10 ways of obtaining finance for your entrepreneurial project (part II)
published on 30.07.17
In the previous article we began an overview of 20 ways in which your entrepreneurial business could obtain finance. We reviewed the first 10 methods, and today we are going to add 10 more which will serve to provide you with enough possible ways of starting or stimulating your enterprise.
Bartering services for money
You sell whatever you sell. But if, at first, the sales of this product or service are not enough for your needs, there is always the possibility of selling something else. What? Well, you could let the space in your premises (or part of it), sell the services of your specialist in programming or consultancy, etc. Anything that you have which could be sold as a product or service could serve to obtain a little capital for you without any cost other than the time spent and possibly a little inconvenience (as in the case of giving up part of the office space to other companies).
Business Angels (and Business Angels networks)
When the organisation is definitively operational, when there are sales, when we are functioning at an appropriate rhythm, then is the time for big words. We need to grow, and we need to do so quickly. For this reason it’s the right time to begin thinking about Business Angels, private investors who are seeking newly-created organisations in which to invest their money in quantities which are by no means negligible (and which could perhaps reach 50,000€), in the hope of a yield and/or an opportunity to participate in an interesting project. Of course, much like what happened to us when we sold part of the organisation in the first stages of the process, this involves giving up some of the control. Here, we need to consider, once more, the extent to which we can accept a change in the holdings of capital. The risk of losing control will always be present, but we should never forget that this would be a deal to which two sides would have to agree, so if some minimum requirements which we consider reasonable are not fulfilled, then there is no reason why we should agree.
It is also worth remembering that some organisations devote themselves to including a good handful of Business Angels in their networks so as to have available different types, sizes and profiles, thus being able to find the one most appropriate for their organisation.
Once the company is established, with a minimum level of income assured to cover expenses, and thus to subsist, the time will come when we have to confront another leap, this time, qualitatively speaking, a much bigger one. It is a question of growing until our repeatability (ability to repeat sales without much effort) and scalability (ability to increase income without commensurate increases in costs) enable us to position ourselves in the league of those companies which already have a winning inertia, and which are going to able to resist, and very probably grow, for several years. So it is the time for venture capitalists, organisations of investors which gather the individual capital sums of all of them into a joint fund which enables them to make much larger investments in companies which appear to have the prospect of good yields if they can achieve this leap in growth. Of course, there are more requests to cede part of the organisation, but the amounts are also larger.
Thanks to current technology we can very easily unite small investors behind any project or idea which seems interesting to them. The various ‘crowdfunding’ platforms enable significant sums of money to be accumulated without much effort whenever there is a clear objective to be achieved (and if the target figure is not reached, the money is returned to the investors). Basically, the investors are content to be part of the project or idea, but they also expect some kind of gesture, some perks or advantages relative to the other buyers/clients, once the project has become established. Moreover, crowdfunding is a financing system that we can use as many times as we want: for example, we could use it for the first time to collect enough money to contract the services of a website designer; but later on we could launch another request for crowdfunding for the same project, this time in order to buy some necessary machine or computer; and we could use the same system again to finance an expansion; and so on, ad infinitum.
Subsidies from the Government
There are all kinds of these. From councils, communities, countries and even continents (for example, through the European Union). So, when seeking invitations to apply for subsidies for which our project may qualify, it is necessary to scrutinise the invitations carefully (each source has its own methods, and many already have an on-line ‘alert’ service to which one can subscribe in order to receive all the invitations, or only those which fulfil certain criteria). There are, for example, subsidies to support innovative projects, so if there is an aspect of our project which can call innovative, we should not delay applying for that subsidy. Other subsidies (especially those for social projects) are connected with the project’s beneficiaries or recipients. There are even subsidies related to the manner in which an organisation is managed (for example, those which favour employing the members of certain groups). It is a matter of searching and applying and, of course, of fulfilling the requirements specified in each invitation.
Financing from suppliers
When we have been operating for several months, our suppliers know us, and they know that we are reliable payers, a company which is growing and one which they may wish to keep. It is then that it could be very interesting and appropriate to sit down with them to ask them, face to face, to extend the period for payment. The first transactions with suppliers are usually in cash but, little by little, their trust could allow us to ask them to make some concession in this respect. In this way we can release some of the pressure on our balance of payments (which is the period between the date when we pay our suppliers and the date when we collect from our clients or other sources of income; the longer this period, the greater the risk of bankruptcy, because the day will come when, in spite of having regular income, we shall be obliged to pay our costs long before collecting that income).
These can be found everywhere: there are those for innovation, for young people, for specific sectors or regions, etc. They provide us with several things: 1) the obligation to accelerate our rhythm to be able to present something respectable; 2) the prize, if we win it, which could be cash, advice, or interest-free credit; 3) prestige and recognition. So there is nothing to lose. One only needs to know who organises them and to look out for the invitations.
Let’s imagine that our business has already been active for some time. We therefore already have in our team some specialists whose work is specific, such as that of the community manager. If we want to earn a little more money, we could consider selling some of our community manager’s time to other companies. And the same could apply to the accountant. Or we could advise companies which are starting up. Or give classes on some of the skills or experiences that we have acquired in our organisation. The key is to discover what it is that we do well, and which could be sold as an alternative ‘product’.
Mortgaging the house
Without doubt, this is very risky. And one needs to own a house (something which is becoming less and less common today). But we should not forget that it is an interesting option, because it enables us to have access to money in such a way that we will not be dependent on anyone, and will not have to cede any part of the organisation. We run a risk, that of putting all our eggs in one basket, all our assets, obtained by dint of a lot of sweat and effort. But it is a risk controlled by ourselves, and not by anyone else.
This involves managing alone ‒ surviving with very little money or setting up an organisation ‒ and not depending on help or money from anyone else. It is therefore more a way of thinking than a specific method of raising finance, and it involves trying by all possible means to use one’s own money, and not that of others. We would therefore avoid some of the foregoing proposals, such as the inclusion of new investors, business angels, etc. What we don’t want are ties or pressures, we don’t want to be dependent on anyone, we don’t want to lose even one whit of control. The price to be paid, of course, is a certain slowness of growth in the early stages. When we close our doors to large external sources of money (such as the business angels), the speed at which we can grow is slower. But as we have said, in exchange, our project will always be our own, and we will be able to keep it within the strategies which we ourselves have designed.
Many large and successful companies have grown on the basis of bootstrapping, showing that it is a valid and viable option (you can verify this in the article which we published some time ago).
As we have seen, there are dozens of different ways of obtaining financing for our entrepreneurial projects. Essentially, it is a matter of gauging which one is the most appropriate for each stage of our growth and, especially, what the offsetting disadvantage is to the amount of money which it will bring us. Then comes the easy part: spending it.
Marc Ambit – Consultant and teacher at TBS Barcelona Campus