How to Find Investors

We’ve spent this phase of the Funding playbook shedding light on key challenges of finding investors to show you how to break this process up into super digestible steps and begin knocking out your own investor selection starting today.

July 22nd, 2022   |    By: The Startups Team    |    Tags: Funding

Continuing in Phase Two of a four-part Funding Series:

Phase One - Structuring a Fundraise

Phase Two - Investor Selection

Phase Three - The Pitch

Phase Four - Investor Outreach

Let's dive in!

The search for investors takes time. However, we can at least make sure the time you do invest is well spent. These days “investor research” really means combing through a handful of databases and Web sites to find potential connections to the investment community.

Finding investors isn’t like finding a plumber. There’s no “directory of interested investors” available from the small business administration that you carpet bomb with emails and wait for people to line up to hand you money. The process of how to find investors is more akin to finding customers for fledgling businesses, whereby you’re looking for likely candidates and then working to get warm introductions to those candidates to start a conversation.

Below, we'll look at the 7 most common sources for how to find investors, which source will be best will depend on the stage of your startup along with how much funding you are seeking, how much of an equity stake you're willing to part with, how much of your own money you're bringing to the table and how experienced you are (or aren't) at raising money (ie, do you have a track record of providing a financial return to individual investors).

7 Sources for finding Potential Investors:

  1. Your Social Network. We’ll describe how to mine not just your contacts, but friends and family and the friends of friends of friends and family to find diamonds in the rough.

  2. Incubators. Incubators are specifically designed to help entrepreneurs at the earliest stages of their venture by providing small investments and business expertise. We’ll show you where they are.

  3. Research Databases. There are some massive databases (mostly free) where nearly all investors can be found and researched (it’s not stalking, really).

  4. Angel Investor Groups. There are well-formed groups of angels that you can easily find and pitch through a regimented process.

  5. Angel Investors. There are nearly 200,000 angels in the United States alone.  We’ll point you to the first 20,000 who are the most well-known.

  6. Venture Capitalists. We’ll show you where to find the 900 registered VC firms and how to determine whether they are the right fit for your fundraising stage.

  7. Funding Portals + Crowdfunding. We’ll debunk the pros and cons of using a funding portal so that you can make the best use of your time and resources.

In the next Phase, we’ll talk about crafting your pitch, but for right now let’s just figure out how to compile a list of your best prospects for startup funding. Noting that this doesn't apply if you are self-funding and using your own capital / own money to maintain complete control over your business.

Your Social Network

No, this isn't just asking Uncle Sal to lend money for our business plan. No, this isn't trying to raise millions at Thanksgiving dinner. This is leveraging your social network to find other investors.

Before you respond: “I don’t know any investors, why would I bother with my social network?” hear us out on this one.  Your network, including friends and family are critical to the process of raising enough funds for your business.

You probably don’t know many investors (if any at all!) — but that’s not the point. You may know someone who knows one, and that is how to find investors as many startups have before you. It is how most startup companies or small businesses land their first professional investor. Start with family and friends. It may not be your uncle, but it may be one of his classmates from college or someone he worked with at a past job or a local business owner. Seeking funding in your personal network is by far the most important research you will do, and you’re about to do it a lot.

Typically, LinkedIn is your go-to for this. It’s especially valuable in surfacing 2nd and 3rd-tier connections to people you know. If you haven’t updated your LinkedIn profile in a long time, now is the time to do it. Also, you can import your contacts from Gmail or other services into LinkedIn which the site will use to scour additional connections you may have as you work to uncover private investors and/or local investors.

There’s a twofold approach here:

Direct connections. Run keyword searches for words like “investor,” “angel,” “funding,” and "venture funds" as well as industry words that relate to your startup. Even if some of these connections don’t specifically invest, they may have worked somewhere that is relevant to your industry, because connecting with the right investors is important. Make note of everyone that has any type of connection to your startup. There’s a high chance you’ll need their help later, and never underestimate the power of networking opportunities. Obviously, if you’ve got a few people with explicit investing credentials, add them to your prospect list. Private investors generally prefer deals that are referred to them by someone they trust and are more likely to review your pitch deck or business plan.

Indirect connections (intros). The people who already have a relationship with the strangers you’re about to contact are invaluable here. You’re going to want to expend all of those favors and social clout you’ve built up to politely ask (beg) for introductions to potential investors you don’t know. This part of the exercise will occur a bit later as you find potential investor prospects and then look them up on LinkedIn to see who you may know that can make an introduction to them. They could be local well-heeled individuals, professors at local business schools, other entrepreneurs, or founders — anyone with connections to the startup ecosystem can be of help here.

Obviously, you can extend your social network search to Facebook or other sites but LinkedIn has proven to be the best overall source of professional background and company information on people. If your LinkedIn network is pretty thin, now is a good time to start adding connections to build up your network. Every new person that you add on LinkedIn is a whole hub of potential connections for your company down the road. 

Incubators / Startup Accelerators

Incubators are organizations designed to help fledgling startups turn their business idea or business plan into a business. They typically provide a very small amount of capital ($20,000 is common) and take a small percentage of equity. More importantly, they provide a team of experts and mentors that help accelerate the startup of the business by connecting you with people and resources to get stuff done fast. For first-time entrepreneurs, it can be a great initial partner.

Incubators originated mostly in the tech business space but have since grown to 2,000+ all over the world and in a wide variety of industries. Similar to applying for college, each incubator will have a finite number of open spots on a recurring basis and a startup company apply to be selected. Like any other investor, they have their own geographic, industry, and focus areas that they play.

Take a look at the most comprehensive list of incubators.   

You’ll want to start with incubators that are close to you geographically because those tend to be the most obvious fits for your business. Beyond that, incubators that have a focus or history of working with startup companies in your industry are important. If your business plan is to open a new restaurant in Wichita it’s not going to do you any good to apply for tech accelerator programs in Silicon Valley.  

Don’t just think of incubators as a $20,000 check. Think about them as the ability to add a large baked-in network of connections instantly. These include investors who use the incubators as a feeding ground for new investments. An incubator can often be a stairstep to finding a much larger pool of interested investors.

Research Databases

There are investor databases that have a treasure trove of investor information including what past investments have been made, who the individuals are who made the investments, and how much was invested. That’s the good news.

The bad news is there isn’t a magic database of hungry investors that startups can carpet bomb with emails about their idea. If that list existed every investor on the planet would ask to be removed from it.    

For 90% of what you’re going to do you can probably get away with using Crunchbase which is free. While there are other more premium services (listed below) you’d most likely need a very specific use case to bother with them.

Crunchbase (free).  

The most comprehensive source of investor information (that’s mostly free) is Crunchbase. Here you can find nearly 100,000 profiles of investors and their investment history. Depending on your needs you can search for angel investors, venture capitalists, and any other type of specialty investor. Crunchbase provides a wealth of background information, from what investments they have done to all their available social network contact information. This is definitely going to be your most valuable asset for broad research. If you want to get additional data you can unlock the premium version for about $350 per year which isn’t a bad investment.

Premium Services. 

Most other sources of investor information are geared toward enterprise users so they tend to gate their valuable data behind a paywall. These include services like Mattermark, CB Insights, and the premium version of Crunchbase. The likelihood that you’ll need more than what Crunchbase has to offer for free will be pretty low, so you can probably get most of what you need without spending a penny.

As we explore different types of investors and research strategies you’ll come back to these research databases on a regular basis to cross reference what you find with additional information that you can use. We’ll talk more about how to leverage the details of these searches in Phase 4: Investor Outreach.

Angel Investor Groups

Angel Investor Groups are comprised of a number of wealthy angels that band together to collectively review and make investments. They have more formalized processes for finding them, pitching them, and closing a deal than any one of the individual angels might.  

Here’s every angel investor group in the United States and Canada.

What’s nice about the angel investor groups is that they are relatively easy to find. Each will have its own Web site that details its investing preferences, existing portfolio of investments, and the application process for being considered.

Benefits of Angel Groups.

You can potentially access an entire pool of capital by just pitching one source. There will be a committee that reviews your pitch and lets you know whether it’s a fit for the group. If it is you often have access to the individual members of the group who can provide not only additional money but their own Rolodex of valuable connections.

Challenges of Angel Groups.

They don’t make a lot of investments, and the investments they do make go through a single screening committee. If that single committee doesn’t like what you’re offering it can potentially box you out from accessing the entire group. That doesn’t mean that other angels can’t participate individually from the group, but if they’ve heard that you’ve been denied by a selection committee, it doesn’t exactly help your chances!

Angel investor groups tend to be very localized. If you’re in New York you’ll have better luck pitching groups that are local to your area than trying to apply to a group in California. Unlike larger institutional investors (like venture capital firms) who have the budget and full-time partners to travel to follow deals, the angel groups don’t have those resources, which often requires them to stay close to home.

Your best bet is to first approach those that are local to your area, first by city, then state, then region. If you’ve pitched all the groups in your region and have gotten a friendly “no,” you’ve probably exhausted your options on angel groups (which happens).

Angel Investors

There are two types of angel investors when it comes to researching them – those that identify themselves as “professional angel investors” who you can find online and those that just make investments and don’t share that information. Think of it like the iceberg where you can see 10% of the iceberg above the water (those with public profiles) but the real girth is below the surface.

Here’s a list of over 20,000 angel investors to help you find angel investors.

According to the Angel Capital Association, there are over 200,000 angel investors in the U.S. alone and the small business administration lists the number at closer to 250,000. There’s no good source that lists the other 190,000 so these tend to be surfaced through social connections and personal introductions, but the list of 20,000 should be enough ammunition to get started looking for capital for your company.

To find angel investors should focus on 3 key filters (in roughly this order):

Industry and Location.

The ideal angel has invested in your industry and lives next door to you. Angels who can find startups they understand that are within close range are the most common deals. Angels get more anxious when being asked to invest in a space they aren’t familiar with or with a startup that is far away. Both are factors of trust and engagement which you want to use to your advantage when doing your first pass filter of angels.

Past Investments.

Angels typically don’t do a lot of deals, and those that they do fund tend to be similar to what they have invested in previously. This could include the company that they founded and sold (which is where they created the money to become an angel investor!). You want to find companies that they may have funded that are similar in nature, but not directly competitive. If you were creating Instagram you’d want to find an investor who has invested in mobile apps, but not necessarily a mobile photo-sharing app.

Common Connection.

This is where using LinkedIn is going to be invaluable. If you find an angel that meets the other criteria (industry, location, past investments) a common connection is your next factor to rank against. Getting a warm introduction through a common connection can have a massive impact on your ability to start a conversation, so make finding that connection a critical task.

One thing to note – there are a handful of industries that attract most professional angel investors, like technology and real estate. If you’re opening a yoga studio, you’re going to have a harder time finding a large mass of angel investors who are publicly listed as investing in that space. In that case, you’ll need to expand your thinking a bit into similar industries which could include retail, fitness, and apparel (think yoga gear). An exact match is ideal, but a close match is the next best thing.

Venture Capitalists

Venture Capital is synonymous with startups but that doesn’t mean it’s a big category of investors. As you read earlier when we discussed the stages of investment, VCs typically invest larger sums of money ($1 million or more – usually closer to $5 million) and their investment tends to come after angel investors and others have already invested.

Venture Capital Firms

There are less than 900 venture capital firms in the United States alone and only a fraction of those are actively writing checks. VCs only write an estimated 1,000 checks per year to new companies (another 3,000 go to existing companies they’ve previously funded).  This means pitching VCs is a long shot, and you have to be very careful when you decide to fire that bullet. For example, you wouldn’t want to take an idea you had 2 days ago and start burning up the inboxes of a bunch of a venture capitalist.

Here’s a list of nearly every venture capital firm globally.

VCs follow the same typical guidelines around industry preferences and the types of deals that they do. However, venture capital is even more hyper-specific because it can only invest in industries that have exponential upside (billions of dollars of potential revenue).


Venture Capital firms have a range of “stages” that they invest at – “seed,” “early,” and “later” stages are most commonly referred to. This typically aligns with the amount of money the firm has under management (a small firm may have $50 million, and a large firm may have $1 billion). Most firms will specify what stage they invest at on their website, and if not, you can search the individual firm on Crunchbase to find what size their funds are. If none of that yields an answer, do some research on the portfolio companies investments they have made to get a sense of how big the funding rounds were.

Your main concern here is avoiding firms that are investing larger checks in later stages. If a late-stage venture capital firm is looking to write checks for $10 million or bigger, it means they are targeting companies that are very mature or have significant market traction. You’d be wasting your time trying to pitch beyond the funding stage of a venture firm.


The partners within a venture capital firm will have very specific industry verticals that they like to invest in. The industry preferences often align with the individual partners as much as the firm itself. So if you find a firm that invests in retail, look for the specific partner who has that focus. If you’re unsure, try to find out what board seats they are on and that usually maps to the industry they are most comfortable with. VCs write very few checks, so it makes sense that when they do write a check it’s within an industry they understand very well.


Location is a bit less important for VCs than it may be for angels but make no mistake – VCs don’t love to travel. If they invest in your small business, they expect to meet with you for board meetings and other engagements. If you’re a VC living in Silicon Valley and you have the choice between making an investment in your backyard or flying for 5 hours for 2 days round trip to spend time with another startup, which one are you going to be more excited about?  VCs have families, too. Unless you live in San Francisco you’re not going to find a lot of VCs in your area – maybe a couple at best. So be mindful that once you leave your city or state, the challenge of raising venture out of your neighborhood increases as well.

While most VCs have some form of contact information on their Web site, it should be your absolute last resort to make contact. We’ll discuss this later in Phase 4 however as you’re compiling your list know that your introductions to VCs are almost always going to have to come through a reliable 3rd party as these folks are far more selective than anyone else.

Funding Portals + Crowdfunding

We’re well versed in funding portals because, well, we run one at! Having helped startups secure nearly a half billion dollars in funding commitments we can tell you that while funding portals can be a huge help in surfacing investors that you’d never be able to find on your own, they probably don’t work exactly like you think they do. When selecting a funding platform it’s important to know what you’re looking for.

Our most biased recommendation possible: is the only funding portal you should ever consider. All the other funding portals are run by evil villains who enjoy torturing small animals. (Just kidding, you can find a list of them here).

There are generally two types of funding portals – those that help you raise money from investors for equity (like and those that allow you to raise money through pre-orders (like Kickstarter).   

Each property has a slightly different take on equity crowdfunding but the use of a crowdfunding platform as a tool for raising money remains the same. As such, let’s take a look at the pros and cons (and realities) of using a funding portal at all.

Top Reasons to use a Crowdfunding Portal:

Centralize Communications.

One of the biggest advantages of hosting your fundraise on a funding portal is that you can concentrate all of your investor discussion in a single place. Prior to funding portals, you had to constantly update a bunch of potential investors through emails, meetings, and phone calls which was a painful exercise of herding cats. Centralizing your communications isn’t just about emails, it’s about constantly updating your fundraising profile so that every new detail can be instantly available to prospects. Think of it as proactive marketing, which is a critical part of fundraising.

Create Momentum.

Startup investments tend to need momentum. That comes from one professional investor seeing that another private investor is also interested in your deal. The more people that look like they are willing to invest the more likely they will all invest. It’s a herd mentality. Concentrating your fundraising on a funding portal allows each investor to see that others have made similar commitments and gets them more comfortable making their own. 

Network Effect.

 Although we’ll contend that funding portals don’t find private investors for you (see below) it is true that there is a powerful network effect that you can create on a portal that you can’t simply get from keeping your fundraise hidden. On a funding portal, the most active fundraises tend to get featured in newsletters, on the homepage, and shared with other users. Those are all important and helpful tools for extending your fundraise, it just isn’t helpful to fill your fundraise as a standalone activity. 

Top Reasons a Crowdfunding Portal won’t Help:

They don’t “find investors” for you.

There’s a myth that you post your idea on a crowdfunding site and money from strangers falls out of the sky. Total myth. Successful fundraises are almost always the product of the Founder working their personal networks, very proactively reaching out to prospects and building buzz around the raise. While a funding portal may have thousands or millions of potential backers registered, that doesn’t mean they are all flocking to your specific fundraise – or any fundraise. No one is dying to scour a site endlessly in hopes of parting with their money. They get interested when they hear a fundraise already has some momentum and someone shares it with them because it looks so interesting. Think of their investors as icing on the cake, not the cake.

Endorsement has minimal value.

While there is a small halo effect in being on a well-known funding portal, investors are only going to write a check if they think you have an incredible deal. Whether your small business is listed on one portal or another isn’t going to carry a ton of weight that’s worth fussing over.  

You still have to close every deal.

There’s no version where you wake up and find out investors have wired you hundreds of thousands of dollars without even talking to you. (Seriously, who would do that?) You still have to reach out to each investor, set up meetings (even if by phone), and convince them to part with their hard-earned capital. The process is exactly the same as the old offline way, it's just more efficient to cull all of the investor interest in a single place.

Summary: Finding Potential investors

When setting out on the path to identifying investors, the most common questions that the majority of Founders have are, “what kinds of investors are best for my raise?” and “where do I go to find them?

We’ve spent this phase of the Funding playbook shedding light on these key challenges to show you how to break this process up into super digestible steps and begin knocking out your own investor selection starting today.

Now that we understand the different types of investors and that startups tend to raise money based on their growth stage, you should have a good idea of who you should (and shouldn’t) spend time looking into.

This approach tells us that if you’re still in the concept (seed) stage, starting with friends and family is your best bet. If you’ve already built out your MVP and started generating revenue, angel investors are probably more appropriate for your growth stage and that venture capitalists aren't likely to get involved in your cap table until it's time to scale.

We found that your personal network is far and away the most important starting point for researching investors. Take advantage of LinkedIn and see if you can uncover any connections one of your contacts (or one of their contacts) might have to an investor.

We’ll eventually circle back to many of these topics when we get around to discussing investor outreach later on in Phase 4. But before we get there, it’s time to learn how to craft the perfect pitch so that when you do launch your outreach efforts, you’ll be primed and ready for success.

Continue to Phase Three — Crafting Your Pitch

About the Author

The Startups Team

Startups is the world's largest startup platform, helping over 1 million startup companies find customers, funding, mentors, and world-class education.

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