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Growing Your Venture Investing Practice: From Operator to Angel to Fund Manager

Aug 3, 2023

Sydecar

Amber Illig spent much of her career adjacent to venture capital, working in exciting high-growth companies like Apple, Snap, and Cruise. After 10 years as an operator, Amber developed an itch for venture investing. She knew that her startup background and angel investing experience gave her the tools she needed to dive in. She decided to start off with 30 angel investments over three years. Starting with syndicates, Amber has grown from small angel checks to now running a community and fund. We talked to Amber to learn more about her path and investing strategy.

Getting Started with Syndicates

“I was more excited than nervous by the time I wrote my first check. I did so much research and prep that I was ready to rip off the bandaid. I also read several books on angel investing, including Angel by Jason Calacanis. Once I read through that book, I thought: ‘Okay, I can do this.’”

Building a budget

A common rule of thumb for novice investors is to allocate 5-10% of their net worth for venture investing. Given the high likelihood that the investments go to zero, 5-10% should represent an amount of money that the investor is willing to lose completely without impacting their basic needs and lifestyle.

Amber started off investing 5-10% of her net worth. However, as she invested, the work was so rewarding that she reevaluated to allocate up to 20%. This may seem like a large amount to invest in such a high-risk asset, however, Amber knew that the experience, exposure, and connections she was building through her investments were invaluable. Like many other angels, she compared the investment to the amount that one might spend on business school. Both the education and network gained through investing rivals that gained in business school. However, in addition to these shared benefits, investors are purchasing equity that offers financial returns. 

After gauging her appetite and budget for angel investing, Amber worked backward to the number of investments she could make. She opted to maximize the number of investments by choosing to only invest small amounts around $5k. Knowing she would make mistakes early on, these small checks allowed her to gain experience without costly losses. In the past three years, her angel portfolio has grown to 30 companies. 

Direct Investing as an Angel

“If you're thinking about doing this as your career, at some point you have to prove to yourself and others that you can source deals and diligence them on your own. My Phase Two was figuring out how to source companies without a syndicate.” 

With syndicates as the onramp, Amber fell in love with investing. She had a network from her many years in Silicon Valley, and she had the operating and investing experience to know she could lead and diligence her own deals. This is when she knew she could graduate from investing via syndicates to direct angel investments. 

This switch meant sourcing and diligencing deals on her own. While investing became more time-consuming, she also gained control. She developed her own due diligence checklist and could shape a thesis around what she knew best. Given her background working in automotive and supply chain management, she was drawn to companies solving problems for similar legacy industries.

Before the end of these three years, her success was clear. She had invested in companies ahead of rounds from YCombinator, Lightspeed, and Softbank. Her portfolio was showing growth, including one company marked up 36x. Her sourcing abilities and decision-making had her ready to launch a fund. 

Community, Fund, and Beyond

“If I hadn't created a community and stepped into a role where I'm providing value to that community, investing would have been far more difficult. The community has created a unique source of deal flow for me and also portfolio support for our founders.”

An essential support for Amber’s investing has been the angel investing community, The Council Angels. Founded by Amber and 9 other women, they were all operators who were working full-time while starting to invest. Since the early days, Amber has co-led this community alongside Anabel Lippincott Paksoy and now Shriya Nevatia. What started as a small group of women has grown to over 145 members with experience from large tech companies and top startups.

When it came time for Amber to raise a fund, these women were some of her first LP checks. While they were small checks, the Council’s membership got Amber to her first close and allowed her to start investing in the fund’s first 10 companies. This community then gave her introductions to family offices, funds of funds, and banks to reach institutional capital. She now has 56 LPs that allow her to keep growing her investing work and fund. 

With 17 investments made from Fund I, Amber is looking to the next challenge: scaling up to a larger Fund II. For many emerging managers, this can be one of the toughest raises, as they become too large to take small checks from individuals, but are not yet raising a large enough fund for many institutions. Fund managers have to seek out the right institutions willing to invest in an emerging fund, which can be a whole new network from their existing angel investor LPs. 

Nonetheless, Amber’s background as an operator, her track record from angel investing, and her community through the Council have prepared her for the challenge. In three years, she has gone from working as an operator to knowing that she can be a full-time fund manager. Through her three phases of investing, Amber has tackled the venture investing world to grow her investing from a part-time passion to a full-time career. 



Amber Illig spent much of her career adjacent to venture capital, working in exciting high-growth companies like Apple, Snap, and Cruise. After 10 years as an operator, Amber developed an itch for venture investing. She knew that her startup background and angel investing experience gave her the tools she needed to dive in. She decided to start off with 30 angel investments over three years. Starting with syndicates, Amber has grown from small angel checks to now running a community and fund. We talked to Amber to learn more about her path and investing strategy.

Getting Started with Syndicates

“I was more excited than nervous by the time I wrote my first check. I did so much research and prep that I was ready to rip off the bandaid. I also read several books on angel investing, including Angel by Jason Calacanis. Once I read through that book, I thought: ‘Okay, I can do this.’”

Building a budget

A common rule of thumb for novice investors is to allocate 5-10% of their net worth for venture investing. Given the high likelihood that the investments go to zero, 5-10% should represent an amount of money that the investor is willing to lose completely without impacting their basic needs and lifestyle.

Amber started off investing 5-10% of her net worth. However, as she invested, the work was so rewarding that she reevaluated to allocate up to 20%. This may seem like a large amount to invest in such a high-risk asset, however, Amber knew that the experience, exposure, and connections she was building through her investments were invaluable. Like many other angels, she compared the investment to the amount that one might spend on business school. Both the education and network gained through investing rivals that gained in business school. However, in addition to these shared benefits, investors are purchasing equity that offers financial returns. 

After gauging her appetite and budget for angel investing, Amber worked backward to the number of investments she could make. She opted to maximize the number of investments by choosing to only invest small amounts around $5k. Knowing she would make mistakes early on, these small checks allowed her to gain experience without costly losses. In the past three years, her angel portfolio has grown to 30 companies. 

Direct Investing as an Angel

“If you're thinking about doing this as your career, at some point you have to prove to yourself and others that you can source deals and diligence them on your own. My Phase Two was figuring out how to source companies without a syndicate.” 

With syndicates as the onramp, Amber fell in love with investing. She had a network from her many years in Silicon Valley, and she had the operating and investing experience to know she could lead and diligence her own deals. This is when she knew she could graduate from investing via syndicates to direct angel investments. 

This switch meant sourcing and diligencing deals on her own. While investing became more time-consuming, she also gained control. She developed her own due diligence checklist and could shape a thesis around what she knew best. Given her background working in automotive and supply chain management, she was drawn to companies solving problems for similar legacy industries.

Before the end of these three years, her success was clear. She had invested in companies ahead of rounds from YCombinator, Lightspeed, and Softbank. Her portfolio was showing growth, including one company marked up 36x. Her sourcing abilities and decision-making had her ready to launch a fund. 

Community, Fund, and Beyond

“If I hadn't created a community and stepped into a role where I'm providing value to that community, investing would have been far more difficult. The community has created a unique source of deal flow for me and also portfolio support for our founders.”

An essential support for Amber’s investing has been the angel investing community, The Council Angels. Founded by Amber and 9 other women, they were all operators who were working full-time while starting to invest. Since the early days, Amber has co-led this community alongside Anabel Lippincott Paksoy and now Shriya Nevatia. What started as a small group of women has grown to over 145 members with experience from large tech companies and top startups.

When it came time for Amber to raise a fund, these women were some of her first LP checks. While they were small checks, the Council’s membership got Amber to her first close and allowed her to start investing in the fund’s first 10 companies. This community then gave her introductions to family offices, funds of funds, and banks to reach institutional capital. She now has 56 LPs that allow her to keep growing her investing work and fund. 

With 17 investments made from Fund I, Amber is looking to the next challenge: scaling up to a larger Fund II. For many emerging managers, this can be one of the toughest raises, as they become too large to take small checks from individuals, but are not yet raising a large enough fund for many institutions. Fund managers have to seek out the right institutions willing to invest in an emerging fund, which can be a whole new network from their existing angel investor LPs. 

Nonetheless, Amber’s background as an operator, her track record from angel investing, and her community through the Council have prepared her for the challenge. In three years, she has gone from working as an operator to knowing that she can be a full-time fund manager. Through her three phases of investing, Amber has tackled the venture investing world to grow her investing from a part-time passion to a full-time career. 



Amber Illig spent much of her career adjacent to venture capital, working in exciting high-growth companies like Apple, Snap, and Cruise. After 10 years as an operator, Amber developed an itch for venture investing. She knew that her startup background and angel investing experience gave her the tools she needed to dive in. She decided to start off with 30 angel investments over three years. Starting with syndicates, Amber has grown from small angel checks to now running a community and fund. We talked to Amber to learn more about her path and investing strategy.

Getting Started with Syndicates

“I was more excited than nervous by the time I wrote my first check. I did so much research and prep that I was ready to rip off the bandaid. I also read several books on angel investing, including Angel by Jason Calacanis. Once I read through that book, I thought: ‘Okay, I can do this.’”

Building a budget

A common rule of thumb for novice investors is to allocate 5-10% of their net worth for venture investing. Given the high likelihood that the investments go to zero, 5-10% should represent an amount of money that the investor is willing to lose completely without impacting their basic needs and lifestyle.

Amber started off investing 5-10% of her net worth. However, as she invested, the work was so rewarding that she reevaluated to allocate up to 20%. This may seem like a large amount to invest in such a high-risk asset, however, Amber knew that the experience, exposure, and connections she was building through her investments were invaluable. Like many other angels, she compared the investment to the amount that one might spend on business school. Both the education and network gained through investing rivals that gained in business school. However, in addition to these shared benefits, investors are purchasing equity that offers financial returns. 

After gauging her appetite and budget for angel investing, Amber worked backward to the number of investments she could make. She opted to maximize the number of investments by choosing to only invest small amounts around $5k. Knowing she would make mistakes early on, these small checks allowed her to gain experience without costly losses. In the past three years, her angel portfolio has grown to 30 companies. 

Direct Investing as an Angel

“If you're thinking about doing this as your career, at some point you have to prove to yourself and others that you can source deals and diligence them on your own. My Phase Two was figuring out how to source companies without a syndicate.” 

With syndicates as the onramp, Amber fell in love with investing. She had a network from her many years in Silicon Valley, and she had the operating and investing experience to know she could lead and diligence her own deals. This is when she knew she could graduate from investing via syndicates to direct angel investments. 

This switch meant sourcing and diligencing deals on her own. While investing became more time-consuming, she also gained control. She developed her own due diligence checklist and could shape a thesis around what she knew best. Given her background working in automotive and supply chain management, she was drawn to companies solving problems for similar legacy industries.

Before the end of these three years, her success was clear. She had invested in companies ahead of rounds from YCombinator, Lightspeed, and Softbank. Her portfolio was showing growth, including one company marked up 36x. Her sourcing abilities and decision-making had her ready to launch a fund. 

Community, Fund, and Beyond

“If I hadn't created a community and stepped into a role where I'm providing value to that community, investing would have been far more difficult. The community has created a unique source of deal flow for me and also portfolio support for our founders.”

An essential support for Amber’s investing has been the angel investing community, The Council Angels. Founded by Amber and 9 other women, they were all operators who were working full-time while starting to invest. Since the early days, Amber has co-led this community alongside Anabel Lippincott Paksoy and now Shriya Nevatia. What started as a small group of women has grown to over 145 members with experience from large tech companies and top startups.

When it came time for Amber to raise a fund, these women were some of her first LP checks. While they were small checks, the Council’s membership got Amber to her first close and allowed her to start investing in the fund’s first 10 companies. This community then gave her introductions to family offices, funds of funds, and banks to reach institutional capital. She now has 56 LPs that allow her to keep growing her investing work and fund. 

With 17 investments made from Fund I, Amber is looking to the next challenge: scaling up to a larger Fund II. For many emerging managers, this can be one of the toughest raises, as they become too large to take small checks from individuals, but are not yet raising a large enough fund for many institutions. Fund managers have to seek out the right institutions willing to invest in an emerging fund, which can be a whole new network from their existing angel investor LPs. 

Nonetheless, Amber’s background as an operator, her track record from angel investing, and her community through the Council have prepared her for the challenge. In three years, she has gone from working as an operator to knowing that she can be a full-time fund manager. Through her three phases of investing, Amber has tackled the venture investing world to grow her investing from a part-time passion to a full-time career.