Honoring the Legacy of William H. Payne

William H (Bill) Payne, the “Grandfather of Angel Investing” b. 4/25/1941 passed away peacefully on Dec 19, 2023 from dementia.  Ann and family members were with him at the end. Bill was an international expert in the angel investing asset class, after a successful career as an engineer, CEO and entrepreneur.

Born and raised in Peoria, Illinois, son of Carroll Rich Payne (b. 5/17/12, Benton, IL) and Dorothy Ellen Smith Payne (b. 4/6/19, Milwaukee, WI). Bill and his family moved to Sheldon, Illinois in 1953 where he was active in high school sports (letters in baseball and track), band and choral activities.

At the University of Illinois, Bill was a member of Theta Xi Fraternity and sang for four years with the Varsity Men’s Glee Club. He has fond memories of the Club’s tour of northern Europe during 1961.

Upon graduating from the University of Illinois with BS and MS in Ceramic Engineering in 1964, he was employed as a research engineer at Interpace Corp, Glendale, CA. During the Vietnam War, Bill worked for Hughes Aircraft developing thermal control coatings for the Surveyor unmanned lunar missions. He was pleased to learn much later that astronauts in the Apollo program retrieved from the moon a color TV calibration chart, made with special paints Bill developed. That Surveyor footpad is now housed in the Smithsonian, Washington, DC.

In 1971, Bill seized the entrepreneurial spirit and founded an electronics materials startup, Solid State Dielectrics in Burbank, CA. In 1982, he sold that company to DuPont Corp. Making one of his first angel investments, he encouraged his friend and colleague Dr Andre Galliath, to start Novacap, an electronic component manufacturer in 1979. Bill was the first investor and served as Director of the company until the company was sold to Dover in 1987. Bill received the Schwartzwalder Pace Award in 1978, honoring the young ceramic engineer of the year. He was elected president of the American Ceramic Society in 1989 and was named a Distinguished Life Member of ACerS in 2000.

Recognizing the talents of the team and the needs in the marketplace, he fostered the founding of Vista Staffing Solutions (temporary placement of doctors) in Salt Lake City, UT in 1986. This successful start-up was sold several years later. Bill served as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City from 1995 to 2007. While at Kauffman, he assisted in the formation of the Angel Capital Association and initiated the angel education development program. He continued to share his knowledge in angel investing by developing and delivering workshops for accredited investors and entrepreneurs for more than two decades.

Bill became a sought-after advisor to start-up companies, working with both investors and entrepreneurs worldwide. He has invested in over 60 companies. Bill was one of the original thinkers in the angel investor start-up space, working first as a solo investor, and then went on to help found four angel groups, devising valuable concepts and educational materials of the current US angel investing model. Working closely with the Angel Capital Association since its founding, Bill received the prestigious Hans Severins Award in 2009, presented annually to the most influential US angel investor. His speaking engagements and educational workshops took him to 8 countries where he led about 150 workshops. Bill and his wife Ann Colvin Payne, developed a particular fondness for the country of New Zealand where they have spent a total of approximately 3 years since 2010, assisting with development of that country’s startup ecosystem. In his honor, the eponymous William H Payne Award for Angel Investing annually honors the angel investor of the year for the ICE Angels (Auckland). In 2010, Bill was honored to receive the New Zealand ArchAngel Award for his impact on angel investing in the country that he considers the most beautiful in the world.

While in New Zealand, Bill pursued his love of fly fishing. Bill and Ann spent summers of the past 2 decades in Whitefish, MT where he also frequently enjoyed fly fishing; one summer catching and releasing over 300 trout.

In 2016, Bill was delighted to be honored by the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois with the Alumni Award for Distinguished Service. Earlier he served on the College of Engineering (Illinois) Board of Visitors for several years. Bill was recognized for his outstanding service by the New York State Center for Advanced Ceramic Technology, Alfred University, in 1994. He enjoyed his year mentoring student entrepreneurs at the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship, University of Arizona, as the 2004 Anheuser Busch Entrepreneur-in-Residence. After moving from San Diego to the Las Vegas area in 2003, he enjoyed serving in an advisory role to the Rebel Venture Fund (a student angel fund).

A treasured adventure was flying on the Concorde from New York to London in 1982. He spoke of seeing the curvature of the earth from space. Bill had an uncanny sense of direction. Even deep in a cavern, he could accurately point to due north. He enjoyed reading many an author from first book to last.

Although Bill was a victim of early onset osteoarthritis, enduring 18 joint surgeries beginning at the age of 50, it didn’t slow him down much. He was an avid hiker and bicyclist.

In addition to his vocation, volunteerism and hobbies, Bill enjoys his time with family.

He has 2 daughters, Tina Payne Sparks (husband Lex Andrew; children Knox, Dabney, Warfield, Gillespie, Rutherford, Tillian and Geneva) of Sandpoint, ID; and Lucy Kase (husband Philip James; children Kaitlin, Sydney, Abby and Ean) of San Diego, CA. He also shared parenting with Ann’s children; Ash Allen Hobbs (wife Allie Smith; children Avery and Audrey) of Eagle, ID; Tyler Colvin Hobbs (wife Regan Gough; children Lila and Noe) of Greenbrae, CA; and Elisa Hobbs Nett (husband Jeffrey Michael; children Rowan and Isla) of Cardiff by the Sea, CA.

Bill’s younger sister, Judy Payne and her partner Pat Bujard, reside in New Berlin, WI.

He and his wife Ann enjoyed a life of adventure. Bill lived a large life and made a difference in the USA and the world, helping wealthy individuals become confident angel investors using the skills he taught. He thus was able to pass along to the next generation a sense of generosity of time and resources; knowledge from experience and intellectual pursuit; and boundless enthusiasm. Above all, Bill was a good listener.

In lieu of flowers, please consider gifting The Angel Capital Association (https://secure.qgiv.com/event/anginvfoup2p/team/943265/ ), Glacier Conservancy (www.glacier.org) of Glacier National Park, or Nathan Adelson Hospice (nah.org-get-involved/donations).

About the Angel Capital Association and Angel Investor Foundation

ACA supports Angel Investors in many ways, including:

Education – a comprehensive education program, including Ann & Bill Payne Angel University

Data Analytics – a growing database resulting in the just-published 2023 Angel Funders Report

Public Policy – front-line advocacy for tax-favorable treatment to incentivize our asset class

Networking and Syndication – allowing angels across the country access to deal flow

ACA’s 501c3 subsidiary, The Angel Investor Foundation is fundraising for its Seed the Future Campaign, as outlined in the Case for Support. Gifts to this campaign will help angel investors and the entrepreneurs we foster achieve great things. Your gift to the Angel Investor Foundation is fully tax-deductible. 

A note from Tony Shipley, Seed the Future Chair: "Ann and Bill Payne are two of the kindest and most generous people I have met.  Even though the ACA (and the angel investing industry) will continue to benefit from Bill’s many contributions, we will miss his intellect going forward as we think about expansion of the asset class and look for better ways to serve entrepreneurs, which was at the heart of why both Ann and Bill were so giving in so many ways. Without their incredible generosity, the Angel Investor Foundation would not be in the position it is today to provide support for activities at the Angel Capital Association.  We are all indebted to Ann and Bill for ensuring that our new Foundation had a running start at achieving our mission.  For me personally, they have been my Guardian Angels as we moved from creation of the Foundation to implementing many of our programs.  We could not have gotten to this point in our development without their support and generosity.  I assume Bill and John Huston most likely have connected on “angel related” activities already as they both dearly loved the ACA, angel investors and most of all, the entrepreneurs we support."

Giving Options

  • Donate by Credit Card
  • Giving By Check (payable to the AIF) - Mail to Angel Investor Foundation, 10977 Granada Lane, Suite 103, Overland Park, KS, 66211.
  • Giving via Appreciated Securities - Please click here for instructions.
  • Giving through a Donor-Advised Fund (DAF)  - Select Angel Investor Foundation (EIN 86-1212274).

For any questions, please contact AIF CEO Pat Gouhin via email or call (913) 894-4700.

Recent Activity


  • Anonymous This gift from Judy and Jeff Gough is in memory of Bill Payne. Please advise Ann Payne of our donation. Thank you. January 2024
  • William Shapiro January 2024 $1,000.00