P2P Lending and Crowdfunding – Explore the New Frontier for Small Business Lending
by Caron_Beesley, Community Moderator
- Created: May 29, 2012, 7:42 am
- Updated: May 29, 2012, 12:40 pm
Looking for capital to start or grow your business? Sometimes, even with a solid idea and business plan, finding third party financing can be a challenge for many small business owners.
So where are startups and growing businesses finding the funds they need?
According to a Kauffman Firm Survey, one-third of young firms do not use capital injections. Instead, they rely on owner investment or nonbank sources of funds, with the most frequently used source of startup dollars being owners’ and relatives’ savings (source).
But if you don’t have savings to fall back on, another financing option worth considering is peer-to-peer lending or crowdfunding (also known as crowdsourcing). Both combine lower interest rates or creative repayment terms that might just be worth looking into.
What is Peer-to-Peer Lending?
Peer-to-peer-lending (P2P) essentially involves sharing your idea to other people in hopes they will invest in your business. Sites like Prosper or Lending Club connect people who want to lend money with those who need to borrow money – often in increments as low as $25. Quite literally, you determine how much you need to borrow, define the purpose of the loan, and post your listing online.
What’s in it for the investors? Well, returns can be in the range of 10 percent across their portfolio, creating a steady stream of income, not to mention the altruistic payoff of helping businesses succeed.
Obviously, you can’t just cross your fingers and hope for the best when you post your listing. Some factors that can sway your investment-worthiness include these:
- Have a plan – It’s more than just describing what you’re going to do with the money; it’s important to share findings from market research, competitive analysis, financial forecasts, expected returns, and so on. Here are a few tips for creating a business plan (obviously you can’t share it all, so be sure to have a clear synopsis).
- Tell your story – What’s your background? What are your dreams for your business? This will help humanize and frame your case.
- Share your achievements and progress – What have you invested in your business already? At what stage is your business? What landmarks have you already achieved? Potential investors will want to know how invested you are in your business and that their investment in you will pay off.
P2P lending sites are also a useful way to structure loans from friends and family. Because the P2P service acts as an intermediary or broker, it can help remove any potential emotional complications from the transaction while giving the lender some reassurance that you will repay on time.
What is Crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is a collective cooperation of people who network and pool their money and resources together, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other organizations. While P2P lending typically focuses on one individual lending to another, crowdfunding – as its name implies – aims to reach a funding goal by aggregating many small investors.
Since President Obama signed the JOBS Act in April 2012, it has become a lot easier for small businesses to raise money online via crowdfunding. Previously, small businesses were limited to seeking investment from SEC accredited investors only; now non-accredited investors (i.e. you and I) can invest in a startup to the tune of up to $1 million a year.
One example of a hugely successful non-profit crowdfunding venture is Kiva.org. Kiva works with microfinance institutions on five continents to provide loans to people without access to traditional banking systems, including U.S. businesses.
While Kiva requires that you repay the loan over time, most crowdfunding opportunities aren’t loans and, as such, don’t involve traditional forms of repayment and interest. Instead, borrowers offer a form of payback or reward to encourage people to make the investment.
One example is the funding model established by Kickstarter. If your business is of the creative kind – art, technology, film, photography, music – Kickstarter is a way to source funds from others. In exchange for investment (often as little as $25), borrowers “reward” investors with compelling returns. For example, a share in your business or even access to limited edition works, free products, invitations to parties and events, anything you believe is an attractive enticement.
Other Forms of Financing
Most startups don’t need a lot of financing. In fact, government data shows that 40 percent get started with less than $5,000. If your funding needs are small, consider a microloan (such as SBA’s Microloan Program), or use a business credit card to make larger purchases or bridge the gap until you’ve secured funding from other sources. You should also consider diversifying your funding sources, giving you a better chance of reaching your goals.
- 6 Tips for Borrowing Startup Funds from Friends or Family
- A Quick Guide to Microloans
- Why Should you Apply for a Business Credit Card?
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