We talk about many subjects when it comes to raising business capital, but there are three core issues around which funding success revolves. The more you can demonstrate strength in these areas, the easier it will be for you to get the funding you need on the most favorable terms.
1. Customers buy from you and perceive value
The question professional investors often ask is, “Will the dogs eat the dog food?” If you have an existing business where customers pay reasonable prices for your products and services and perceive value in the exchange, you have the foundation for a successful business. The absolute best source of capital for your business is satisfied customers. But if your company has strong proven customer demand and you need expansion capital to meet that demand, you’re in a highly attractive position to investors. For start-ups, the question is more difficult to answer until customer traction is achieved, and we’ll address this issue in a future post.
2. Your business generates strong earnings
Many start-ups launch with strategies to attract customers with free or low-priced goods and services. Of course, the company eventually has to generate profits to be successful, so prices usually escalate and more revenue streams are established. Most start-ups lose money for a while, and even well established companies lose money occasionally. If your business is not currently profitable, you need to demonstrate a clear and credible path to profitability. Investors are looking for proof of your company’s ability to maximize earnings while keeping the customer value equation in balance.
3. Your business is scalable
How much realistic growth potential does your business have? Is there a way to double or triple your revenues within a year or two? What will it take to make it happen? If you can demonstrate the scalability of your company, you’ll find more investors willing to talk to you. However, if you have a $1 million business today and can grow it to $5 million within the next 3 years, your deal won’t appeal to venture capitalists or angel investors, but it may be attractive to informal investors or commercial lenders. The type of investor will depend on how much your company can reasonably scale. Proof of scalability enhances your strength in the eyes of investors, even if it is on a limited or trial basis.
Start-up companies generally don’t have much evidence of these issues, but are often able to achieve it after a period of bootstrapping with a focus on generating the necessary proofs. Both investors and lenders respond well to business owners who have taken this approach.