Equity financing refers to raising capital for a business by selling ownership shares in the company. It is one of the main ways that startups and growth-stage companies can access the funding they need to get off the ground, expand operations, and bring innovative products and services to market.
How Equity Financing Works
With equity financing, investors provide capital to a business in exchange for partial ownership of the company, referred to as equity shares. By selling equity, a company raises funds without incurring debt or having to repay the money. However, the existing owners must give up some control and ownership of their company.
Selling Company Stock
Equity financing involves selling company stock to investors. The two main types of equity shares are common stock and preferred stock:
- Common Stock: This represents ownership in a company and entitles the shareholder to voting rights. Dividends are paid on a common stock based on the number of shares owned.
- Preferred Stock: This type provides shareholders with certain rights and privileges not afforded to common stockholders, such as guaranteed dividend payments before dividends are paid to common shareholders. Preferred stock may also include redemption rights and conversion privileges.
Equity Capital From Investors
Companies can source equity financing from various types of investors:
- Angel Investors: Wealthy individuals who provide capital to startups for a stake in the business.
- Venture Capital Firms: Institutions that invest in companies with high growth potential.
- Private Equity Firms: Investors who provide longer-term capital to established companies looking to expand or restructure operations.
- Public Stock Offerings: Once a company achieves sufficient scale, it can hold an initial public offering (IPO) and issue stock on public markets.
Critical Benefits of Equity Financing
Compared to alternatives like debt financing, equity financing comes with several unique advantages for companies:
No Required Repayments
Unlike loans, equity financing does not require ongoing repayments with set interest rates. Companies provide shareholders a share of profits through dividends and capital appreciation of their stock. There are no fixed monthly payments that add to expenses and cash flow strain.
No Collateral Required
Debt financing often requires collateral in case of default. With equity financing, companies do not have to risk valuable assets since shareholders earn returns based on the business’s future profitability.
Flexible Use of Funds
Capital from equity financing can be used for any business purpose. The funds are not restricted to specific uses like debt financing. Companies have the freedom to allocate capital strategically.
Selling equity allows startups and growth companies to obtain higher valuations earlier on. Share prices are based on growth potential rather than current profitability and collateral.
Potential Downsides and Considerations
Despite its advantages, equity financing also comes with some drawbacks to weigh:
Loss of Control
Selling equity means bringing new shareholders onto the board and reducing control for founders and existing owners. Investors may also impose certain conditions.
Dilution of Ownership
As more equity shares are issued, existing shareholders’ ownership stake declines or gets diluted. Their percentage of the company and control decreases.
Equity offerings must meet specific regulations around financial reporting, disclosures, and compliance. This can increase accounting, legal, and other expenses.
No Guarantee of Success
Just like founders and owners, shareholders take on financial risk by buying equity. There is no guarantee that the company will generate sufficient returns on its capital.
Higher Cost of Capital
Unlike debt, equity does not generate tax deductions for interest expenses. So the after-tax cost of capital is typically higher than debt financing.
Equity Financing Stages
Companies can raise equity financing at various points across their lifecycles:
During the early phases, startups and younger companies often turn to angel investors and venture capital firms to provide seed capital and Series A/Series B startup funding rounds.
Once in the growth stage, companies may hold later series funding rounds (Series C, Series D, etc.) while also considering private equity investors for expansion capital.
Mature companies can sell new public shares through initial and secondary public offerings. They may still utilize private equity financing as well for specific growth initiatives.
Equity financing allows companies to fund growth by selling ownership of their business to investors. While dilutive to existing owners, it provides flexible working capital without required repayments or collateral. Companies can raise equity at various stages in their lifecycle from multiple sources like angels, VCs, PEs, and public markets. Weighing the tradeoffs of equity financing versus alternatives like debt helps owners make optimal funding choices. Equity financing can fuel transformative business expansion and innovation with the proper context and strategy.
What are the main types of equity financing?
The main types are venture capital, angel investing, crowdfunding, initial public offerings (IPOs), and secondary public offerings. Private equity and employee stock option plans also represent forms of equity financing.
What are the differences between equity and debt financing?
Equity financing involves selling the company’s stock in exchange for capital. Debt financing entails borrowing funds and being obligated to repay the principal plus interest. Equity does not need to be paid back but results in some ownership/control loss.
What equity percentage is typically sold to investors?
This varies significantly by industry, company stage, investor type, and negotiating leverage. But often, 10-40% of equity is sold in early and growth stage fundraising rounds. At most, 50% is typically sold during any single game.
How long does a company need to wait between equity financing rounds?
There are generally no set requirements, but subsequent rounds happen 12-24 months apart. Companies should raise equity financing more frequently, which can deter investors and cause excessive dilution.
What valuation methods help determine equity share pricing?
Valuation relies on models like comparable company analysis, discounted cash flows, precedent transactions, and the venture capital method. The share price is based on the valuation and required investor rate of return for the opportunity cost and risk profile.