Tag Archive for 'funding'

Is a crowdfunding business loan right for you?

In my last column I introduced the concept of crowdfunding — the new word and online methods of fundraising and capitalization. The two crowdfunding examples I described were contributions and business transactions doubling as fundraising.

Let’s continue with the third type, which is, crowdfunding structured for loans.

Crowdfunding debt, AKA peer-to-peer and social lending, is like traditional borrowing: a request for funds comes with the promise of repayment with interest over a specific term. But the former is done online, and the latter is not. Individuals use crowdfunding for personal loans, but our focus here is for business borrowing, which typically involve four crowds:

1. Business borrowers

2. An online crowdfunding platform aggregating loan requests

3. A funding and underwriting source, likely a hedge fund

4. Individuals who invest with #3, knowing it’s for loans to small businesses

Remember the innumerable and anonymous crowdfunding factors from the previous column? These two are also in play with crowdfunding debt, because a large crowd is required to provide a pool of loan funds and dilute the risk, and investors are only known to the funding source aggregator.

Regardless of the funding source, crowdfunding or traditional, small business loans are expensive for the borrower because this sector is considered high risk for two primary reasons:

1. Most small businesses are undercapitalized and operate on a thin survival margin

2. Too many small business owners don’t track financial performance well enough to know how they’re really doing.

And since crowdfunding loans are unsecured, taking the risk to an even higher level, crowdfunding business loans are doubly expensive.

So is a crowdfunding business loan right for you? Here’s some context: If you can borrow from your bank, this year you’ll probably pay an average of about 6% annual interest rate. A crowdfunding loan APR will likely be 15% or more. Any questions?

Crowdfunding business lending has achieved some level of critical mass and is growing.  As I’ve said before, the future of small business capitalization will look a lot different than it does today largely due to this emerging alternative.

Next time we’ll wrap up this series with a tour of the good, bad, and improbable of investor equity crowdfunding. And more tough love.

Write this on a rock If you can borrow money from a bank, don’t borrow from a crowd

Jim Blasingame is the author of the award-winning book, “The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.”


Angel investors and other small business capital sources

Blasingame’s 3rd Law of Small Business states, “Its redundant to say ‘undercapitalized small business.’”

There are two primary reasons this Law is true:

1. Unlike big businesses, small businesses typically have only three sources of capital: a) retained earnings (profits left in the business); b) direct investment, usually by the founder; and c) debt, usually from a bank.

2. Everyday one or more elements of a small business are screaming for funds to increase the company’s competitive advantage.

Even very successful small businesses are undercapitalized. In fact, ironically, the more successful a small business is, the more undercapitalized it will likely be. If a business is not growing, it needs capital to achieve growth. A growing business needs capital for R&D, upgrading technology, acquiring new product lines, funding accounts receivable and inventory that increase with sales growth – the list is long.

For most small businesses, the lion’s share of capital comes from retained earnings and bank debt. However, other than the founder’s investment, direct equity capital is less likely. But when outside equity is acquired, the next most likely source is from angel investors, which has become an increasing direct investment option over the past few years.

An angel investor is typically an individual who has money to invest and, instead of putting all of it in the stock market, he or she will allocate a portion to invest directly into a business, which could be either a start-up or a going concern. More recently, angel investors have formed regional consortiums to aggregate their investment dollars in order to spread the risk and make sure that they don’t make the mistake of under-funding a venture.

Most people have heard of venture capitalists (VC), the big dogs of entrepreneurial investment. Angels are sort of mini-VCs. The big difference is the level of funding and, in many cases, the closeness of the relationship with management; angels will be more likely to be geographically and emotionally closer to their recipient than a VC. The big similarity is that both anticipate an exit strategy where their capital – and hopefully a profit – are returned. This last point is the primary reason why most small businesses are not candidates for any investor capital, since the typical small business founder expects to run his or her business forever and perhaps hand it off to the next generation.

Recently, on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked about how angel investors choose investment candidates with Tim Berry. Tim is the world’s leading expert on business planning, founder of Palo Alto Software, an original member of my Brain Trust and my good friend. Tim is not only an angel investor, he is a member of one of those angel consortiums mentioned earlier. Take a few minutes to listen to what Tim told me about his experience and this fascinating process.




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