A new year is a new chance to put the old ways behind: it’s as true for your personal fitness as it is for the financial fitness of your business. If your business is going to need capital in the new year, an online alternative can be the way to fund it.
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Whether you anticipate needing capital for new equipment or an expansion, there are three main ways to get capital online, in far less time and with far less hassle than going to your bank or credit union:
Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Lending
The P2P business model is starkly different from that of traditional banks. As their name implies, P2P sites began as ways for individuals to borrow from other individuals but now several of the sites have evolved into places where small business owners can borrow from individuals and even institutional investors.
P2P loans are unsecured, so you don’t have to tie up precious collateral, the funding process is faster than a bank and requires less paperwork. Your personal credit score will guide the terms of your funding, but many of these sites have developed their own proprietary scoring so that funders can decide whether they want to help your business.
P2P lending tends to focus on smaller loan amounts, so it might not be your best source for expansion or renovation capital.
Now that P2P sites are also open to institutional funders, the line between P2P and marketplace lending isn’t as clear as it once was. Marketplace lenders have created websites where small businesses can get offers from multiple funders on a wide range of capital needs, from short-term funding to equipment finance and even long-term loans backed by a guarantee from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
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Not every option requires collateral and there are even options for business owners with less than perfect credit.
To fund your business through both P2P and marketplace sites, your business needs to have a bit of a track record, so they are generally not options for startup businesses. To get a new business idea off the ground, you might want to consider crowdfunding.
On a crowdfunding site, you can use words, pictures and even videos to sell people—many of whom won’t know you or your business—on your business idea and include how much you need and what you’ll use the money for.
For example, food entrepreneurs have used crowdfunding to get capital for a food truck, or to move from a truck to a fixed location. Musicians have used crowdfunding to get a single album produced, while game inventors have used it to get their first product out the door.
Also, on many crowdfunding sites, you can offer a gift to funders for their generosity, like a copy of your music or game, and that can help to build a market for your product. But, it can take a lot of time and effort to have a successful crowdfunding campaign, and there are no guarantees that you’ll get the money you need.
Alternative finance is constantly evolving, adding new funding options and funding partners—even funding partners from the world of traditional banking. So if you decide that one of these options is the right one for your business, don’t rule the others out forever. Make a list of the funding you’ll need to grow your business and keep an eye out for your choices.
This article was written by Stephen Sheinbaum, founder of Bizfi, an aggregation marketplace and alternative funding group.