When a startup founder is ready to transform their idea into a viable business, they almost always look to equity financing–whether that’s in the form of checks from friends and family, an angel syndicate, or in rare cases, a early stage Venture Capital fund. This thought process is justified. In the embryonic stage of the startup lifecycle, exchanging equity for capital is often the only legitimate option to amass enough cash reserves to build an initial team, create an MVP, and hit the market, as debt investors will want security over non-existent assets and personal loans/credit cards can quickly become dangerous liabilities. Equity financing is also a proven (and expected) option for creating runway and providing growth capital for business expansion through a potential IPO or acquisition.
However, equity financing has its weaknesses–dilution of ownership stake, relinquishing board seats and autonomy of decision making, and irrational growth expectations, amongst others–and make raising a follow-on, or even first-time round less appealing to entrepreneurs who have creatively bootstrapped their way to post-revenue status. Every founder feels protective over their startup baby, and the thought of having a “growth at all costs” investor take over the helm is irksome. Removing the vagaries and potential biases of founders’ opinions, it’s an industry truism that only a fraction of startups looking to attain equity funding will ever achieve that goal.
Just this month, well known venture industry and NYT reporter Erin Griffith published an excellent op-ed analyzing the growing founder malaise towards traditional VC fundraising and the potential pitfalls of taking on equity financing when it’s not the appropriate long-term option. In the piece, venture capitalist Josh Koppelman of First Round Capital candidly remarks, “I sell jet fuel, and some people don’t want to build a jet.” Everyone knows what happens when you put potent jet fuel in a slow but steady single-engine prop plane—it stalls out and explodes.
Fortunately, alternatives have emerged to dislodge the binary outcome of either banking VC jet fuel or sputtering out entirely. This piece will shed light on the other financial options.. These providers have emerged to both complement and supplement the old guard of financiers, with most focused on helping post-launch startups meet short- to mid-term cash flow needs—without injecting so much capital as to force their trajectories towards the sun (or seabed). The advent of the cable car did not kill off transportation by horse—it simply served as a flexible alternative to meet local demand. Much like a startup idea, it was edgy, scalable, and pragmatic. Alternative financing upstarts today provide flexible, non-dilutive financing to entrepreneurs whose capital needs are not met by a time-consuming equity fundraise or difficult-to-obtain and restrictive institutional debt financing.
Breaking down alternative financing options for the startup economy (what’s alternative financing, anyways?)
Alternative financing is an umbrella categorization of non-standard financing solutions to supplement plain vanilla equity and institutional debt. For the startup economy, these solutions range from the more traditional: term loans, lines of credit, asset-backed loans, convertible debt, receivables/payables financing to the more creative: hybrid equity funding invoice/SaaS factoring, crowdfunding, microloans, grants/tax credit financing, revenue-share agreements, to the “wild west” of fundraising instruments–crypto/tokens.
Why so many options? If the demand is there, you better believe a savvy capital provider will attempt to manufacture a solution. Plus, the more arcane the structure, the lower the initial competition, and the higher the margins and ability to grab market share. These solutions are not only rising in popularity and easier to obtain, they’re also well-suited for the “torso” of the market—companies with varying levels of traction, a proven user acquisition strategy, and a readiness to grease the wheels on the marketing machine.
Flexible Financing to Drive Growth Without Dilution
When it comes to early- to mid-stage startups, some customizable financing instruments have emerged as clear winners in a competitive market where flexibility is the ultimate selling point. In addition to an emphasis on ease of use, the demand for many of these offerings is spiking thanks to quick access to liquidity and an a la carte menu of fee structures to decide between, from interest rates to transaction fees to revenue share agreements.
This is a unique segment of the market, where high growth rates and monthly revenue volume upwards of $500k-$2m remains unattractive to institutional banks offering single-digit APR debt. While $24 million a year in revenue might seem impressive, a revolving line of credit or an AR line on that sum at 8%/yr will gross just $192,000 prior to cost of capital, which could wipe out at least 50% of that margin. Again, low six figure fees might appear attractive to your average “Joey finance,” but they’re nothing for abank turning billions in volume a year.
In our overextended bull market where cash seems to be omnipresent, here are four of the most prevalent alternative financing categories providing liquidity geared towards growth, without the friction points of traditional debt and equity instruments.
How To Launch Your Business In Less Than 30 Days
Got a great business idea that you think might be the next big thing? Despite the uncertainty and the risks tagged to becoming an entrepreneur, you wouldn’t know until you try. Besides, it takes less than a month to launch a product or service. Here’s how you make that happen.
Millennials To Gen Z: 5 Ways They Differ In The Workplace
(Editor’s Note: The following article is a guest post by superstar entrepreneur and tech investor Jonathan Schultz.)
There has been plenty of focus on millennials in the past few years, but it’s now time to redirect our attention to Gen Z. Right now Gen Z is entering the workforce and are ready to become the face of corporate America.
While there are plenty of similarities between Gen Z and Millennials, let’s look at a few ways they differ.
Gen Z is more competitive
Millennials have been said to be collaborative and teamwork focused and want to operate in an environment where they feel included and part of something bigger. Gen Z is said to be more competitive and want to be judged based off of their individual performance.
Gen Z also understands that there is a need for consistent development in skills in order to compete. This generation will do whatever it takes but certainly wants to reap rewards for it.
Gen Z is highly idependent
Gen Z typically likes to work alone and many of them would rather have their own office space as opposed to working in open and collaborative environments. This generation also prefers to manage their own projects, so their unique skill sets can be exposed.
Gen Z does not want to depend on others to get things done.
Gen Z prefers face-to-face communication
Millennials love to communicate via email, text, and anything other than face-to-face. The Gen Z group are huge in-person interactors and prefer it over the less personal email or text.
Millennials have received a lot of “bad press” for being so attached to their phones and Gen Z wants to transition out of that shadow. This generation will want more in-person meetings to discuss projects, etc.
Gen Z knows technology
Gen Z has known nothing other than technology their entire lives. They grew up with Facebook, texting, etc. Millennials still grew up with landlines and dial-up internet.
While Millennials are tech-savvy, Gen Z has been living in a world of smartphones for as long as they can remember. This generations relationship to technology is almost instinctual rather than learned.
Gen Z expects the workplace to conform to their needs
Gen Z wants everything to be catered to their needs. This is why companies have had to re-think the amenities they offer and how they structure their offices in order to meet the needs of this young workforce.
Companies now have to appeal to this younger mindset and have a less cookie-cutter approach to the environment they create for their employees. While millennials also expect the workplace to conform to their needs, for Gen Z, it could mean the difference between accepting a job offer or not.
There are obviously very clear differences between these two generations. Yes, every member of a generation will have their own unique traits and characteristics, but overall you will see that Gen Z is a more independent and technologically-advanced group in comparison to Millennials.
Jonathan Schultz is an entrepreneur, real estate tech investor and influencer. He’s the co-founder of Onyx Equities, a leading private equity real estate firm, and has been voted one of the most powerful people in real estate. Follow Jon’s blog here.
GRAPH: 63 Fintech Startups That Are Targeting Millennials
Many fintech startups are leveraging existing technologies already popular among young adults such as social networks and mobile messaging.
Project crowdfunding sites GoFundMe and Andreessen Horowitz-backed Tilt, for example, mirror or take advantage of social networks and are largely popular among college audiences. Google Ventures and General Catalyst-backed HelloDigit transfers money directly via text message.
The graphic below breaks down the set of primarily US-based fintech companies appealing to the millennial generation including Robinhood, Acorns, Wealthfront, Earnest and more. (As we’ve also highlighted separately, startups in the digital banking market have attracted more than $10B since 2010.)