One of the toughest things about starting or sustaining a business is finding funding. Whether for a startup effort, an expansion, product development, or more aggressive marketing, every business needs money, and many times that means outside funding. There are a few ways to get outside money for your business:
- Traditional Business Loans: Available from banks, credit unions, or small business administration and government loans, these are traditional ways of funding. Essentially, a business takes out a secured or unsecured loan and pays it back in installments with interest.
- Venture Capital/Angel Investors: This funding comes from individuals or groups who invest in businesses in exchange for a percentage of profits and a portion of the proceeds if the business is sold or stock options if it goes public.
- Crowdfunding: A relatively new method for business, this is when you use platforms like Kickstarter to get funding from those who are interested in your product or service.
- IPO: When a company sells stock that is publicly traded.
There are other methods of internal funding and less conventional funding like seeking loans from friends and family. Essentially, for all of these different methods, you must prove that your business has either made money in the past or has the potential to make enough money to be worth investors’ time and money.
None of these methods of funding are guaranteed. So what happens when you go after funding and you don’t get it? Here are some keys to moving forward after funding failure:
Evaluate What Went Wrong (If Anything)
Depending on the type of funding you were seeking, there could be a number of reasons you did not get it. It is a good idea at this point for you to see the same issues lenders saw so you can fix them if possible. If it is not possible to fix the issue, then you might have to reconsider your growth rate or even your business idea. Here are a few things that could have gone wrong:
- Your Personal Credit Score Is Too Low: When your startup is new, your business has no credit rating of its own. Everything is tied to you as the business backer. If your credit score is not stellar, a lender might see your business as a credit risk.
- Your Pitch Did Not Inspire Investors: Investors hear a lot of pitches, and you should simply be prepared to hear “no” a lot.
- Your Business Model Needs Work: While your idea might be great, you also need a path to making money, and yours may need refining before you apply for funding. You also may be losing money in ways that are not obvious to you but that investors see. Look for funding holes and repair them.
In his book, Lost and Founder, Rand Fishkin, founder of MOZ, reminds readers that when it comes to business, 5 in 10 will fail. Three of those that succeed will only make a small amount of money for investors, and two will make up for all the rest. Venture capitalists and even banks are looking for those two.
Even LegalZoom failed in their initial IPO before raising $500 million in their latest round of funding, which was designed to give current investors liquidity and move on to investors with a longer term outlook. Even large, successful companies have failed to get funding from time to time. Sometimes, it’s nothing you did wrong at all; you may just have asked the wrong people or at the wrong time.
Evaluate Where You Are Without That Funding
Just because you did not get this round of funding does not mean things are over. It is likely you are not out of business, but you will have to evaluate where you are now, as disappointing as that might seem, and where you need to go from here.
The first thing to do is look at your earnings now. This can also help with the previous step and determining what went wrong. Good accounting practices let you see if you need to scale back growth, return leased equipment, or take other steps to keep your business going. One of the most important steps to this is looking at your current cash flow. What kind of money do you need to cover your daily operations? Do you have that money coming in?
Secondly, look at why you wanted or needed that money in the first place. Was the need immediate, or was it to finance future projects that can be put on hold? If the answer falls into the second category, you can take some time to evaluate those projects and look for alternate funding sources or even shift your company focus.
Seek Other Funding Sources
No matter how you tried to get funding, there are other sources. If venture capital failed, you may have to look at loans. If one or both of those failed, you may want to look more creatively at some crowdfunding options. You may even simply want to look at other investors or banking options.
In business, a “no” often simply means you are that much closer to a “yes,” and that is no different with funding than with anything else. If one thing did not work, try another one. If you heard no, ask someone else, or reset once you have determined what went wrong and fixed it, and then ask again. This means expanding your network and practicing your people skills and sales pitches at conferences and wherever you go.
Even after funding failure, business is about moving forward, even if that means stumbling forward for a bit until you can get on your feet again. There’s no time to stop and wrestle with regret. A business that is not moving forward is already moving backward. Determine what went wrong if possible, take stock of where you are now, and seek other funding sources. This “no” may simply be one more step on your way to a “yes” and a successful round of company funding.