Band of Angels raises $5M for new fund

The Band of Angels has raised its third venture capital fund from a coterie of angel investors, topping out at $5 million, half the amount it had raised half a decade ago, PE Week has learned.

The Band raised the $5 million from small, individual investors, each contributing about $300,000. About two-thirds of the fund’s investors are members of the Menlo Park, Calif.-based angel investment group.

The fund is a departure from the Band’s previous funds. The Band’s first institutional fund, a $50 million vehicle raised in 1999, collected commitments from the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, Siemens Venture Capital GmbH, SVC Fund-in-Fund, The Permanent University Fund and the University of Texas Investment Management Co., according to CapitalIQ.

Band of Angels CEO Ian Sobieski says that the smaller fund size isn’t the product of tough times.

In fact, activity remains robust for the group. The angel investors in the Band have seen between 50 and 60 investment opportunities each month and have invested in nine startups so far this year. That’s only slightly off the 11 startups that the member of the Band funded throughout 2008, Sobieski says.

The Band also added five members this year to top out at 125. That’s compared to a membership of 93 investors in 2004. To have growth in membership is pretty remarkable, says Sobieski, “considering that we were in a financial calamity in an organization where you have to pay financial dues that are not trivial.”

Also, Sobieski says that the smaller fund is the product of a new financing strategy that Sobieski and his team are looking to implement. Instead of focusing on industry-defining startups, the Band wants to invest on Iterative improvements, or technology that is a little better than it already is.

“It’s targeted on the observation that most entrepreneurs start with a better mousetrap,” explains Sobieski. “They’re excited about it but then they’re told that the idea isn’t big enough and maybe the best they can hope for is a $10 million exit years from now.”

“There are plenty of entrepreneurs who have a better chip, for example, where the net enterprise value after two years is $10 million,” Sobieski says. “It may not mean much to VCs, but to a guy with $500,000 net worth, taking home $5 million in two years is going to change his life.”

Toward that end, the Band of Angels has been meeting with business development executives from strategic acquirers, trying to learn what types of innovations they’re looking to buy.

“The goal of our fund is to make the entrepreneurs millionaires in two to three years, and we want to make 10X, too,” Sobieski says. “It’s a super scrappy model.”

Similar to many funds raised during the dot-com boom, the Band’s first fund has not been successful. It has failed to return any money to its investors and carries a portfolio value of just over one-third of the capital it called down from investors, public documents show.