding the prowess of an investor requires having a holistic view into their portfolio.
  • Stage of entry – For angels in particular, their point of entry into a company is critical. Calling yourself an angel investor in Facebook when you picked up shares in the secondary markets is a stretch to put it mildly.


AngelList Syndicates is a big innovation in the private company financing landscape and is one we expect will gain momentum especially as more funds like Maiden Lane come to be.  There is an opportunity to balance and marry the narrative-driven approach to investing in a syndicate with an algorithmic take as well.  That is what we’ve done.


What is Investor Mosaic and what dimensions does it assess Syndicates on?

The Investor Mosaic page details the predictive analytics and approach we’ve used to develop our algorithms, so if you’d like to get into details, we recommend  you go there.  At a high-level, the Mosaic algorithms are based on a great deal of academic literature and assess an investor on several key dimensions including:

  1. Performance Persistence – In private company investing, past performance does indicate future performance.  As a result, having prior successes is important.  However, recency of outperformance is important.  So if you invested in a unicorn many years ago, the value of that unicorn to your performance persistence declines over time.  This prevents investors from riding the “legend” of a single investment for inordinately too long.
  2. Network Centrality – How networked is an investor?  Think of this as Google PageRank for investors.
  3. Brand – Measures the visibility and reputation of an investor.
  4. Investment Discipline – Maintaining a clear focus on a certain stage, geo, and industries leads to outperformance.  Fair-weather investors investing in whatever is hot today underperform.
  5. Selection Aptitude – A measure of dealflow quality and selection prowess.  Did you get lucky once or do you consistently find winners (small and big)?
  6. Illiquid Portfolio Strength – How is your portfolio of currently un-exited private companies performing?


Notes on the Process/Data

  • What Syndicates were included?  We only included Syndicates with $150k+ committed as of April 20, 2014, who have syndicated a deal. We did not include institutional syndicates, as well as Naval Ravikant’s syndicate, due to his involvement in AngelList and Maiden Lane.
  • Compared against all angels – As Investor Mosaic grades investors on a curve, the AngelList angels were evaluated against several hundred other individual angel investors on CB Insights.
  • Reality checks on data – Some angels claimed investments in virtually all recent multi-billion dollar exits.  Unless it was clear when the investment was made, we excluded these. This ensured that secondary market purchases were appropriately figured into each angel’s Investor Mosaic scores.
  • Angel maturity – Performance Persistence in Investor Mosaic is driven by exits.  If an angel is relatively new without mature and exited investments, this will impact their score.
  • Investment opaqueness – Angel investments are an opaque part of the innovation economy and so tracking is challenging.


The Top 5

Sixteen syndicates met our criteria of $150k+ in commitments and have syndicated a deal as listed below:

Syndicates Table Total

When compared against several-hundred other angel investors in the CB Insights database, 5 AngelList investors from these most-backed syndicates came out in the top decile among all angel investors (not just AngelList Syndicate angels).

Top 5 Syndicates AL

It’s worth noting that among the top 5, the individual ranks are less meaningful as they are part of the top decile of angel investors and so their underlying Mosaic scores are quite close.

The top 5 participated in 38 deals in the past year with Scott Banister being the most active among the top 5.

When comparing the AngelList rank based on dollars committed versus Investor Mosaic, we see Scott & Cyan Banister jumped the most, scoring 2nd on Investor Mosaic, but were 9th out of the 16 syndicates in terms of backing. This difference in backing per AngelList versus the Mosaic Score is called the Mosaic Expected Value Delta (MEVD). Scott scored very well on Network Centrality which buoyed his Mosaic score.


Underrated AngelList Syndicates

When we look at the top 16 Syndicates overall, we see a few angels who appear to be underrated based on their large MEVDs. Specifically:

  • Scott & Cyan Banister (+7)
  • Ed Roman (+6)
  • Fabrice Grinda (+4)

The table below summarizes AngelList Syndicate ranks (based on $) and Investor Mosaic ranks.

Top 16 AL Syndicates edit

What’s next?

We’re looking at several analyses going forward. Two we’ll share:

  1. What angels should have syndicates?  In other words, identifying angels who don’t have syndicates but should.
  2. How do you build a diversified pool of AngelList Syndicates? Ensuring that investing in syndicates gets you proper diversification.

With regards to diversification, this is one of the value propositions of AngelList Syndicates. Not only can you get access to a high-risk asset class, but by investing across multiple Syndicates, you can also diversify your early-stage, high-risk bets.

Well – maybe.

One of the things we’re looking at is how to build a portfolio of Syndicates that are sufficiently diversified. By way of example, when we analyze the CB Insights’ Business Social Graph of the top 5 syndicates, we see some overlap among the angels but differentiation as well.

Interestingly, when you look at the Business Social Graph for all 16 of the largest Syndicates, we see more overlap among their investments. If trying to build a diversified pool of Syndicates, understanding which investors actually get you exposure to new markets, companies, etc is important versus a group of popular syndicates that just syndicate with each other.


Top 5 Social GraphEdit


With the data that we have gathered we intend to look at constructing a portfolio in order to hedge risk, and diversify on factors such as geography, industry, risk-appetite, and overall correlation within the industry.

Stay tuned.


Not Investment Advice or an Offer
The information does not constitute investment advice or an offer to invest or to provide management services and is subject to correction, completion and amendment without notice. As with all investments, there are associated risks and you could lose money investing. Prior to making any investment, a prospective investor should consult with its own investment, accounting, legal and tax advisers to evaluate independently the risks, consequences and suitability of that investment.

  • Robin S

    Psssh. I got results from @twitter. 170 looks at my #AngelList profile. 3 from Angel List organic. AngelList isn’t good for someone that isn’t in their little club.

  • CB Insights

    Can you explain your comment as we’re not really sure what you mean.

  • jasoncalacanis

    frankly, I think Gil, Cyan and Tim are much more important than myself…. but thanks for putting the work into this either way. I’m very interested to see what this looks like in 10 years!

  • Anand Sanwal

    Thanks for checking-in Jason (and congrats!)

    The difference in scores b/w you, Gil, et al are small as you guys were all top decile. So these will change month-to-month and this was a point-in-time snapshot.

    We’re looking forward to seeing how this evolves and providing a more data-driven view into the investment ecosystem.

  • Anand Sanwal

    Can you explain what your comment means?

  • Entrepreneur

    It is always the case …. ‘club’, in corporate, in SMB and entre space. New good startups without club-links fail. As Seqouia Mike-M said: if you are over 35 we dont invest in you (2007 Oct, Palace Hotel, at O’Reilly Web 2.0 Conference), such facts are less published and share. So those over 35+… ?don’t go to Seq for funding …. go figure …

  • Dave McClure

    Q: will you folks be updating the Investor Mosaic ranking / listings for Angel List syndicates?

    (asking since our 500 Startups syndicate has over $150K in backers & we are just wrapping up our first syndicate deal… guess we just missed your cutoff date, doh! ;)

  • Anand Sanwal

    Dave – we excluded institutional syndicates of all types, i.e. FG Angels, Crunchfund, etc. So this analysis is only of individual angel investors.

    Hope that helps to clarify.

    Thanks for reading and the comment.

  • Robin S

    That I got 185 now results from direct posting to investors on Twitter. While there is no way to get anyone on Angel list itself to view the company Investment profile. It’s a flawed idea and does little more than automate the SV caste system. And whatever the syndicate news was last week, it didn’t make things better for honest Treps like me with great biz opportunities that will never be seen. In other words, why make a online thing like that if it doesn’t democratically improve the process? It just locks out inventors that aren’t already in their little club.

  • Robin S

    b/c everybody over 35 has a life and bills and can’t leave it to go live in a little smelly incubator and eat free pizza in exchange for a 20k investment, lol.

  • Robin S

    I suggested to the company (Angel List) that they let us advertise our companies so that we can get in front of the investors with a deck or video.