Scott Belsky, CEO, Behance

Scott Belsky, CEO, Behance

Focus: I invest in the overlap of the creative world (or design-centric product), technology, and meritocracy/empowerment.
Philosophy: I look for entrepreneurs that listen and learn, value design, have tremendous initiative, and are changing something that causes friction in life and/or business.
Investments: Pinterest, Uber, Warby Parker, Kitchensurfing, FiftyThree, Shyp, Circa.

Alan Braverman, founder, Giant Pixel

Alan Braverman, founder, Giant Pixel

Focus: Mostly consumer Internet companies (plus one San Francisco restaurant called Park Tavern).
Philosophy:I've been working with internet technology for 20 years, so I tend to invest in startups at which I could imagine myself working on the product as a software engineer.
Investments: Human, Gametime, Dijit Media, Wanderable.

Karen Drexler, co-founder, Cellscape

Karen Drexler, co-founder, Cellscape

Focus: Women's health and/or women entrepreneurs.
Philosophy: Invest in underserved markets and under-represented entrepreneurs---there's often less competition in the market and for deals.
Investments: nVision (women's health and female CEO), Wildflower (women's health and female CEO), Clear Ear (female founders and CEO), Ecotensil (female CEO).

Elad Gil, former VP, Twitter

Elad Gil, former VP, Twitter

Focus: SaaS services & APIs, consumer internet, marketplaces, hardware, genomics.
Philosophy: I invest in technology driven change in large markets. I think on the market side there needs to be a clear "why now?" statement and large market available. For entrepreneurs, I look for founder/market fit, incredibly smart/driven people, and people I would be glad to take a phone call from at midnight on a Friday if they need help (this has happened a few times).
Investments: Stripe, Pinterest, Optimizely, Square, CrowdTilt, FormLabs.

Kevin Hartz, CEO, Eventbrite

Kevin Hartz, CEO, Eventbrite

Focus: I am trying to focus on investments that will have a measurable (and positive) global impact.
Philosophy: I focus my investments on mission-driven, high-intellect first-time entrepreneurs whose pursuit evokes fear or dismissal upon the general investor.
Investments: Pinterest, Airbnb.

Auren Hoffman, CEO, LiveRamp

Auren Hoffman, CEO, LiveRamp

Focus: I invest in top engineers and in things I understand.
Philosophy: I look for really strong engineers.
Investments: Any.do, BrightRoll, CrowdFlower, Klout, Meebo, VigLink.

Karl Jacob, Hangtime CEO and Coveroo founder

Karl Jacob, Hangtime CEO and Coveroo founder

Focus: Early stage companies that have some traction in consumer or enterprise. I back people and like to get to know the founders well before investing.
Philosophy: Back the right people going after a big opportunity with some initial product traction. I back people because markets and products change and I rely on the people to navigate this landscape and sometimes to abandon their initial idea for another one.
Investments: Mayvenn, August.

Jared Kopf, founder, AdRoll

Jared Kopf, founder, AdRoll

Focus: Businesses that other people misunderstand, or might consider insane. I try to remain non-sectorial, and to invest in "what I know"---consumer, payments, financial tech, media, adtech, SMB, e-commerce.
Philosophy: I look for entrepreneurs that are intense and passionate, and believe they have something to prove. I prefer founders to have equal measures of smarts, creativity, optimism and grit. I like the people who've failed once already, recently, and are back at it.
Investments: LendingClub, Palantir, AngelList.

Othman Laraki, former VP, Twitter

Othman Laraki, former VP, Twitter

Focus: I span mass consumer products that I believe have 100M+ user potential or infrastructure products that use technology to make humans more productive/effective.
Philosophy: First, I filter based on the entrepreneur (whether I feel he/she is smart, thoughtful and has a high level of integrity) and beyond that, I usually focus on consumer products that I love or infrastructure companies that have a strong technological backing and address a real problem that I can understand.
Investments: AngelList, Counsyl, Euclid Elements, HelloSign, PagerDuty, Pinterest, RunKeeper, TreasureData, ZeroCater.

Bill Lee, founder, Twist

Bill Lee, founder, Twist

Focus: Consumer Internet and technology.
Philosophy: I only invest in companies and founders that I can get passionate about. I'm looking for companies and entrepreneurs that are extremely nimble and aren't afraid to take great risks. Building a startup is like running with knives---founders need to be able to sprint and react quickly in order to avoid being cut. And, if they've been cut, they need to quickly adjust and keep on sprinting.
Investments: SpaceX, Tesla Motors, Hootsuite, Yammer.

Ariel Poler, chairman, TextMarks

Ariel Poler, chairman, TextMarks

Focus: Technology driven companies whose products and services I understand and am excited about. I also look for companies that can have a meaningful impact on society.
Philosophy: I look for entrepreneurs that I would like to have over for dinner at my house. Entrepreneurs that I enjoy spending time with and who I can help.
Investments: Optimizely, ApartmentList, Rally.org, Strava, Pantheon, Thumbtack, Boosted Boards, SlideShare.

Una Ryan, man. dir., Golden Seeds Silicon Valley

Una Ryan, man. dir., Golden Seeds Silicon Valley

Focus: I am a scientist and have loved running life science companies, but find that I don't like to invest in them so much (long, risky and expensive development). As a result I have diversified my portfolio to include life sciences but also tech and chocolate! I look for short timelines to exit because I am more interested in helping companies get off the ground than in large multiples.
Philosophy: My philosophy is to invest in game-changing companies with products that matter,especially those led by women.
Investments: Cambrian Genomics, Misfit Wearables, RenovoRx.

Joshua Schachter, founder, Del.icio.us

Joshua Schachter, founder, Del.icio.us

Focus: I like markets and networks. I like building products, so I can't help but do some investment there.
Philosophy: I look for transformation--making things that were previously impossible possible, or radically changing abstraction levels.
Investments: Shyp, Lob, Etsy, Kickstarter, Climate Corp., Foursquare, Crocodoc, Parse.

Schachter is at left, with David Heinemeir Hansson.

Jeff Schox, founding member, Schox Patent Group

Jeff Schox, founding member, Schox Patent Group

Focus: Anything from software, to connected devices, to complex systems in the areas of health, environment, and information+automation.
Philosophy: I invest in the clients of my patent law firm that exhibit strategic thinking, direct communication, and passion.
Investments: Twilio, Mission Motors, Massive Health (acquired by Jawbone), and Karma (acquired by Facebook).

Raymond Tonsing, man. dir., Caffeinated Capital

Raymond Tonsing, man. dir., Caffeinated Capital

Focus: Early stage technology companies that are primarily based in Silicon Valley.
Philosophy: Caffeinated focuses on funding career-type visionary entrepreneurs who build lightweight software companies that have explosive potential. We strive to fund founding teams that form organically around meaningful innovation.
Investments: IFTTT, Appurify, dotCloud (Docker), memSQL, Koality Code, Affirm, Optimizely, Parse.

Maynard Webb, founder, Webb Investment Network

Maynard Webb, founder, Webb Investment Network

Focus: Enterprise software and cloud applications, e-commerce/marketplaces, adtech, and mobile. Seed-stage companies and select later-stage rounds as a strategic co-investor.
Philosophy: We value entrepreneurs who get out of bed every day and try to change the world (and we particularly like close, balanced founding teams that are trying to build transformative businesses in fast-growing markets)
Investments: Appurify, Badgeville, Everwise, HelloSign, Koality, Okta, Quixey, WePay, Zuora.

Maurice Werdegar, partner, Western Technology

Maurice Werdegar, partner, Western Technology

Focus: The first round of capital into capital efficient Internet and life science companies with authentic, original approaches to potential blockbuster ideas.
Philosophy: I am looking for passionate entrepreneurs that are on a personal mission to make a game changing impact on their industry.
Investments: EventBrite, Minted, SocialBaker, Vacatia, Mido Play, Pixalate, Planet Labs, Cambrian Genomics, Trusted Insight.

Laurie Yoler, Qualcomm; Ben Lenail, Alta Devices

Laurie Yoler, Qualcomm; Ben Lenail, Alta Devices

Focus: Lots of neuroscience, social media for peer-to-peer patient networks, wearable devices for monitoring and improvement of chronic conditions.
Philosophy: The founder is everything. The company is about them, their passion, knowledge, calling, faith and hope. We think of the founder in almost religious terms!
Investments: Alta Devices, DNA Direct, Curious, Scripted, Cadence Biomedical.

There’s lots of talk among Silicon Valley entrepreneurs about the importance of finding “smart money”—the venture and angel investors whose sheer acumen supposedly allows them to outperform the market and shepherd startups to success.

Trouble is, venture returns for the last 10 years actually lag behind those of the broader S&P 500. The average venture firm “can’t outperform a grandmother investing in an S&P Index fund,” as veteran journalist Tom Foremski comments wryly. The truth is that every high-tech startup faces a minefield of tough decisions, and no investor can really know the right way across it.

But while smart money may be mythical, nice money isn’t.

When early-stage startups are raising seed rounds, especially here in Silicon Valley, there’s an obvious temptation to take money from big-name angel investors who can jumpstart a company’s fortunes with a few dollars, or even just a few tweets. But there’s another class of angels who’ve built successful businesses themselves—often quite recently—and who invest because they love startups and entrepreneurs. You won’t find most of these investors in the media spotlight. But ultimately they may prove far more helpful, on a day-to-day basis, to the companies they back.

We call these the Unsung Angels, and this week, in the slide show above, we want to recognize a few of them. These are the folks who typically shy away from press coverage, because they’re too busy working behind the scenes to make sure that entrepreneurs get the support and advice they need to try their business ideas. In the captions, you can read about their focus areas, their investing philosophies, and their most recent or notable investments. (Click the “Hide Caption” button to see the full images without the captions in the way.)

Each of our Unsung Angels was nominated by one or more trusted sources from Xconomy’s Bay Area network. One of those advisors was Jessica Livingston, the co-founder of the famed startup accelerator Y Combinator. Every year, Livingston and her fellow YC partners broker hundreds of meetings between startup founders and investors, in an effort to help each team find the right backers. Here’s how she classifies whether an angel investor is really good at what they do:

“Do they make (relatively) quick decisions and write checks, are they responsive and helpful when needed, do they have valuable insights for the startup, are their connections useful and, finally, are they ethical, nice people who won’t turn the screws on you at high stakes inflection points? I’ve seen a lot of ugliness on the part of investors (more from VCs, but some from angels) so the last bit is an important one.”

Every one of our Unsung Angels qualifies as nice money. Of course, they’re pretty smart, too, or they wouldn’t be so successful as individuals. But as you’ll see from the statements they shared, these are intense and passionate people who invest in other entrepreneurs mainly out a shared desire to change the world.

Thanks to all of our angels for agreeing to participate and for sending in photos. And special thanks to the rest of the advisory group for the Unsung Angels project: Linda Avey, Reema Bahnasy, Phil Black, Ryan Caldbeck, Rafael Corrales, Rory Eakin, Josh Felser, Kevin Hartz, Jared Kopf, Ellen Leanse, Mitch Lowe, Dave Samuel, Aydin Senkut, Semil Shah, Halle Tecco, and Sharon Vosmek.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy.