Distinguished Alumni Awards

William H. Payne

William H. Payne

For his remarkable leadership and influence in angel investing in the United States and around the world.

Angel Investor, Board Member, Lead Instructor, Angel Capital Association
Founder, Solid State Dielectrics Founder

  • BS, 1963, Materials Science & Engineering, University of Illinois
  • MS, 1964, Materials Science & Engineering, University of Illinois

Bill Payne is often referred to as the “grandfather of angel investing.” Today, entrepreneurial engineers are in vogue with successful Kickstarter programs and networks of venture capitalists in virtually every major city in the United States. Long before that was the case, Payne was a leader in angel investing, serving as a counselor and resource to budding entrepreneurs for four decades.  

Payne is also a leader in materials science, with terms as president of the American Ceramic Society, the Ceramic Foundation, and the United States Advanced Ceramics Association. He was named a Distinguished Life Member, the highest award of the American Ceramic Society in 2000.  In 1971, he founded Solid State Dielectrics (SSD), a manufacturer of dielectric powders for the multilayer ceramic capacitor business. Payne led the business for over a decade before selling SSD to DuPont in 1982.

Because angel investors supply their personal funds much earlier than venture capitalists, Payne’s influence in this area is very impressive. An angel investor since 1980, he has successfully founded and invested in 70 startups. Since 1999, he has expanded that role by founding and serving as an organizing member of four angel organizations in the U.S.: Aztec Venture Network, a pool of 31 investors in the San Diego Area; Tech Coast Angels, a large network of 250 in Southern California; Vegas Valley Angels, a network of 45 investors in Las Vegas; and Frontier Angel Funds, which pools funds of over 50 accredited investors in rural Montana.

From 1995-2007, as an Entrepreneur-Residence with the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Payne worked on educational programs for entrepreneurs and their investors, including eVenturing.com and the Power of Angel Investing seminar series. While there, he was heavily involved in the formation of the Angel Capital Education Foundation. Payne also took his expertise internationally to New Zealand, serving as BNZ University of Auckland Entrepreneur-In-Residence for five months in 2010. In November of that year, he earned the Arch Angel Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to angel investing in that country.  He and his wife recently returned from their eighth visit to New Zealand, sharing their experiences in angel investing.

His influence in startups and entrepreneurism is simply remarkable. He has many years of service on private company boards and non-profit board of directors. He has collaborated to develop seven seminars for angel investors and entrepreneurs. He has taught over 125 workshops and seminars on angel investing in 35 states, four Canadian provinces, and nine countries. He has served on six university advisory boards, including the Engineering at Illinois Board of Visitors.

Payne has been the recipient of numerous accolades, including the industry’s highest U.S. honor, the 2009 Hans Severiens Memorial Award for Outstanding Contributions to Angel Investing.