Most entrepreneurs believe a bunch of myths about financing new companies that hinder their efforts to raise money. Here are a few:
Myth 1: It takes a lot of money to finance a new business. Not true. The typical start-up only requires about $25,000 to get going. The successful entrepreneurs who don’t believe the myth design their businesses to work with little cash. They borrow instead of paying for things. They rent instead of buy. And they turn fixed costs into variable costs by, say, paying people commissions instead of salaries.
Myth 2: Venture capitalists are a good place to go for start-up money. Not unless you start a computer or biotech company. Computer hardware and software, semiconductors, communication, and biotechnology account for 81 percent of all venture capital dollars, and 72 percent of the companies that got VC money over the past 15 or so years. VCs only fund about 3,000 companies per year and only about one quarter of those companies are in the seed or start-up stage. In fact, the odds that a start-up company will get VC money are about 1 in 4,000. That’s worse than the odds that you will die from a fall in the shower.
Myth 3: Most business angels are rich. If rich means being an accredited investor — a person with a net worth of more than $1 million or an annual income of $200,000 per year if single and $300,000 if married — then the answer is “no”. Almost three quarters of the people who provide capital to fund the start-ups of other people who are not friends, neighbors, co-workers, or family don’t meet SEC accreditation requirements. In fact, 32 percent have a household income of $40,000 per year or less and 17 percent have a negative net worth.
Myth 4: Start-ups can’t be financed with debt. Actually, debt is more common than equity. According to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Small Business Finances, 53 percent of the financing of companies that are two years old or younger comes from debt and only 47 percent comes from equity. So a lot of entrepreneurs out there are using debt rather than equity to fund their companies.
Myth 5: Banks don’t lend money to start-ups. This is another myth. Again, the Federal Reserve data shows that banks account for 16 percent of all the financing provided to companies that are two years old or younger. While 16 percent might not seem that high, it is 3 percent higher than the amount of money provided by the next highest source — trade creditors — and is higher than a bunch of other sources that everyone talks about going to: friends and family, business angels, venture capitalists, strategic investors, and government agencies.
So don’t believe the myths, know the reality.
* * * * *
About the Author: Scott Shane is A. Malachi Mixon III, Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Case Western Reserve University. He is the author of seven books, the latest of which is Illusions of Entrepreneurship: The Costly Myths that Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live By. He is also a member of the Northcoast Angel Fund in the Cleveland area and is always interested in hearing about great start-ups. Take the entrepreneurship quiz.