With so many new routes to investment, alternative sources of business finance are fast becoming mainstream in the UK. Here are just four great ways to bypass the banks for growth capital.
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The beginning of a New Year is always a time for re-evaluation and planning for business owners and, for some, this may include seeking investment in order to spur on expansion and growth.
A 17% spending cut for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), as announced at the last Budget review, combined with the announcement that the Business Growth Service will close to new applicants in March 2016, has led many businesses to seek alternatives to governmental support.
While 90% of SMEs still approach their current bank for a business loan, there are so many other alternatives now available that should be explored.
Here are 4 to get you started:
1) Peer-to-Peer Lending
Last year, Peer-to-Peer lending emerged as an increasingly popular way to fund business growth, cutting out banks as a middle-man, allowing savers and borrowers to deal directly with each other. The concept is simple enough. Businesses submit proposals online and investors then bid to fund the ideas that appeal to them most.
This method bypasses the complicated processes and rules often put in place by banks that have stopped many SMEs from securing funding quickly, especially those who may have a higher risk factor attached.
The risk of loss, which deters many banks from accepting loan applications, is already accepted by those who lend money through a peer-to-peer platform. As compensation for this, lenders generally retain the right to pick the borrowers and can set their own interest rates, making the whole process a lot more flexible and dynamic.
A lot of people have spare cash, help them put it to work
Now is the perfect time for a business to apply for peer-to-peer funding as interest rates remain at an all-time low. Lenders will be keen to receive a greater return from their investments and so more willing to invest outside the banking system and into businesses they believe in.
Peer-to-Peer lending’s more communal cousin has become a key way for start-ups and entrepreneurs to fund their ventures in recent years. Opening up business investment opportunities to those of any income level has revolutionised the investor marketplace by removing the need for loan application approval and restrictive regulation.
Crowdfunding essentially allows a business to receive small sums of investment from multiple sources, in order to reach a goal amount that traditionally would have been asked for in one lump sum from a bank or single investor.
By spreading the risk, it is more appealing to potential investors and can result in large amounts of cash being raised very quickly.
However, it is by no means a sure thing. One downside of crowdfunding is that there is no guarantee that your goal total will be met and it takes time and effort to make your project known to the masses.
Having said that, a benefit that it does provide (that no other investment option does) is the way it creates a ready-made customer base and community around your product, laying the foundations for success and providing much needed market insight which can cause many start-ups to fail in the early stages.
3) Private Equity Investment
This is a tried and tested avenue for businesses who seek a more established type of investment, and one which Love Energy Savings has had success with recently.
In order to secure investment, the business is pitched to a fund management firm, who then find a private equity investor to suit. They are basically the ‘talent scouts’ of the investment world, taking the time to assess risk and highlight potential. They also open up new networks that may have previously been closed to you, increasing the chances of further growth moving forward.
The private equity money men are on the hunt for fast-growing firms
This option is also better suited to those businesses that are already established and are looking to move up to the next level of expansion, whether that be in company size, a want to expand their offerings or a desire to take to the international stage.
4) Angel Investment
We are all aware of the success of the BBC’s Dragons’ Den series and this is essentially what Angel Investing is; pitching your idea to a panel of wealthy potential investors who are looking for the next big thing.
In return for shares in your company, ‘Angels’ will invest their personal wealth into your company, and some will even share their knowledge and experience to help your business succeed.
Angel investors tend to ask for smaller amounts of equity than their venture capital cousins and, while the risk for them is greater, you can be sure that if they do invest, they must have seen something brilliant in your business that was worth investing in.
Admittedly, securing this final type of investment is hard as you have to sell yourself as well as your business. But if you are successful, the return from having a wealthy backer will surely set your business up for long-term success.