Starting a business can be difficult. Most young companies enter the scene with little capital to help them grow. Taking a loan out from the bank is a good start, but some options can end in higher rewards without a loan hanging over your head. These are alternative finance options, like raising seed capital from friends and family, angel investors, or crowdfunding. Today, we will explore forms of alternative finance available to you as a private company and where in the life cycle of your business they may appear.
Friends and Family
In the early stages of your company’s business life cycle, raising capital from family and friends is a great place to start securing safe, additional funding if you are able. When your family and friends are early investors, they are not required to register as such, making it easy for them to help your growing company. In this stage of your company’s development, entrepreneurs will want to retain as much equity as possible. Friends and family investors make this possible without needing to give up part of a growing company.
As you begin to accelerate your business plans, there are several avenues available that can help you raise significant capital and increase your valuation if (or when) you plan to offer your company later on the public market.
Angel Investors or Venture Capital Firms
As a private company, one of the traditional ways for you to raise capital is through an angel investor, a wealthy individual, or a venture capital firm, a group of investors that invest in companies on behalf of their clients to make them money. Both of these investors will generally invest early, requiring equity and hoping for a successful return on investment later on.
Peer-to-peer lending is a pretty straightforward form of alternative finance. Typically, through online platforms, investors can enter a pool of lenders, which a borrower can pull from and then repay. This form of investment cuts out the bank as the middleman, which opens up access to companies that may not have good credit.
Crowdfunding is a great mechanism for investments that build a company’s proof of concept because crowdfunding success relies on having a product or service people want or believe in. As the name would imply, crowdfunding is sourcing small investments from a large number of investors and falls into one of two categories rewards-based or equity-based offerings.
Rewards-based crowdfunding is an investment that expects compensation in the form of the product a company is producing. A good platform for this form of crowdfunding is Kickstarter. You will often see independent video game developers or small business owners looking to raise capital for a particular product and offer rewards based on how much an investor invests.
Equity-Based Crowdfunding or Regulation CF
Regulation CF is a crowdfunding tool regulated by the SEC signed into law in 2012. However, it has recently expanded to allow more investing opportunities. The JOBS Act allows non-accredited investors to invest in private companies in exchange for equity in the company. More specifically, for investors with either a net worth or annual income less than $107,000, investments in Reg CF offerings are limited to $2,200 or 5% of the greater of their annual income or net worth.
This tool allows companies to raise as much as $5 million in 12 months from many investors. In 2020, 358,000 investors participated in Reg CF campaigns.
Another method of allowing companies to have non-accredited investors invest in their companies is Regulation A+, by exempting the offering from SEC registration. Many companies have begun to offer securities through the RegA+ exemption following a successful RegCF raise. Proceeding this way will elevate your chances of raising more money, up to $75 million annually, because the Regulation CF will show potential investors that the products or services offered by the company are of great interest to many individuals. It is important to note that non-accredited investors are limited to investing 10% of their annual income or net worth, whichever is greater.
There are many avenues of alternative finance to investigate before going to a traditional financing option as a private company. We encourage you to look into all of these types and see which is right for you and your business.