INVESTMENT: Angels of Risk

Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door—provided that adequate financing can be arranged to cover initial production and marketing expenses. As many an underfinanced entrepreneur has learned, the road to penury is paved with good inventions. Now there is an invention designed especially to provide backing for fledgling tycoons: the venture capital industry. After a decade or so of ups and downs, it is emerging as one of the most important sources of funds for new businesses.

Some 600 firms with total assets of about $3...

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