Alternative Financing Vs. Venture Capital: Which Option Is Best for Boosting Working Capital?

There are several potential financing options available to cash-strapped businesses that need a healthy dose of working capital. A bank loan or line of credit is often the first option that owners think of – and for businesses that qualify, this may be the best option.

In today’s uncertain business, economic and regulatory environment, qualifying for a bank loan can be difficult – especially for start-up companies and those that have experienced any type of financial difficulty. Sometimes, owners of businesses that don’t qualify for a bank loan decide that seeking venture capital or bringing on equity investors are other viable options.

But are they really? While there are some potential benefits to bringing venture capital and so-called “angel” investors into your business, there are drawbacks as well. Unfortunately, owners sometimes don’t think about these drawbacks until the ink has dried on a contract with a venture capitalist or angel investor – and it’s too late to back out of the deal.

Different Types of Financing

One problem with bringing in equity investors to help provide a working capital boost is that working capital and equity are really two different types of financing.

Working capital – or the money that is used to pay business expenses incurred during the time lag until cash from sales (or accounts receivable) is collected – is short-term in nature, so it should be financed via a short-term financing tool. Equity, however, should generally be used to finance rapid growth, business expansion, acquisitions or the purchase of long-term assets, which are defined as assets that are repaid over more than one 12-month business cycle.

But the biggest drawback to bringing equity investors into your business is a potential loss of control. When you sell equity (or shares) in your business to venture capitalists or angels, you are giving up a percentage of ownership in your business, and you may be doing so at an inopportune time. With this dilution of ownership most often comes a loss of control over some or all of the most important business decisions that must be made.

Sometimes, owners are enticed to sell equity by the fact that there is little (if any) out-of-pocket expense. Unlike debt financing, you don’t usually pay interest with equity financing. The equity investor gains its return via the ownership stake gained in your business. But the long-term “cost” of selling equity is always much higher than the short-term cost of debt, in terms of both actual cash cost as well as soft costs like the loss of control and stewardship of your company and the potential future value of the ownership shares that are sold.

Alternative Financing Solutions

But what if your business needs working capital and you don’t qualify for a bank loan or line of credit? Alternative financing solutions are often appropriate for injecting working capital into businesses in this situation. Three of the most common types of alternative financing used by such businesses are:

1. Full-Service Factoring – Businesses sell outstanding accounts receivable on an ongoing basis to a commercial finance (or factoring) company at a discount. The factoring company then manages the receivable until it is paid. Factoring is a well-established and accepted method of temporary alternative finance that is especially well-suited for rapidly growing companies and those with customer concentrations.

2. Accounts Receivable (A/R) Financing – A/R financing is an ideal solution for companies that are not yet bankable but have a stable financial condition and a more diverse customer base. Here, the business provides details on all accounts receivable and pledges those assets as collateral. The proceeds of those receivables are sent to a lockbox while the finance company calculates a borrowing base to determine the amount the company can borrow. When the borrower needs money, it makes an advance request and the finance company advances money using a percentage of the accounts receivable.

3. Asset-Based Lending (ABL) – This is a credit facility secured by all of a company’s assets, which may include A/R, equipment and inventory. Unlike with factoring, the business continues to manage and collect its own receivables and submits collateral reports on an ongoing basis to the finance company, which will review and periodically audit the reports.

In addition to providing working capital and enabling owners to maintain business control, alternative financing may provide other benefits as well:

  • It’s easy to determine the exact cost of financing and obtain an increase.
  • Professional collateral management can be included depending on the facility type and the lender.
  • Real-time, online interactive reporting is often available.
  • It may provide the business with access to more capital.
  • It’s flexible – financing ebbs and flows with the business’ needs.

It’s important to note that there are some circumstances in which equity is a viable and attractive financing solution. This is especially true in cases of business expansion and acquisition and new product launches – these are capital needs that are not generally well suited to debt financing. However, equity is not usually the appropriate financing solution to solve a working capital problem or help plug a cash-flow gap.

A Precious Commodity

Remember that business equity is a precious commodity that should only be considered under the right circumstances and at the right time. When equity financing is sought, ideally this should be done at a time when the company has good growth prospects and a significant cash need for this growth. Ideally, majority ownership (and thus, absolute control) should remain with the company founder(s).

Alternative financing solutions like factoring, A/R financing and ABL can provide the working capital boost many cash-strapped businesses that don’t qualify for bank financing need – without diluting ownership and possibly giving up business control at an inopportune time for the owner. If and when these companies become bankable later, it’s often an easy transition to a traditional bank line of credit. Your banker may be able to refer you to a commercial finance company that can offer the right type of alternative financing solution for your particular situation.

Taking the time to understand all the different financing options available to your business, and the pros and cons of each, is the best way to make sure you choose the best option for your business. The use of alternative financing can help your company grow without diluting your ownership. After all, it’s your business – shouldn’t you keep as much of it as possible?

How Venture Capital Is Different From Traditional Financing?

Venture capital is a new form of financing that has come as a boon for young entrepreneurs and it plays a strategic role in financing small scale enterprises and high technology and risky ventures. In all the developed and developing nations it has made its mark by providing equity capital, so, they are more like equity partners rather than financiers and they are benefited through capital gains.

As young and growing businesses need capital at the right time, not only to float their company in the market, but also to survive in the long run. When financial institutions like banks and other private financial organizations hesitate to take the risk of early stage financing, since the credibility of the budding firm is not established, venture capital firms comes into the foray to fund the project in the form of equity which can be termed as “high risk capital”.

Although there is a misconception that the interest of venture capital firms are mainly driven by cutting edge technology in the industry, it is not always the case with all venture capital firms. A venture capitalist associates high risk with huge profits. Of course after thoroughly analyzing the prospects and consequences and the viability of the project. The venture capitalist becomes a partner with the entrepreneur in his business. True venture capital financing need not confine itself to high end technology products, any risky idea with great potential can be financed and venture capital is an all powerful mechanism to promote and institutionalize entrepreneurship.

Mainly venture capital focuses on growth. A venture capitalist is very much interested to see a small business growing into a larger one. He assists in setting up the business, funding it and comes all along to seethe firm grow. If it is a potential equity participation, the venture capitalist can come out of the partnership once the company becomes profitable and take back his money by selling the shares or convertible securities. If the firm opts for a long term investment from the venture capital finance, the financier has to develop an investment attitude for a long term, say five or ten years to allow the company to make large profits.

Another form of financing is that the venture capitalist has his hands on management by which he becomes an active participant in the operations of the firm and his thinking is streamlined as to how to multiply and make quick money which is a win-win situation for both sides. Not only finance, the venture capitalist also contributes to marketing, technology upgradation and management skills to the benefit of the new firm.

The venture capitalist’s management approach is significantly different from that of a banker whose prime concern is collaterals and securities in the form of assets. He keeps his hands off the management and plays safe. The venture capitalist can also not behave like a stock market investor who invests money without having thorough knowledge about the company’s business and management. He combines the qualities of a banker, stock market investor and an entrepreneur in one.

Latest trend is that popular and giant software companies promote their content through the budding enterprises, by providing with the latest technology, training and expertise apart from finacing, which spreads the geographical area of operations of the parent company and also expand their territory to scale greater heights. Venture capital firms should focus on fostering growth and development of the enterprise and need not confine their interests only to finance technology, infrastructure, information technology services and the like. They need to diversify their investment in various sectors and even revival of sick units can be thought of as one of the options if there is potential in the business.