Growthink Blog

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!

What Separates the Best from The Rest?


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Accelerant. C8 Medisensors. Dakim. DCIP. Free Conference. Fresh Games. Green Medical. Helix Wind. InfoSpace. Integreon. L3D3. Mobeze. MyPublicInfo. Nolatek. Ometric. Pocketsonics. Precision Time. Raise Capital. Recoup IT. Research Scientists. Sandel Medical. Spring Medical. Telverse. Thrombovision. XCOM Wireless. Xorbent.

These companies all share a few things in common:

1. They are either past or current Growthink clients and/or investments (though this is by no means a complete list).

2. They all either achieved - or are on the path to achieve - successful exits through a public offering or a company sale.

3. They are all led by CEO's and senior executives that are a cut above. Men and women that are entrepreneurs and business-builders in the best and highest sense - the kind of managers and visionaries that are the bedrock of America's vibrant, free enterprise system and way of life.

I have been privileged to work and get to know inspirational, entrepreneurial leaders like Dan Michel at Dakim, Liam Brown at Integreon, Walter Alessandrini at Ometric, Brian Ashton at Precision Time, Rick Singer at Raise Capital, Peter Sobotta from RecoupIT. Jack Smyth at Spring Medical Systems, Ed Teitel at Thrombovision, and Dan Hyman at XCOM Wireless.

Here are 5 qualities they all share:

1. Their Work Ethic is Off The Charts. This may sound really obvious, but the great entrepreneurs are extremely disciplined and organized and make the sacrifices to commit themselves fully to their business. Work - life balance is a nice theory, but in entrepreneurs to back, the more zealous the better.

2. They Have Great Numbers Fluency. As Guy Kawaski so eloquently puts it, we live in the age of excel, not of PowerPoint. Great 21st century leaders are "Super Crunchers," - they undertand the power of statistics, of "evidence-based" decision-making, of testing, and of managing by the numbers. They are not enslaved by the numbers nor do they lose sight of their human and qualitative aspects, but they are highly informed by them. They are hungry for unbiased, third-party information about their markets, their customers, their competitors.

3. They Have Done it Before. Following up on #2, the entrepreneurs most likely, statistically, to be successful are those that track records of success. It doesn't mean that just because they have succeeded in a past company mean that they will necessarily succeed in the next one. Nor do this mean that those who have failed in the past will fail in the future. Only that the probabilities are that this be the case. All of the managers above had track records before their existing business of successes - entrepreneurial successes, corporate successes, educational successes. Success follows them, not the other way around.

4. They Know When To Manage and When To Lead. Successful business exits require first and foremost, organization-building. Teams of people need to be assembled and directed to accomplish a common objective that can be quantified on the scorecards of business - revenues, profits, and cash flow. Balancing these left and right brain objectives require a sense of knowing when to manage and when to lead. Management is left-brained - it is analytical, numbers-driven, and dispassionate. It see business as a black box, with the sole objective of turning cash into more cash as fast as possible. Leadership is right-brained - it is conceptual, more long-term focused, and sees the business more as an organism as opposed to a collection of individual parts. Leaders sometimes will sacrifice short-term results for long-term gain, but do so carefully, deliberately, and warily. They are soft-hearted but hard-headed.

5. They are Proud and Humble. Great entrepreneurs are proud of their accomplishments and greatly desire more of them. They are confident in their vision and their abilities, and do not let adversity, criticism, objections or rejections deter them from their chosen path. They are not, however, headstrong nor arrogant. They respect facts, statistics, and informed opinions. And when these are in conflict with even their most dearly-held beliefs and strategies, they change. Not with the wind, but nor only at the point of a gun.

If you find these 5 attributes in an entrepreneur, savor them, appreciate them, learn from them, and back them. Till the cows come home. And then some more.


Investor Presentation: The Overlooked Key to Raising Capital & Succeeding In Business


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Over the past decade, I have written countless articles on how to raise capital. I have taught thousands of entrepreneurs how to create a great business plan, how to develop a strong financial model, and ways to devise a slide presentation that gets investors excited.

And then, I have written extensively about how to grow your company once you have raised capital. Discussing how to motivate your employees to maximize their effectiveness. And how to find partners that can take your business to the next level.

But there's one thing I haven't written about. One thing that I've totally neglected. And this one thing can increase your effectiveness at ALL of these activities - from raising capital to performing all the tasks needed to grow your successful business.

For this I apologize.

So what is this one thing?

The answer is public speaking, and your ability to communicate ideas to investors, partners, employees and others.

I realized that public speaking was the missing key when I recently reviewed a unique book called "The Power Presenter" by Jerry Weissman.

And, I might not have read the book if it had not received so much praise from venture capitalists. These VCs have relied on Weissman to prepare them to not only raise money for their own funds, but to teach their portfolio company CEOs so they could raise future funding and better grow their companies.

So, why are Weissman's teachings so important? Because, your ability to present effectively and be a great public speaker is critical to your ability to raise money for your business, attract and formalize relationships with key partners, and build a highly motivated team among other things.

And importantly, Weissman's research proves that the content of your presentations is less important than your body language (most important factor) and your voice (next most important factor).

Allow that to sink in for a minute.

What this means is that when you meet with a venture capitalist, angel investor or bank loan officer, your presentation skills are more important than the content of your presentation!

This fact is a bit bothersome to me.

Why? Because it means that an entrepreneur who has great public speaking skills but a poor investor presentation and business model has a superior chance of raising capital than an entrepreneur with a great investor presentation and business but poor communications skills.

But, rather than me pouting about this seemingly unfair reality, let me tell you some of Weissman's keys to making you a better public speaker and presenter.

First of all, to reiterate, the most important thing influencing your audience is visual (i.e., your body language), then vocal (your voice and speaking rhythm) and then verbal (the story you tell).

Secondly, when you present in front of a group, your natural "fight or flight" instincts kick in. Your adrenaline starts pumping and you often get anxious and fidgety. The way that you act as a result of this poorly impacts your audience's perception of you.

To decrease your anxiety, use the following techniques:

1. Practice, practice and practice some more. The more you practice your presentation, the more comfortable you will be when you give it.

2. Concentrate. Just like an elite athlete, you need to clear your mind before the presentation so  you can fully concentrate on the task at hand.

Important side note: many years ago, I had the pleasure of introducing entrepreneur and author Harvey McKay at an event. Before he went on, I saw him with his head against the wall talking to himself. I thought it was absolutely bizarre. But he used that technique to focus his mind and pump himself up. The result - he had the audience in the palm of his hand the whole time. It was truly amazing.

3. Shift Your Focus from You to Them. If you give a presentation and your best friend happens to be in the room, chances are that after the presentation the first question you will ask your friend is "How did I do?"

It is this mentality of thinking about yourself that makes people nervous. Rather, focus on the audience. Look at them and think "how are they doing?"  This will allow you to present more effectively.

4. Focus on specific people in the audience. Whether there are three prospective investors or business partners in the room, or you are speaking to a room of 50 or 500, you need to visually focus on one person at a time. That is, pick one person to start and complete your first main point. Then you should shift to different people for each key point you make during the presentation. This helps you concentrate better and make sure you are focusing on the audience rather than on yourself.

5. Practice your hand gestures. Hand gestures often positively engage an audience. But, making hand gestures in front of an audience often feels awkward and uncomfortable. You must practice using them with "warmer" audiences (e.g., your friends, co-workers and/or employees) until they become second nature.


Like it or not, your public speaking ability and presentation skills are more important than the content of your presentations. As such, successful entrepreneurs need to master these skills. Use these tips to improve your skills, and remember to really practice all your presentations before the actual event. As you know, in most cases, you only get one shot at key presentations.


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