Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-stimulated angiogenesis depends on a cross-talk mechanism involving VEGF receptor 2 (VEGFR2), vascular endothelial (VE)-cadherin and the αVβ3 integrin. Because we have shown that αVβ3 integrin activation is dependent on its incorporation, along with the insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor (IGF1R) kinase, into a ternary receptor complex organized by the matrix receptor syndecan-1 (Sdc1), we questioned the role of this core complex in VEGF-stimulated angiogenesis. We find that the Sdc1-coupled ternary receptor complex is required for VEGF signalling and for stimulation of vascular endothelial cell migration by vascular endothelial cadherin (VE-cadherin) engagement. VE-cadherin binding to Fc/VE-cadherin extracellular domain chimera activates Sdc1-coupled IGF1R and αvβ3 integrin; this depends on VEGFR2 and c-Src activated by the cadherin. Blocking homotypic VE-cadherin engagement disrupts VEGF-stimulated cell migration, which is restored by clustering the cadherin in the absence of cell–cell adhesion. This cadherin-dependent stimulation requires VEGFR2 and IGF1R and is blocked by synstatin (SSTN)92–119, a peptide that competitively disrupts the Sdc1-coupled ternary complex and prevents the αVβ3 integrin activation required for VEGFR2 activation. VEGFR2-stimulated angiogenesis in the mouse aortic ring explant assay is disrupted by SSTN, although only early in the process, suggesting that IGF1R coupling to Sdc1 and αVβ3 integrin comprises a core activation mechanism activated by VE-cadherin that is necessary for VEGFR2 and integrin activation in the initial stages of endothelial cell dissemination during angiogenesis.