Growthink Blog

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Creative Business Financing Techniques - Donations


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One neat thing about helping entrepreneurs fund their businesses is that whenever someone comes up with a cool way to finance their business, I end up hearing about it.

Whether they email me directly, or someone else finds out and lets me know, it always ends up in my inbox. Which is a good thing.

For years, I’ve been keeping track of these emails and stories and have decided to put together a report. The report, which will be called Growthink’s “Definitive Guide to Creative & Alternative Financing Sources” will detail tons of ways to finance your business that you probably don’t know about or haven’t considered.

One such creative financing technique is using donations. Months ago I received an email about a horoscope website, Birdielawson.com, which solicited donations from its visitors. The site has generated thousands of dollars in funding from these donations. And it’s using these donations to grow further.

Another great example of donation financing is FeedDigest. FeedDigest was founded by entrepreneur Peter Cooper in 2004. At that time, Cooper added a PayPal button to his website and asked users of his website to donate money.

His visitors subsequently donated enough money to allow him to start really growing the company. Soon after, an angel investor wrote him a check for even more money. FeedDigest grew and grew based on those investments, and in August 2007 was acquired by Informer Technologies, Inc.

And finally, perhaps the most famous recent example of donation financing is Wikipedia which has raised several million dollars in donations to date.

So, if you have a website (if not, you should create one), one source of capital that you should consider is donations. Soliciting and accepting donations is as simple as creating a PayPal account and adding a PayPal button to your website.

Alternative Business Financing: 40 Tactics to Employ


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Did you know that when I started Growthink ten years ago, I knew very little about raising capital?

Sure, I knew a lot about raising venture capital, but I didn’t know much about financing sources like angel capital or SBA loans. And I knew virtually nothing about creative and alternative financing sources. In fact, since starting Growthink, I have uncovered 40 tried-and-true ways that entrepreneurs can fund their businesses. Most of these ways I had never heard of before. But they work.

Now I’d like to share them with you.

In a few short weeks, I’ll be teaching a select group of entrepreneurs all about these 40 financing sources in a unique multi-part teleclass.

Why is it important to know all of these options for raising capital? You might be thinking “But I just need a loan right now,” or “I’m just looking for angel capital,” or “I know that venture capital is right for me.”  

Knowing these 40 options provides you with the flexibility you need to raise capital from multiple sources NOW. it also gives you the ability to raise various rounds of capital in the future.

The truth is, most successful businesses utilize at least 3 types of capital, and usually a combination of debt and equity, as well as “creative” or alternative financing.  If you’re only using 1 type of capital, but your competitors have access to several types of capital, you’re at an automatic disadvantage. 

More importantly, not knowing about these 40 financing sources, and going after the WRONG sources of capital, is the #1 reason why most entrepreneurs enter the “death spiral.”

What is the “death spiral”? Well, the death spiral is the unfortunate process that typically occurs when an entrepreneur has a great idea and needs money to execute on it.

The death spiral has four parts:

1. The entrepreneur learns a little bit about how to raise money.
2. The entrepreneur gives a whole or half-baked effort to raise money.
3. The entrepreneur fails to raise capital (in fact, they fall flat on their face) because they don’t fully know what they’re doing and/or go after the wrong funding sources.
4. The entrepreneur’s dreams die and they return to their 9 to 5 job.

If you want to avoid the death spiral, and raise funding for your business, I will teach you how to do it. As mentioned, later this month, I will be offering a unique multi-part teleclass that teaches entrepreneurs like you how to really raise capital.

ARC Stabilization Loans - 35,000 More Reasons the US Government Rocks


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The next time you get frustrated that the taxes you pay to the U.S. government are so high, realize that the government gives a lot of this money back to entrepreneurs. And one of these entrepreneurs can be you!

In fact, last year, the U.S. government provided funding to 69,434 companies through its Small Business Administration (SBA) lending program. And last month, the SBA stepped up its efforts even further to help entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Specifically, last month, the SBA created a new type of loan called the "America's Recovery Capital" loan, or "ARC."  This loan is specifically designed to help existing businesses who are currently experiencing distress due to the economy.

What's great about ARC loans is that they are deferred loans.  The funds are dispersed to you over a period of up to 6 months, but you are not required to make any payments until 12 months have elapsed since you were funded.  Payback terms are up to five years.

The maximum loan principal is $35,000.  And there are no fees to the borrower. And the government guarantees 100% of the loan to the SBA partner bank. Finally, the interest rates are extremely reasonably; only prime plus 2%.

To learn more about and how to get an ARC, SBA or other bank loan to fund your existing or startup business, instantly download our new report entitled "Growthink's Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capital from Banks & SBA Lenders" here: http://www.growthink.com/products/loanguide


Israel Venture Capital: The Silicon Valley of the East


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Israel, more fondly nicknamed as the “Silicon Valley of the East”, is the largest recipient of United States venture capital, absorbing 7.7% of outbound investment dollars. For a small and relatively new country, Israel has jumped into the limelight as one of the largest producers of new technologies. The country is responsible for some of the most prominent inventions over the past several decades, including drip irrigation, instant messaging (ICQ), Intel’s Centrino computer chip, and voicemail technology.

Israel also holds the second greatest number of foreign companies on the NASDAQ, second only to Canada. Some of the more prominent multi-billion dollar corporations listed on the exchange include TEVA Pharmaceuticals (market cap: $41 billion), the world’s largest generic drug manufacturer, and Gilead Sciences (market cap: $43 billion), which develops therapies for viral diseases, infectious diseases, and cancer.

In 2008, over $2 billion was invested in 480+ Israeli high-tech companies, an increase of 18% over the prior year. Roughly 50% of funds came from outside of Israel, primarily from the United States, which has also shown significant investment in Israel by building Israeli satellite offices for American companies. In 1974, Intel chose Israel as the location for its first design and development center outside the United States, and thereafter opened 8 locations, employing over 5,300 employees. International companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Nokia, and Motorola have also followed in the footsteps of Intel Corporation by opening offices in Israel.

So why has Israel drawn so much VC funding and attention from the international business community?

Israel has the highest number of university degrees relative to the population and the largest number of scientists per capita in the world, with 145 scientists per 10,000 citizens, in comparison with the United States at 85 per 10,000. Additionally, Israel has the highest number of start-up companies in the world outside of the United States.

Israelis also receive extensive technical training through their compulsory military service and have adapted several advanced military technologies to other applications. For example, Given Imaging, which in 1998 came out with the first ingestible disposable video camera for viewing and diagnosing the small intestine, developed and adapted their product from an electro-optical device for military missiles.

The enormous pool of talented workers in Israel is also much more affordable for technology companies than those in Silicon Valley, and the government has been a strong supporter of growth in the hi-tech sector. The Israeli government provides incentives and grants to encourage capital investment and scientific research within the country.

Growthink has worked with dozens of Israeli entrepreneurs throughout its ten years of operations and has several strategic alliances with individuals within the Israeli Venture Capital community.

One Really Big Organization that Wants You to Succeed


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If you own an existing business, or are planning to start one, there is one organization who really wants you to succeed.

In fact, this organization is even willing to loan you money to start or expand your business. And they will give you this money with favorable interest rates and payback terms.

That organization is the United States government.

The U.S. government has learned over time that giving capital to entrepreneurs creates more jobs, improves the economy, and expands the tax base. All the things they really want to achieve.

Many years ago the U.S. government set up the Small Business Administration (SBA) specifically to make loans to entrepreneurs and small business owners. In fact, the SBA currently has $45 billion in loans outstanding to entrepreneurs.

And, in addition to SBA loans, there are several kinds of debt capital that may be available to start or grow your business such as business lines of credit and traditional bank loans.

Each of these types of capital are covered in detail, including a step by step plan for getting these loans for your business, in our new report entitled "Growthink's Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capital from Banks & SBA Lenders."

Among other things, the report covers:

* The differences between raising debt capital and equity capital that you need to understand (Page 2)

* The important elements of loans and what you need to know BEFORE you look for one (Page 7)

* Exactly what lenders are looking for when they consider whether or not to fund your business (Page 9)

* The biggest misconception about loans that keeps many entrepreneurs from getting funded (Page 11)

* One easy, but seldom used trick to maximize your chances of getting a loan on the best possible terms (Page 12)

* The key types of loans and what you need to know to make sure you get one that's right for your business (Page 13)

* The best way for startups to overcome a key SBA requirement and quickly get the perfect SBA loan (Page 19)

* Assessment of every type of SBA loan to allow you to quickly determine the optimum one for your business (Pages 19 to 24)

* The hands-down fastest way to get an SBA loan (Page 29)

* Growthink's proven 6-step formula for getting an SBA or bank loan (Pages 32 to 36)

* The 30 U.S. banks that are most likely to loan money to your business (Page 37)

 

To learn more, click here.


Raising Funding for a Social Network or Web 2.0 Concept: Has the Bubble Burst?


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Many entrepreneurs and investors have been capitalizing on developing internet capabilities and the increased usage of social networks around the world by creating a new wave of social networks and Web 2.0 websites. Over the last few years, the Web 2.0 sector has seen a number of acquisitions for companies including Bebo, Blogger, Cork’d, Del.icio.us, Flickr, Jaiku, Last.fm, Picasa, Rojo, Skype, Sphere, StumbleUpon, and Webshots. Entrepreneurs have been encouraged by large scale transactions including YouTube selling for $1.7 billion, Facebook’s valuation at $15 billion based on Microsoft’s recent investment, and MySpace’s sale for $580 million.

A great Web 2.0 website can be built on a shoestring budget with a few smart developers and an innovative concept driving the growth of the business. Web 2.0 companies have the potential to experience overnight notoriety through a few press mentions and can grow exponentially thereafter.  Thus, venture capital firms do expect to see a great deal of traction in the marketplace before seriously considering funding your social network. Due to market conditions, VCs today are seeking to fund companies that are already well on their way to success, rather than higher risk and earlier stage deals that they might have previously considered.  As a social network, the right time to contact a VC is when your site has a solid user base and viral growth through an innovative guerilla marketing strategy, not at the idea stage. For example, just today Glubble BV (www.glubble.com), a niche Amsterdam based social networking website for families with children under the age of 12, announced that they raised $1 million in Series B funding. Glubble was launched in 2007 and counts 300,000 family pages on its service to-date.

Due to the large number of social networking sites that were funded in the last three years, VCs are getting increasingly skeptical of these concepts. Kleiner Perkins, one of the largest VCs, has publicly stated that they are no longer investing or even looking at Web 2.0 companies. I’m not suggesting that you get discouraged by this or that the opportunities for new web 2.0 or social networks have passed, but realize that the competition is great and you must differentiate yourself both in your market and when pitching to venture capital firms. Stand out by targeting niche users, such as senior citizens, travelers, specific cultures, or countries. Find a niche that has not been already conquered, but that has enormous value, and do not promote your business as the next MySpace or Facebook. These networks have generated enormous and loyal user bases and it will be extremely challenging if not impossible to replace them.

Growthink has worked with nearly 100 web 2.0 businesses over the last few years and has developed strong expertise in the sector. We can help you to strategically think through your business model and create a compelling business plan that will help your Web 2.0 company stand out among the throngs of competitors. We can also advise you on how to improve your viral marketing strategy to optimize your valuation before bringing your company to a VC firm.

If you are an existing website, we can also help provide you with strategic recommendations based on a complimentary website audit. Please follow this link for more information:

http://www.growthink.com/internet-marketing/website-audit#auditform


Why You Should DOUBLE Your Employees' Salaries


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In a world with a poor economy and uncertain economic outlook, the knee-jerk reaction of most entrepreneurs and business managers is to layoff employees and thus reduce labor costs.

While I agree that reducing labor costs is key, you can oftentimes do this by increasing the amount you pay your employees.

Take the case of The Container Store. This Texas-based company has a unique HR strategy. That is, they have just one employee for every three that their competitors have. But, they pay their employees double the industry average and spend 160 hours training them.

The result is that their employees are better trained and happier, and thus provide superior service at a 33% overall lower cost than competitors.

Interestingly, when The Container Store opened in New York City, it had 100 times more applications than available positions. With numbers like that, they are able to hire the best of the best each time.

Similarly, Harry Seifert, CEO of Winter Garden Salads gives employees bonuses just before Memorial Day, when demand for its products peak. The bonuses boost morale and cause the company's productivity to jump 50% during the busy period.

Paying employees more to improve performance and boost company-wide profits is a historically proven tactic. In fact, back in 1913, Henry Ford doubled employee wages from $2.50 to $5.00 per day. The move boosted employee morale and productivity and caused thousands of potential new workers to move to Detroit.

A final key point to note is that laying off employees is often a bad strategy. While it will save you money in the short-term, in the long-term, hiring new employees and training them is much more expensive than the cost of keeping the employees that you laid off.

Rather, a strategy that you should consider is to ask (or require) employees to take pay cuts and/or offer employees company stock in lieu of a portion of their cash compensation.

Angel Investing Returns - The Impact of the Stock Market


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The general misery that the public markets have subjected us all to over the past year (and really the past 10 years, with the Dow Jones, the S & P, and the NASDAQ all trading lower today than they were in 1999), begs the question - how does stock market performance affect angel investing returns?

The answer, on the one hand, is very obvious.  A falling tide sinks all boats.  So as goes the public markets, so go the private equity markets, of which both venture capital and angel investments are subsets.

This is best illustrated by the amazing (and depressing) statistic that in the last 10 years there has been more money invested into the venture capital industry than has come out of it.  A lot of effort for naught.

But in spite of this, and maybe even because of it, average angel investing returns this decade have been surprisingly, even shockingly good.  According to data compiled by Thomson Financial, average angel investing returns have been in excess of 20% annually since 1999.

Why is this and will it continue?  Well, it has to do with the difference between the "macro" and the "micro."

To hear more on this, please click the below.
 
 
 
 

 


A Venture Capitalist, A Corporate Investor & Two Angels - Animoto is Listening


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When entrepreneurs ask me what sources of capital to tap to fund their businesses, my answer is generally "as many as you can."

I often point to companies like Google, who relied on credit cards, angels and venture capitalists in its early days.

Recently Animoto heeded my advice. In it's most recent round of funding, Animoto raised $4.4 million from a venture capitalist (Madrona Venture Group), a corporate/strategic investor (Amazon.com), and two angel investors: iStockphoto founder Bruce Livingstone and angel investor Jeff Clavier (Clavier is also the founder and managing partner of SoftTech VC, a seed-stage venture capital firm).

What's even more interesting is what Animoto is. Animoto is a website where you can quickly and easily turn photos into videos. Why is this interesting? Because you can use Animoto to create a video about your company to market it to investors.

So not only is Animoto teaching each of us about how to best raise capital to fund our growth, but is offering a tool to help us market ourselves to investors.

To see how it worked, I created an Animoto account (doesn't cost anything and is quick to do) and created a quick video. I was home at the time with my daughter, so we did it together and created one with a few of her recent horseback riding pictures.

The good news is that it was really simple to create the video. The negatives were that 1) rendering time was slow (plan to wait at least 5 minutes before the video is ready to be viewed for a 30-second clip), and 2) the non-paid version only allows your video to last 30 seconds. Fortunately for $3 per video, or $30 for a year, you can create full-length videos.

Overall, Animoto is a great lesson in capital raising and a great tool to use when raising capital for your business!

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