The New Year is the time when would-be entrepreneurs spring into action to get their companies started. One important piece of the entrepreneurial puzzle is getting funding for your business. As an entrepreneur, you face a challenging road, and one of the biggest challenges is finding a way to fund your company.
In the current economic environment, getting financing for a startup is very difficult. Many entrepreneurs go about this process the wrong way. They often have unrealistic expectations and think that getting funding will be quick and easy. Because of this, they go unprepared. Furthermore, they often pursue the wrong sources . For example, pursuing an angel investment won’t help you unless you are in a high growth industry. And, without collateral, most banks won’t give you a business loan regardless of how good your business plan is.
Because of this, more often than not they don’t get funded and their business fails. I know because I see this every day, but it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s a matter of reviewing your options and pursuing those with the greatest chance of success.
Before we review the list of financing options, I’d like to take a minute to dispel a common myth. Many entrepreneurs believe that only good ideas get funding. This is not true. Results get funding. And by “results,” I mean that the entrepreneur has already built a proof-of-concept business that is running at a small scale and producing results. Those businesses have a much greater chance of getting funded. Keep this point in mind as you seek financing.
Many of life’s burdens – big and small – are lightened with a friend for support and this lesson has not been lost in business. If you’re thinking of starting a business with a friend or family member, you’re not alone. Some of the most enduring and positive American companies were founded by a couple of friends who had an idea. They didn’t always have a lot of start-up cash, but they had each other.
- UPS was started in 1907 by two teenagers with a single bicycle and a hundred dollars borrowed from a friend. Back then the U.S. Parcel Post wasn’t around and there was plenty of opportunity for the American Messenger Company of Seattle, Washington.
- Ben and Jerry met in seventh-grade gym class in 1963. A decade later, they took a five-dollar correspondence course in making ice cream.
- In 1978 two 20-something friends, John and Rene pulled together $45,000 to open what started as SaferWay and later became Whole Foods Market. Times were so hard on the friends they lived in the store and reportedly bathed using the hose disconnected from the dishwasher.
Limited Liability Company formations outpace Corporate formations by nearly two-to-one, so the easy answer to this question seems to be that businesses prefer LLCs. However, what works for one, or even the majority, of businesses may not be right for others. Every company faces its own unique challenges and has its own needs, and even though LLC formation is so much higher than corporate formation, that doesn’t mean that every business will be happy with a limited liability company structure.
The main reason behind why LLCs continue to be so popular seems to be the ease in which an entrepreneur can run an LLC, either by themselves or with a handful of other people. Limited Liability Companies don’t require annual shareholder meetings, nor do they need meticulous notes on every debate that leads to a business decision. Corporations, on the other hand, can be a bit of a pain to run and have to contend with plenty of extra state regulations. But what sort of companies find dealing with those regulations worth the benefits of a corporate structure? And what kind of businesses do better as limited liability companies?
The advantages and disadvantages of incorporating in another state are hotly debated. We’ve seen a lot of other business-filing companies and services extol the virtues of incorporating in Nevada or Delaware, but the reality of the situation is a bit more nuanced. More often than not these other companies are trying to convince you of the need of their services and, while we could do the same, we want to actually help people, not just sell them something. For most businesses, incorporating outside of their home state isn’t a good idea. You have to contend with foreign qualification fees, regulations, licensing, and, to top it all off, the main state you do business in will probably still want to collect the same amount of taxes as they would if the business was formed in its borders. So the question inevitably shifts from ‘should you go to another state?’ to ‘in what cases would forming in another state be advantageous?’. Well, you’d typically want to form outside of your home state for the following reasons.
Venture capital is a bit misunderstood due to the press venture investments often receive. It seems like every week or so the news is covering some start-up that raised an inordinate amount of venture capital for an idea that sounds, at best, a bit shaky.
But that tenuous relationship between a business idea and its application is what turns an investment into an injection of venture capital. Venture capital is, in a nutshell, the money that is invested into an early-stage, high-risk company that is believed to have the potential to yield huge returns, if it succeeds.
Recently, the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act) passed amid much hoopla about how this legislation would be the stimulus that jumpstarts the economy and enables people like you and me to invest in all of these startups without becoming accredited investors, as was previously required by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Now if you’re a small business owner, the floodgates will open, and you’ll be able to raise tons of money to accelerate your business, right? Probably not. While the SEC is still in its evaluation stage and the actual regulations have not been written, some things are already clear from the text of the JOBS Act bill itself. First, you will only be able to raise a total of $1 million in the course of 12 months, and individual investors will only be able to contribute the greater of $2,000 or 5% of net income if they make less than $100,000 per year or have a net worth of less than $100,000, and they will only be able to contribute the greater of 10% of the net income or net worth of the investor if the investor makes or is worth more than $100,000 and not to exceed $100,000 (see Section 302(a) of the text of the bill for details). So, raising $1,000,000 will require either at least 10 high income/net worth investors or at least 500 lower net worth investors, and probably many more than that.
We aren’t really sure how business pundits come up with the prophecies they espouse on prime time cable news shows. Perhaps it has something to do with tracking the stars, seeking out the fortune teller at the local Roma encampment, and gazing misty-eyed into a magical crystal ball. Or maybe it has more to do with tracking current trends and hoping that they are applicable to a wider array of companies than currently being affected.
Of course, there is always the old “throw a dart at a piece of paper and read out the results” trick. While this method may not be quite as accurate, it seems to the go-to plan for some corporate prophets.
How else would we have gotten the following four failed business predictions over the years? Continue reading