Alternative Financing Vs. Venture Capital: Which Option Is Best for Boosting Working Capital?

There are several potential financing options available to cash-strapped businesses that need a healthy dose of working capital. A bank loan or line of credit is often the first option that owners think of – and for businesses that qualify, this may be the best option.

In today’s uncertain business, economic and regulatory environment, qualifying for a bank loan can be difficult – especially for start-up companies and those that have experienced any type of financial difficulty. Sometimes, owners of businesses that don’t qualify for a bank loan decide that seeking venture capital or bringing on equity investors are other viable options.

But are they really? While there are some potential benefits to bringing venture capital and so-called “angel” investors into your business, there are drawbacks as well. Unfortunately, owners sometimes don’t think about these drawbacks until the ink has dried on a contract with a venture capitalist or angel investor – and it’s too late to back out of the deal.

Different Types of Financing

One problem with bringing in equity investors to help provide a working capital boost is that working capital and equity are really two different types of financing.

Working capital – or the money that is used to pay business expenses incurred during the time lag until cash from sales (or accounts receivable) is collected – is short-term in nature, so it should be financed via a short-term financing tool. Equity, however, should generally be used to finance rapid growth, business expansion, acquisitions or the purchase of long-term assets, which are defined as assets that are repaid over more than one 12-month business cycle.

But the biggest drawback to bringing equity investors into your business is a potential loss of control. When you sell equity (or shares) in your business to venture capitalists or angels, you are giving up a percentage of ownership in your business, and you may be doing so at an inopportune time. With this dilution of ownership most often comes a loss of control over some or all of the most important business decisions that must be made.

Sometimes, owners are enticed to sell equity by the fact that there is little (if any) out-of-pocket expense. Unlike debt financing, you don’t usually pay interest with equity financing. The equity investor gains its return via the ownership stake gained in your business. But the long-term “cost” of selling equity is always much higher than the short-term cost of debt, in terms of both actual cash cost as well as soft costs like the loss of control and stewardship of your company and the potential future value of the ownership shares that are sold.

Alternative Financing Solutions

But what if your business needs working capital and you don’t qualify for a bank loan or line of credit? Alternative financing solutions are often appropriate for injecting working capital into businesses in this situation. Three of the most common types of alternative financing used by such businesses are:

1. Full-Service Factoring – Businesses sell outstanding accounts receivable on an ongoing basis to a commercial finance (or factoring) company at a discount. The factoring company then manages the receivable until it is paid. Factoring is a well-established and accepted method of temporary alternative finance that is especially well-suited for rapidly growing companies and those with customer concentrations.

2. Accounts Receivable (A/R) Financing – A/R financing is an ideal solution for companies that are not yet bankable but have a stable financial condition and a more diverse customer base. Here, the business provides details on all accounts receivable and pledges those assets as collateral. The proceeds of those receivables are sent to a lockbox while the finance company calculates a borrowing base to determine the amount the company can borrow. When the borrower needs money, it makes an advance request and the finance company advances money using a percentage of the accounts receivable.

3. Asset-Based Lending (ABL) – This is a credit facility secured by all of a company’s assets, which may include A/R, equipment and inventory. Unlike with factoring, the business continues to manage and collect its own receivables and submits collateral reports on an ongoing basis to the finance company, which will review and periodically audit the reports.

In addition to providing working capital and enabling owners to maintain business control, alternative financing may provide other benefits as well:

It’s easy to determine the exact cost of financing and obtain an increase.
Professional collateral management can be included depending on the facility type and the lender.
Real-time, online interactive reporting is often available.
It may provide the business with access to more capital.
It’s flexible – financing ebbs and flows with the business’ needs.
It’s important to note that there are some circumstances in which equity is a viable and attractive financing solution. This is especially true in cases of business expansion and acquisition and new product launches – these are capital needs that are not generally well suited to debt financing. However, equity is not usually the appropriate financing solution to solve a working capital problem or help plug a cash-flow gap.

A Precious Commodity

Remember that business equity is a precious commodity that should only be considered under the right circumstances and at the right time. When equity financing is sought, ideally this should be done at a time when the company has good growth prospects and a significant cash need for this growth. Ideally, majority ownership (and thus, absolute control) should remain with the company founder(s).

Alternative financing solutions like factoring, A/R financing and ABL can provide the working capital boost many cash-strapped businesses that don’t qualify for bank financing need – without diluting ownership and possibly giving up business control at an inopportune time for the owner. If and when these companies become bankable later, it’s often an easy transition to a traditional bank line of credit. Your banker may be able to refer you to a commercial finance company that can offer the right type of alternative financing solution for your particular situation.

Taking the time to understand all the different financing options available to your business, and the pros and cons of each, is the best way to make sure you choose the best option for your business. The use of alternative financing can help your company grow without diluting your ownership. After all, it’s your business – shouldn’t you keep as much of it as possible?

Mathematics at University

High school mathematics classes are very different than those at university. Yes, mathematics classes at university are more difficult, but it is more than just that. When you learn mathematics at high school, all of the classes are about solving problems. The students are presented with the theory, the teacher demonstrates how to solve the problem using the theory and then the students try it for themselves.

What happens at university? Firstly, the classes are now lectures and so mathematics is now presented to the student rather than co-created with the student. Some problems are demonstrated, but often the lecture is mostly theory. The drawback is that the student must choose to put in the time in doing the problems outside of the class.

Some universities provide one hour of tutorial time per week or per two weeks. In these tutorials, often a postgraduate at the university will help the students in solving problems from a problem set. While this is welcomed, often the postgraduate is not as approachable as a high school teacher. The same can be said about the lecturer. Yes, you will find some lecturers who are only too happy to offer one-to-one time helping the students but this is not the norm. Most lecturers have their time taken up by research and they view classes as a secondary role of their job. This, of course, is not true for all third level institutes.

In addition to this, the mathematics courses themselves vary. For example, a student taking a course in statistics would be solving many more problems than a student taking pure algebra. Most questions in pure algebra are not “problem based” but rather “proof based”. That is, in statistical classes the student will need to solve a problem and in pure mathematical classes students would mostly be proving a result. The former is more reminiscent of high school mathematics classes.

My advice for students entering a mathematics course at a university would be to stay on top of the questions or problems the lecturer assigns. You will not have the same time in class you would have had at high school for solving problems. Mathematics is not a spectator sport; you must work at it. Mathematics is presented to students as something to “watch” but it is something to work at. And of course, if you find yourself having trouble in your course, then seek help straight away!


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Introduction to Online Advertising

Our next lesson covers the main items for online advertising. Advertising is probably the most important promotion tool for big brick-and-mortar companies. However, with a SEM businesses, advertising is only a supporting factor. The problem is that the majority of SEM businesses lack the scale to be able to effectively contact large numbers of prospects and clients. Furthermore, there aren’t many places on the Web where prospective clients come in flocks. Therefore, advertising is largely PPC-oriented.Actually, online advertising is advertising on the Internet. This particular form of advertising is a source of revenue for an increasing number of websites and companies.A significant number of firms, from small businesses to multinational corporations, incorporate online advertising into their marketing strategy. Online advertisements typically involve at least two separate firms: the advertiser or agency which purchases or sponsors the advertisement and the publisher or network which distributes the ad for display. Because of the close relationship between technical innovation and online advertising, many firms specialize in both. For example, most search engines couple their search service with an advertising program, exploiting the benefits of keyword-based search technology by including ads in search results.Let’s look closer on the most popular online advertising form as traditional banner. PPC advertising form will be explained in details in 8 lessons of our next Step.Traditional Banner
A Web banner or banner ad is a widely used form of advertising on the Internet. This kind of online advertising entails embedding an advertisement into a Web page. It is intended to attract traffic to a website by linking them to the advertiser’s website.Generally the advertisement is constructed from an image (GIF, JPEG, PNG), JavaScript program or multimedia object employing technologies such as Java, Shockwave or Flash, and often employing animation or sound to maximize presence. Images are usually in a high-aspect ratio shape. Banners are usually placed on Web pages that have interesting content, such as a newspaper article or an opinion piece.The Web banner is displayed when a Web page that references the banner is loaded into a Web browser. This event is known as an “impression”. When the viewer clicks on the banner, the viewer is directed to the website advertised in the banner. This event is known as a “click-through”. Many banner ads work on a click-through payback system.At the base of a click-through system are mathematical calculations of the number of users (users clicking on an ad) divided by impression number. We remember that the term impression means the number of times the ad was delivered. For example, if your banner ad was delivered 100 times (impressions delivered) and 1 person clicked on it (clicks recorded), then the resulting CTR would be 1%.It should be noted that banner ad click-through rates have fallen over time, often measuring significantly less than 1% and choice of an appropriate advertising site with high affinity is very important crucial factor in this situation. Personalized ads, unusual formats, and more obtrusive ads typically have higher click-through rates than standard banner ads.When the advertiser scans their log files and detects that a Web user has visited the advertiser’s site from the content site by clicking on the banner ad, the advertiser sends the content provider a small amount of money (usually around five to ten US cents). This payback system is often how the content provider is able to pay for the Internet access to supply the content in the first place.Nine Common Banner Ad Mistakes to Avoid
Banner advertising expert Rob Frankel advises e-marketers to avoid the following mistakes when creating their banner ads:
Overloaded. Too many colors. Too slow to load. Too hard to read. Nobody wants to grow old waiting for your banner ad to load. Frankel advises designing banner ads that will load and view easily with last year’s technology. “Personally, I design pages for people running no more than Netscape 2.0 on the equivalent of a 486 running at 66 MHz and 256 colors,” says Frankel. “That means your art should still be no deeper than eight bits, unless you’re a true minimalist and can bring it in at no more than four.”
Unattractive. People like good-looking stuff. What works for Cindy Crawford can work for you, too. So if you’re not a digital Da Vinci, find someone who is and pay him or her a few bucks to make your banner look great.
Too many bells and whistles. Just because technology offers you bells and whistles doesn’t mean you have to use every one of them. Chances are that the average Web surfer has been through several sites before he or she gets to your banner. Give the reader a break. Don’t overdo motion, movement, or message changes. And allow some time to digest what you’re displaying.
Illiteracy and illegibility. These are the ads that make you scrunch up your face and twist your head trying to make some sense out of the illegible scrawls that some knucklehead thinks are cool. But prospects don’t care how cool you think it looks. If they can’t read it, you’ve lost any chance of their clicking on it.
Missing link. Your banner looks great but isn’t linked to anything. That’s a mistake that anyone should be able to detect and prevent with a simple check.
Link errors. Your banner looks great. The link works… directly to a 404 message (meaning the requested Web page was not found). Maybe this one isn’t your fault. Maybe your webmaster inadvertently forgot to tell you he or she switched servers. But even if it was the webmaster’s fault, who do you think will catch the blame? Keep checking those banner links every few days.
Weak message. The same things that make good ads make good banners. Unfortunately, the same things that make bad ads make horrible banners. If you don’t know how to write and design a clever, compelling message, hire someone who does. Nothing turns off poten­tial prospects more than a really stupid attempt at being clever, an offense usually committed with the aid of a bad pun. Remember that your ad is a representative of you, containing a smattering of your personality and ability. If it looks dopey to a viewer, guess what they’re going to think about you? It’s better to be clear than clever.
Confusing message. Your banner looks pretty, but nobody understands what the heck you’re talking about. This is the number-one mistake made by do-it-yourselfers.
Boring banners. One common mistake is that your banner doesn’t compel your recipients to respond within a certain time frame. Without a deadline, there is no immediacy to act, which means they scroll away until they forget it.
Web banners function the same way as traditional advertisements are intended to function: notifying consumers of the product or service and presenting reasons why the consumer should choose the product in question, although Web banners differ in that the results for advertisement campaigns may be monitored real-time and may be targeted to the viewer’s interests.The evidence shows that Web banner ads are restricted by high cost and limited physical banner area. Let’s look at the Marketplace section of SearchEngineWatch.com:Out of 10 advertisers only 3 are in the SEM services business. These companies – BruceClay, KeywordRanking and MoreVisibility – are the largest players in the industry; they have enough wherewithal to run these ads and enough resources to satisfy a large flow of traffic.Pay per click advertising
Pay per click or PPC advertising is an arrangement in which webmasters (operators of websites), acting as publishers, display clickable links from advertisers, in exchange for a charge per click. As this industry evolved, a number of advertising networks developed which acted as middlemen between these two groups (publishers and advertisers). Each time a (believed to be) valid Web user clicks on an ad, the advertiser pays the advertising network, who in turn pays the publisher a share of this money. This revenue sharing system is seen as an incentive for click fraud.Though many companies offer pay per click system as one of their services. Google AdWords and Yahoo! Search Marketing (formerly Overture) and MSN AdCenter are top players in this field.As far as PPC advertising is the first advertising option for any new on-line businesses it became one of the dominant and widely used marketing tools.What you should remember:
A Web banner is displayed when a Web page that references the banner is loaded into a Web browser. This event is known as an “impression”. When the viewer clicks on the banner, the viewer is directed to the website advertised in the banner. This event is known as a “click-through”.
Banners should be placed on Web pages that have interesting content, such as a newspaper article or an opinion piece.