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New Financing Option for Start-Ups in Canada

By Julie King |

A new revenue-based financing model is now available in Canada as Lighter Capital extends its offering to Canadian businesses.

The key advantage is simple: start-up businesses can access capital that is somewhere between traditional bank financing and venture capital investments, only they don't have to put up a personal guarantee or give up equity.

I recently caught up with BJ Lackland, CEO of Lighter Capital, to learn more about this new type of financing and what this will mean for start-ups in Canada.

In a nutshell, what is revenue-based financing?

Revenue-Based Financing is unrestricted capital for growth, in return for a small percentage of a company's future revenues. Essentially, it's a loan where payments are determined based on a company's monthly revenues. Additionally, the total investor payout is always capped at a pre-negotiated amount.

How is it different from other forms of financing?

In addition to having no fixed repayment schedule, Revenue-Based Financing offers entrepreneurs a funding option with no personal guarantee - as is required with bank financing - and no loss of company company control - as is the case with venture capital financing. Unlike a bank, Revenue-Based Financing enables entrepreneurs to fund their business without risking their home, collateral, or their personal credit. And unlike Venture Capital, it also saves entrepreneurs from having to surrender a board of directors seat and a large ownership stake in their company.

Who are your loans targeted at?

Lighter Capital offers Revenue-Based Financing — ranging from $50,000 to $500,000 — to early-stage businesses that have launched their products, have initial customers and revenues, and are primed for growth. These are typically small, high-tech businesses that have no assets, are very high-margin, and are running on the edge of profitability. However, we have funded a number of non-tech businesses as well.

You mentioned that your loans are advantageous for seasonal businesses - are you open to funding any type of start-up or is there a specific profile you are looking for?

While a large number of our Revenue Loans are with technology companies and technical service providers, we have funded some unusual businesses - like Tomato Battle, a traveling tomato fight, and, an outdoor party equipment rental business. Both are examples of profitable, yet seasonal businesses that have found success with Revenue-Based Financing. We are open to speaking with any entrepreneur that is steadily generating revenue, and just needs an infusion of capital to get their business to the next level.

Why did Lighter Capital decide to get into this market?

Lighter Capital is filling the massive gap between equity investors (VCs and angels) and banks for small businesses. Even for the most profitable small businesses, it can often be very difficult and time consuming to secure a bank loan, and only then with an attached personal guarantee.

And on the other hand, Venture Capitalists are only looking to invest in businesses that have the potential to be "home runs". There are over 75,000 small (revenues between $100k and $10M per year) technology companies in North America, and in 2012 there were only 1,700 Seed and Series A venture deals. So 97.8% of all early and growth stage technology companies do not have access to institutional equity capital. (sources: Report: $28.3B Was Invested In 3,267 VC Deals In 2012; Seed Funding Hits Record Levels and Statistics about Business Size (including Small Business) from the U.S. Census Bureau.)

Lighter Capital and Revenue-Based Financing is entrepreneur-friendly growth capital for those tens of thousands of small businesses that go ignored by more traditional lenders and investors, or are run by entrepreneurs who have been burned by VC dilution and control or bank covenants and guarantees before and are looking for an alternative.

You are offering loans based on revenues, with no personal risk, so I'm expecting your rates to be considerably higher than a security-backed loan. How are your rates structured and what would a business pay for a typical loan?

We are up front about the fact that Revenue-Based Financing is expensive compared with traditional loans. We charge between 15 and 30 percent interest. This is no more expensive than a credit card (but we offer much larger amounts) and certainly not as expensive as surrendering an equity stake in your company. Ask yourself, how expensive is $30,000 in interest on a $100,000 RBF loan when compared with the alternative — which is theoretically unlimited on a $100,000 equity investment?

And yes, financing from a bank will frequently be cheaper, but many of the companies we work with don't qualify, so it is really not an option. However, often after using our investment to grow, a company can achieve eligibility for cheaper financing from a bank — and we love this. We have introduced numerous customers to cheaper capital sources when the time was right.

Also, using our proprietary underwriting analysis (see more information in the following question), we have incredible insight into an applicant's business, and can predict the various risks and opportunities better than a bank, which only looks at financial statements and the CEO's FICO score. So even if you have bad personal credit and the company isn't profitable, in our eyes, the company may still be credit worthy.

How do you decide who to finance and which loans to turn down?

Unlike typical financing institutions, we utilize an innovative software platform to automate our investment application and evaluation process. This automated deal engine allows us to quickly review the financial data input by the entrepreneur and immediately suggest investment terms. As a result, we've been able to issue term sheets in as little as 48 hours and fund some companies within a week of being introduced to them.

When will businesses be able to begin to apply for loans?

Canadian businesses can apply for a loan with Lighter Capital today!

Where do they go if they want to learn more or apply?

Visit our website to apply or for more information: and apply here:

Photo credit: Photo of BJ Lackland supplied by Lighter Capital.

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