America loves an entrepreneur! If you’ve got a good idea and a solid business model, I would say that the United States is the easiest place in the world to secure funding for a new enterprise. While you might already be familiar with the vibrant venture capital and angel investment communities, there are several more innovative strategies that could help you get that idea off the ground. These unique infrastructures are as American as apple pie or driving a Toyota (Google it).
Crowdfund That Dream
In the last decade, rewards-based crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been a godsend to budding entrepreneurs. Let’s say you have an idea for the proverbial “Better Mousetrap” — you tinkered with a 9-volt battery, a paper towel roll and some peanut butter, and invented an amazing new way to trap mice. You draw up a cool design, potentially even mock up a prototype, and show it to a contract manufacturing company that offers to make 5,000 of them for $20,000. How do you get enough money to press “go”? Even if you have the money, why would you put your life savings on the line for a product that you’re not even sure will sell? These crowdfunding platforms fill that void. You make a video demonstrating your contraption, post it on a crowdfunding site, and interested people start buying your virtual product with real cash. Within a month, you have sold 2,000 of these mousetraps for $20 each. You now have $40,000 to make your product and ship it to your buyers, with enough inventory and profit to sell to future customers. Voila: You are in business!
A more recent and lesser-known addition to this field is Equity Crowdfunding. Unlike Kickstarter and Indiegogo, where you pay money and receive a reward, Equity Crowdfunding allows investors to actually buy into the business. This means that, if the Better Mousetrap ends up making a fortune, early adopters can share in the growing valuation of the business. Before 2015, only accredited investors could invest in private companies this way. But, now, nearly anyone can become an investor!
Regulation Crowdfunding (known as Title III of the JOBS act) could be considered an “extended family and friends” round. It creates the platform that makes it easy for people wanting to invest a small sum to do so, and allows issuers to raise up to $1 million. This just launched in May this year, so it’s still very new but certainly something to consider if you have a network that you can tap into or a customer base that you can communicate this offering to. At this stage, the requirements are minimal so it can be a relatively quick and simple process to get set up and launched, just having to file a Form C with the SEC.
Buy a Business With Help From Uncle Sam
Buy a business and let the seller and Uncle Sam give you all the money you need. America is full of entrepreneurs. Just look down any main street at all the local stores, restaurants and services. Every city has thousands. These businesses are bought and sold through business brokers. I suggest you find something you are interested in owning and running (food service, salon, convenience store) and meet with brokers about purchasing a successful business from someone who is retiring or relocating. Most of these businesses sell for a multiple of their profits and, in most cases, there are dozens for sale at around 3 times their annual profit. For example, suppose that café you always wanted to run makes $150,000 of profit (be sure you are not including the owner’s salary in the profit because you will have to run it and take a salary as well). So you agree to buy the business for $450,000 — but now what? Don’t worry that you don’t have $450,000, because you live in America, a country that loves entrepreneurs and practically owns that word we stole from the French. The U.S. government wants America to continue to be a leader in small business and they will help you buy that café by guaranteeing an SBA loan.
Here’s how the deal goes down: You offer to buy the café for $350,000 in cash (thanks to the US Small Business Association) and a $150,000 seller earnout. This means that you pay $350,000 upfront and then $50,000 each year the café makes $150,000 in profits (if it makes $130,000 the first year, you pay the seller just $20,000). If the seller, who has run this business for years and is confident it will make what they have confirmed it will, then they should be happy to make an extra $50,000 over three years and have a vested interest in your success. The SBA will guarantee up to 85 percent of loans up to $150,000 and 75 percent on higher loans under the basic 7a loan program (more under other programs) as long as your business is defined as small, for-profit, you can prove your need for the loan, have a decent credit history, and are willing to put down at least 15-25 percent. In this case, they will count the seller’s earnout, so they are lending 70 percent of purchase price. Although not every seller is willing to do an earnout or offer other forms of seller financing, there are thousands of businesses for sale and many sellers who will work with you to buy their business.
Join the Online Economy
Maybe you have worked in an industry for years and want to use your industry contacts to become a distributor yourself. You know that there are better ways to get products to customers directly or, perhaps, you want to bring a niche product to market and fill a gap you’ve identified. Why not buy wholesale and put up a direct-to-consumer store on Amazon, eBay, or Etsy? I see people doing this all the time. Someone works in the auto parts industry and gets laid off, goes back to their company to become a dealer and, now, have an Ebay store that sells a decent amount of products that makes them a profit of $5,000 – $10,000 per month. Not a bad business to run out of their garage while holding down a separate 9-5 job. If business picks up, you bid farewell to that day job, grab a small warehouse, hire a shipping assistant, and you’re running a full-fledged business!
Now that your fundraising concerns are alleviated, all you’ve got to do is find that million-dollar idea! Remember: in the U.S., there is no shortage of American ingenuity. So be part of the American Dream, go grab yourself a slice of that apple pie, own your own business and drive off into the sunset. In your Camry of course.
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P2P Lending Platform SeedIn Rebrands to BRDGE, Plans Expansion Into Indonesia
Singapore-based P2P investment network SeedIn has announced its rebranding to BRDGE.
With the rebranding, BRDGE aims to better reflect the company’s mission to serve Singapore’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) not just through financial support but with the long-term aim of providing the public with opportunities to support local businesses.
The announcement comes after BRDGE’s recent MOU signing with V3 Fintech looking to enhance the suite of liquidity solutions available to SMEs, and help to create awareness among SME communities on innovative ways to address liquidity challenges and funding gaps.
SMEs in general are much more sensitive to economic headwinds due to increased competition, fluctuating market demands, technological advances, and capacity constraints surrounding information, innovation and creativity.
However, these enterprises make up the bulk of Singapore’s economic success, contributing to nearly half of the country’s GDP and providing jobs for about 65% of the workforce.
Kevin Wong, CEO of BRDGE, said,
“Rebranding has allowed us to stay committed to our mission of serving as many SMEs as possible. It has also enabled us to grow Singapore’s fintech ecosystem by providing additional financing solutions to businesses seeking more options in funding, so that they can seize more opportunities for growth. We hope to take digital financing further, and to become not just another crowdfunding platform, but one that is able to exhibit foresight and build trust to help fellow local businesses and entrepreneurs grow.”
Since 2014, BRDGE is said to have helped fund over SGD72 million in capital to Singaporean SMEs.
BRDGE had also collaborated with media and technology marketing agency Unravel Studios for the #KEEPUPTHEGOOD initiative. The partnership was intended to help tide SMEs through this period, by providing resources to help them continue.
SMEs who receive funding will also be provided with complimentary support for one month to fulfill their marketing objectives.
BRDGE has also been actively connecting SMEs to opportunities and initiatives beyond funding, such as organising WeConnect, a networking event for SMEs to develop partnerships and engage one another.
Moving forward, BRDGE has also announced intentions to expand operations into Indonesia and is currently in the process of securing regulatory permission from the relevant authorities.
Financial institutions can support COVID-19 crowdfunding campaigns
The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected the financial outlook for millions of people, and continues to cause significant fiscal distress to millions more, but such challenging times have also wrought a more resilient and resourceful financial system.
With the ingenuity of crowdfunding, considered to be one of the last decade’s greatest “success stories,” and such desperate times calling for bold new ways to finance a wide variety of COVID-19 relief efforts, we are now seeing an excellent opportunity for banks and other financial institutions to partner with crowdfunding platforms and campaigns, bolstering their efforts and impact.
COVID-19 crowdfunding: A world of possibilities to help others
Before considering how financial institutions can assist with crowdfunding campaigns, we must first look at the diverse array of impressive results from this financing option during the pandemic. As people choose between paying the rent or buying groceries, and countless other despairing circumstances, we must look to some of the more inventive ways businesses, entrepreneurs and people in general are using crowdfunding to provide the COVID-19 relief that cash-strapped consumers with maxed-out or poor credit do not have access to or the government has not provided.
Some great examples of COVID-19 crowdfunding at its best include the following:
The possibilities presented by crowdfunding in this age of the coronavirus are endless, and financial institutions can certainly lend their assistance. Here is how.
1. Acknowledge that crowdfunding is not a trend
Crowdfunding is a substantial and ever-so relevant means of financing all sorts of businesses, people and products. Denying its substantive contribution to the economy, especially in digital finance during this pandemic, is akin to wearing a monocle when you actually need glasses for both of your eyes. Do not be shortsighted on this. Crowdfunding is here to stay. In fact, countless crowdfunding businesses and platforms continue to make major moves within the markets globally. For example, Parpera from Australia, in coordination with the equity-crowdfunding platforms, hopes to rival the likes of GoFundMe, Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
2. Be willing to invest in crowdfunded campaigns
This might seem contrary to the original purpose of these campaigns, but the right amount of seed-cash infusions to campaigns that are aligned with your goals as a company is a win-win for both you and the entrepreneurs or causes, especially now in such desperate times of need.
3. Get involved in the community and its crowdfunding efforts
This means that small businesses and medium-sized businesses within your institution’s community could use your help. Consider investing in crowdfunding campaigns similar to the ones mentioned earlier. Better yet, bridge the gaps between financial institutions and crowdfunding platforms and campaigns so that smaller businesses get the opportunities they need to survive through these difficult times.
4. Enable sustainable development goals (SDG)
Last month, the United Nations Development Program released a report proclaiming that digital finance is now allowing people from all over the world to customize and personalize their money-management experiences such that their financial needs have the potential to be more readily and sufficiently met. Financial institutions willing to work as a partner with crowdfunding platforms and campaigns will further these goals and set society up for a more robust rebound from any possible detrimental effects of the COVID-19 recession.
5. Lend your regulatory expertise to this relatively new industry
Other countries are already beginning to figure out better ways to regulate the crowdfunding financing industry, such as the recent updates to the European Union’s handling of crowdfunding regulations, set to take effect this fall. Well-established financial institutions can lend their support in defining the policies and standard operating procedures for crowdfunding even during such a chaotic time as the COVID-19 pandemic. Doing so will ensure fair and equitable financing for all, at least, in theory.
While originally born out of either philanthropy or early-adopting innovation, depending on the situation, person or product, crowdfunding has become an increasingly reliable means of providing COVID-19 economic relief when other organizations, including the government and some banks, cannot provide sufficient assistance. Financial institutions must lend their vast expertise, knowledge and resources to these worthy causes; after all, we are all in this together.
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