Question: What are some ideas for financing your new startup -- without bank loans?
Question by: Ashley
Blend Your Product With Consultancy
"Many successful "startups" were actually consultancies that went into product building (37signals, MetaLab, etc.). Use consulting to pay for the development of your products. You'll never have to go into debt, and if you create a product that ties into your consulting, you'll be your own best beta tester."
Field Friends and Family
"It may seem old school, but the investors who are the most willing to take a risk on your idea will be those who trust in you more than they do in the idea. Friends and family know you well and can be a great way to get help with your launch. We raised $150,000 this way, which set everything in motion."
Pitch Business Plan Competitions
"There are many competitions that are out there where aspiring entrepreneurs can win seed money for their idea. In fact, my team won $10,000 from 100 Urban Entrepreneurs to get our Ujamaa Deals concept off of the ground. We were also in the running for other competitions as well. The hidden benefit to the competitions is that it gives you practice on selling your concept to others."
Clear the Clutter for Dollars
"Look around. Sell everything you don't need -- you will have more room to work and more money to work with. Prior to moving from Chicago to Raleigh to start my business, I sold everything I could and was able to clear the clutter for startup dollars."
The Crowds Will Flock
"Crowdfunding is a great tool for raising capital and there are plenty of websites that make it easy and quick to reach your goals, provided your idea is worthwhile. Instead of going to the bank and hoping that one person will believe in your dream, put your idea out there for the masses to decide. A wider net catches more fish."
Monetize Every Step
"It's not always possible, but depending on the company you're building, you may have some early opportunities for income. The research you do into your market maybe worth writing up and selling as an eBook. The skills you build may be worth teaching in a paid class. Your first runs of products may be worth selling, even if they aren't perfect."
Try Customer Financing
"Start to sell your product without spending any money on that product. Allow your customers to finance the production of your product. You can let them know when delivery will be, and this allows you not to spend any money before the product is sold. It also allows you to find out if it will sell before you even invest any money into testing out if it will sell. Let your customers finance you."
Don't Quit Your Day Job
"Day jobs (or night ones) are a great way to fund your new startup. Use a portion of your wages to invest in your new business. The art is in the balance. You need to be able to focus on each individually, so that neither is compromised."
Pray to the Angels?
"Before you approach a seasoned entrepreneur wanting access to his or her VC or Angel investors, I highly recommend analyzing your business model and mastering three topics: market validation (purchase orders), technical model (how it works), and business plan. Take all three of those explanations and approach friends/family first. If they can't give you a dollar, neither will an investor."
Incubators and Accelerators
"Not only do they provide you with the capital to get your idea off and running, but the access they provide to industry experts, startup attorneys and venture capitalists greatly improve the chance of your startup becoming a success."
Credit Cards Are a Last Resort
"I wouldn't recommend this unless all other avenues were pursued first, but you can find credit cards that will give you sizable cash advances. If you can scrap together a couple of these offers, you should have some money to get you started."
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.