This paper extends the literature on the investment decision-making of business angels.

Using insights from the emerging body of research on entrepreneurial learning processes, particularly the use of heuristics and the nature of learning from meagre experience, we explore whether angels learn from experience, how they learn and what they learn. These issues are addressed using verbal protocol analysis, a methodology for examining decision-making in real time, on three groups of business angels with differing levels of investment experience, and on follow-up interviews with these angels. This reveals some differences in the speed of decision making and the emphasis given to various investment criteria. There is some evidence for the use of heuristics in the decision making process, and for the critical role played by vicarious learning from the experience of others. Learning in the individual angel decision making process is a social as well as individual phenomenon.


Richard Harrison is Professor of Management at Queen’s University Management School, Belfast, where he was previously Director of the School and latterly Director of the Leadership Institute at Queen’s, part of a new Postgraduate and Executive Education Centre and Management School. He has previously served as Director of the Centre for Executive Development, University of Ulster, Head of the Department of Management Studies, University of Aberdeen, and Director of Research for the University of Edinburgh Business School. Richard’s major research and professional interests lie in leadership development, entrepreneurship and economic development, and company strategy development and implementation. In addition to his on-going research on learning and leadership in the context of entrepreneurial companies, he has recently written on regional economic development policies, entrepreneurship and business development, university spin-outs and commercialisation strategies, early stage venture capital and business angel markets, financing innovation, developing commercialisation strategies for major university research institutes, attracting and retaining talent in regional economies, and the development of technology clusters. In addition, he has extensive executive education experience in providing courses on strategy and business development to a wide range of organisations.

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