Phase I: Initial Review

1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (Pre-Screening):

The first step in the process of becoming a licensed Small Business Investment Company is optional. As a courtesy, the Office of Program Development (“Program Development”) will provide non-binding preliminary feedback on a potential applicant’s Executive Summary.  Program Development will assess your fund’s eligibility and identify potential deficiencies in the Executive Summary.


Applying for an SBIC license begins with the completion of the Management Assessment Questionnaire or (“MAQ”).  The MAQ requests qualitative and quantitative information on the management team, the proposed strategy for the SBIC and the principals’ investment track record.  Most applicants engage counsel to assist with the preparation of the MAQ. 

FAQ: What forms are included in the MAQ?

The MAQ consists of SBA Form 2181 and the first part of SBA Form 2182.  The most recent versions of these forms are available for download on our Application Forms page.

FAQ: What if we have questions about the MAQ?

You may address your questions to  However, please take time to read the instructions included with each form.  The instructions address most of the frequently asked questions.  Please also consult with your attorney.  If you do not have an attorney familiar with the SBIC program, please consider retaining one.  E-mail us to request a list of firms with active SBIC practices.

FAQ: How long does it take to complete the MAQ?

Depending on the size of the fund and the track record, it is estimated to take around 100 hours to complete the MAQ.

FAQ: Where do we send the completed MAQ?

Visit our Application Forms page to learn how to submit your MAQ for review.


The Office of Program Development will analyze the MAQ in detail, assess your proposal in light of the minimum requirements and management qualifications, perform full scale due diligence and track record review, and prepare a written recommendation to the Investment Committee of SBA’s Office of Investment & Innovation.

FAQ: How long will it take before we get a decision?

Processing time is a function of demand for the program, but historically the Investment Committee has rendered decisions within 8-10 weeks from the MAQ submission date.

FAQ: What are the minimum qualifications and management qualifications?

The experience of the Investment Division indicates that highly successful SBICs have historically had management teams with:

  • At least two Principals with substantive and analogous principal investment experience
  • Realized track record of superior returns, based on an overall evaluation of appropriate quantitative and qualitative measures
  • Evidence of strong deal flow in the investment area proposed for the new fund
  • Cohesive management team, with complementary skills and history of working together
  • Managerial, operational or technical expertise that can add value at the portfolio company level
  • A demonstrated ability to manage cash flows so as to provide assurance that the SBA will be repaid on a timely basis.  Funds focused on providing later stage, expansion capital to cash-flow positive or nearly cash-flow-positive companies are the best fit for the regular debenture program.


If, after a thorough review of the MAQ and Program Development’s evaluation, the Investment Committee concludes, by majority vote, that the management team may be qualified for a license, the entire team is invited to SBA Headquarters in Washington for an interview.

FAQ: What should we expect during the interview?

The interview is a discussion based meeting intended to provide the Investment Committee an opportunity to learn more about your proposed fund and team.  If you are invited to interview, Program Development will provide you with guidance regarding content, presentation and meeting logistics.


If, following the interview, the Investment Committee votes to proceed, your team will be granted a “Green Light” letter, formally inviting your fund to file a license application once you have made substantial progress in raising private capital. You can expect to receive the Green Light letter via email within a few days of the Investment Committee’s decision.  Note that the Green Light letter is not a determination that you are qualified to receive an SBIC license, but an invitation to proceed to the next step in the process. 


Once the “green light” letter is received, the applicant can begin fundraising and preparing its license application.