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Alternative Financing And Why Equity Financing Has Lost Its Luste

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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.

What’s interesting though, is that demand for equity financing transcends the allure of other useful financing instruments to the point that it has become intoxicating for any founder expecting to reach unicorn status as quickly as possible. Take, for instance, this generally relatable financing example. New home buyers are always happy when their bank lender is willing to extend a mortgage that will provide reasonable financing terms on their dream house. Rarely do those new home buyers then leverage the accumulated equity in the property plus all of their assets to go out and take mortgages on ten additional properties, making a bet that they can 10x their annual earnings within a year simply to cover the many mortgage payments. As an aside, this situation did occur, and as you all know, it was one of the main precursors to the 2008 financial crisis. When it comes to the startup ecosystem, this mentality has become increasingly normal for the hottest new companies who go from a $10M series A to a $100M series B within three months, inadvertently forcing founders to 10x their monthly burn, headcount, and revenue run rate simply to meet the requisite moonshot growth expectations.

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.

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How To Get Team Members On The Same Page: 5 Tactics To Follow

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(Editor’s Note: The following article is a guest post by superstar entrepreneur and tech investor Jonathan Schultz.)

No matter how advanced artificial intelligence gets, we will always need humans to bring their organization’s vision to life. But, how do we bring people on board that can really, truly live and breathe that same vision? What is the secret sauce to getting team members on board without having to twist their arm? Let’s find out.

The biggest thing to take into consideration is that different people are influenced by different things. There is not a one-size-fits-all method that will get everyone on board with new ideas and plans. Here are a few ways to get your team members on board:

1. LISTEN TO THEM & LEARN FROM THEM

You need to understand where the biggest issues and concerns within your company lie. You have to create opportunities for people to engage directly. To feel empowered. To move in the direction that allows them the ability to make decisions. You will never win over any team members by making hasty assumptions, so get down to the facts and ask the hard questions, listen to the answers and learn from the feedback you are getting. You can’t do every job at your company —so stop trying to!

2. BE RELATABLE

Don’t just tell people what you want to do and what you plan to do, give specific reasons for each. There’s a reason why MLK and Gandhi were able to get crowds everywhere they went. Remember — people aren’t following you for who you are, they’re following you for what you believe. Talk about what motivates you, your experiences, who you really are and what you believe in.

You need to show your team a vulnerable and human side so they can relate to you —and then relate to themselves. If your team can understand where you are coming from, they will follow you to the depths of … wherever you go. Be a leader!

3. TAP INTO EMOTIONS

Emotions certainly have a place in business – a very important place, honestly. It’s where most important decisions manifest from. As much as we think we’re thinking from our heads —the reasons why intuition and “that’s a gut feeling” exist is because it’s coming from an emotional place. If you are genuinely passionate about your team and your business and you are invested in your ideas, your team will feel that, and so will your customers. Do not hold back.

4. ALWAYS BE CONSISTENT

Your message should never alter. Maybe you pivot, but you need to say what you mean and mean what you say. While your tone may change and your approach may change, your central message should always be consistent. The idea is not to just spout off what you think the audience wants to hear, but to tell them what they need to hear in an honest and professional way. And, allow feedback to come back in the same manner. This is not personal —this is progress. Leaders will win over their them by being transparent and saying things in a way that people can hear.

5. MAKE AN IMPACT THAT MATTERS

What you say and do should be aligned with your company’s purpose and goals. You need to make it very clear to your team members how they play into the bigger picture. Remember, without them, there is no picture. When you narrow your focus on purpose, you establish common ground that many people can get behind and support.

These five tips will help you get your full team on board with your vision. Stay honest, be true to your values and make sure your team knows that they are vital and the reason for the company achieving its goals. As we say, there’s no “I” in “team”.

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

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How Mark Cuban Invested $640k In A Company That Started…As A Prank

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In what turned out to be a ruse, a startup disguised their business as a prank to raise over $640k from investor Mark Cuban on Shark Tank.

Minneapolis-based entrepreneurs, Ryan Walther and Arik Nordby, founded Prank-O, a business that was built around amusing their friends with bizarre and fake products.

In their pitch to the Sharks, they introduced a string of products in gift boxes — ranging from coffee-maker shower heads to snack hats — only to reveal later that the novel products were fake.

The duo looked to snag an investment of $640k for an 8% stake in the business, before revealing their declining sales — from $10M five years ago to an estimated $2.8M this year.

The dip in sales came after the team tried to branch into creating the prank products, stringing together debt worth nearly $1M.

Despite the numbers, Mark Cuban bit. “I’ll make you an offer, but you’re going to have to listen,” Cuban said.

“You’ve got a great product, you’ve got great comedy minds, but your track record speaks for itself, and I don’t mean that in any disrespect, but all entrepreneurs go through this,” he said, offering $640k for 25%, more than three times what the company initially pitched.

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This Mogul Became America’s 1st Black Billion-Dollar Businesswoman

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Sheila Johnson.

Where to start?

She’s the first black billion-dollar businesswoman. Before Oprah Winfrey.

She started as a TV executive, founding Black Entertainment Television (BET), the first TV network targeting African Americans. She then became a real estate mogul.

Oh, she also owns a stake in three major sports franchises, the NBA Wizards, NHL Capitals and the WNBA Mystics, the African American, period, to boast that claim.

In honor of Black History Month, let’s dive into her remarkable career.

FAST FACTS:

  • Born Sheila Crump in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, Johnson co-founded BET in 1979 with then-husband Robert Johnson. The couple sold it to Viacom in 2000 for $2.9B
  • Sheila Crump Johnson became the first African American woman on the Forbes’ Billionaire list in 2000—beating Oprah Winfrey to the distinction.
  • Per Forbes, Johnson has an $820M net worth as of 2019

 GIPHY

Foray into real estate…

After closing the sale to Viacom, Robert and Sheila pocketed around $1.5B each. Johnson used that windfall as seed money to build a hospitality real estate empire in 2005.

“There’s a disparity in paychecks between whites and blacks,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “I will never forget that.”

As CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts, Sheila controls a spectacular portfolio of six luxury hotels in Florida, Virginia and South Carolina. And she’s built it from the ground up—literally—in her own spirit.

“I’ve been to many hotels, not only in the US, but all over the world,” she told Forbes last year. “And I wanted to find something that was going to really make Salamander stand out beyond all of these hotels.”

So what does that mean?

“You have to understand, there are a lot of people, investment companies, with very deep pockets,” she says. “They can do it, but they don’t have the experiences that we’re able to bring. I am constantly trying to find a way to help Salamander Resort & Spa stand out head over heels above any other hotel — not only in the area, but in the nation.

“I want them to leave that resort wanting to come back and not just say, ‘I’ll be back in six months.’ I want them to come back all the time.”

And so far it’s worked. In fact, on Forbes Travel Guide’s 61st list of Star-Rated hotels, Johnson’s Salamander Resort & Spa outside of Washington, DC earned a Five-Star distinction.

Image Credit: Salamander Resort & Spa

Forbes: “Everything [she] touches turns to gold.”

That’s a real quote. From Forbes. Last year. It’s also true.

BET? Billion-dollar exit. Washington Capitals? Stanley Cup.

And Roma. Won 10 Oscars. Who showed it before a single soul started caring? Johnson’s Middleburg Film Festival. (Which, by the way, has 32 films and counting in Academy Award contention.)

Remember her golf resort at Innisbrook? Oh, yeah. Hosts the Valspar Championship, one of the PGA calendar’s most-anticipated tournaments.

Becoming a billionaire comes with a new level of clout as well. “When you don’t have money, you’re not invited to special events; you really don’t matter,” she told WSJ. “It’s a society thing.”

So instead, she’s turned to giving back. Her Sheila Johnson Fellowship’s paid for more then 40 scholarships at Harvard University for students who otherwise wouldn’t afford to attend.

Image result for sheila johnson"

Breaking glass ceilings. 

There’s an alarming statistic in business and diversity—especially as it pertains to women. According to research by investor Richard Kerby, 18% of all VCs are women—and only 3% are black. In addition, less than 50 black women ever have raised $1M in funding.

“When I got started,” Johnson says, “I couldn’t get a loan. I had to use my own money to get Salamander Resort and Spa.”

She explained to WSJ last year that men can go to any bank with a bank proposal. And no matter how “wacky” the idea is, she said, “they’re going to get the financing. Women do not have that ability.”

Johnson’s taken it upon herself to do something about that, becoming one of the founding partners of WE Capital, an investment firm that invests in female entrepreneurs.

“I started out in a very unique position where I had my own capital to be able to get started,” she says. “But there have got to be banks and investors that believe in helping women who want to be entrepreneurs in the hospitality business.

“And it’s just really, really important that they really take a look at this.”

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