There are many different ways to raise money for your small business.
What are Private Stock Offerings and How Can They Help You Finance Your Small Business?
You can get loans from your friends and family, liquidate your savings, ask for donations online, or even throw a local fundraiser. But one the most powerful way to finance your small business is a private stock offering. A private stock offering—sometimes called a private placement—is when you sell securities in your business without an initial public offering—usually called an IPO. In other words, a private placement is when you sell your company’s stocks or bonds to private investors. For example, if you run a start-up shopping site, you might offer private stocks to a private investor. This investor gives you money to fund your burgeoning start-up in hopes that he or she will see a large financial return on their investment. There are numerous ways to find investors that might want to purchase securities in a private stock offering. Bankers, small business attorneys, and your personal business contacts are a good place to start. But it’s important to remember that not everyone qualifies as a private investor. While private offerings are governed by less strict rules than IPOs, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) still has guidelines your business will need to follow. (Do note that you will not need to file anything with the SEC, however. In other words, a private placement allows you to get funding for your business without dealing directly with the SEC.)
Who can invest in a private stock offering?
Private placements must come from what the SEC terms an “accredited investor.” Our article, “What are Accredited Investors and How Can They Help Finance Your Small Business?” lays out a fuller picture, but know for starters that accredited investors are generally wealthy individuals or organizations. For example, for a single person to be classified as an accredited investor, they must have a net worth of $1 million or a yearly income of $200,000. Trusts, banks, investment and insurance companies also qualify.
What documents you should have to hold a private stock offering?
• Operating Agreement: First and foremost, you need to make sure your company is incorporated and that you have an Operating Agreement. Legal status and a plan that shows how your business runs will be crucial in securing the sort of savvy investors your small business will want.
• Private Placement Memorandum: A Private Placement Memorandum outlines the terms and conditions upon which you are offering interests in your business. You can think of it as a brochure for your business, where you alert potential investors to the facts they’ll need to know about your company. You can set the amount of stocks you’re offering overall, the price for each, how many an investor can purchase, when that investor will receive stocks, and pertinent information about your company (such as its founders, age, projected profit, etc.).
• Subscription Agreement: A Subscription Agreement is just that: an agreement. When a private investor decides to purchase securities in your small business, a subscription agreement is the contract you use to put the investment in writing. It should note the price and amount of stocks being purchased, in addition to information about the company itself.
• Accredited Investor Questionnaire Form: An accredited investor questionnaire is used by companies and individuals to validate that they are in fact an accredited investor, as defined by the SEC. Making sure your investors are accredited investors can save you a lot of hassle down the road, when your business is growing even faster. Rocket Lawyer provides this form as part of our Subscription Agreement.
While it might sound like a lot of paperwork, it’s not as bad as it seems. You’re simply showing potential investors how great your company is (via a Private Placement Memorandum) while they prove that they’re legally allowed to invest (via an accredited investor questionnaire form). When you agree, you both sign a contract (the Subscription Agreement) and you receive the funding you need to push your small business to the next level. Private Placement.
What Is a Private Placement?
A private placement is a sale of stock shares or bonds to pre-selected investors and institutions rather than on the open market. It is an alternative to an initial public offering (IPO) for a company seeking to raise capital for expansion. Investors invited to participate in private placement programs include wealthy individual investors, banks and other financial institutions, mutual funds, insurance companies, and pension funds. One advantage of a private placement is its relatively few regulatory requirements.
Understanding Private Placement
There are minimal regulatory requirements and standards for a private placement even though, like an IPO, it involves the sale of securities. The sale does not even have to be registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The company is not required to provide a prospectus to potential investors and detailed financial information may not be disclosed. The sale of stock on the public exchanges is regulated by the Securities Act of 1933, which was enacted after the market crash of 1929 to ensure that investors receive sufficient disclosure when they purchase securities. Regulation D of that act provides a registration exemption for private placement offerings. The same regulation allows an issuer to sell securities to a pre-selected group of investors that meet specified requirements. Instead of a prospectus, private placements are sold using a private placement memorandum (PPM) and cannot be broadly marketed to the general public. It specifies that only accredited investors may participate. These may include individuals or entities such as venture capital firms that qualify under the SEC’s terms.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Private Placement
Private placements have become a common way for startups to raise financing, particularly those in the internet and financial technology sectors. They allow these companies to grow and develop while avoiding the full glare of public scrutiny that accompanies an IPO. Buyers of private placements demand higher returns than they can get on the open markets.
A Speedier Process
Above all, a young company can remain a private entity, avoiding the many regulations and annual disclosure requirements that follow an IPO. The light regulation of private placements allows the company to avoid the time and expense of registering with the SEC. That means the process of underwriting is faster, and the company gets its funding sooner. If the issuer is selling a bond, it also avoids the time and expense of obtaining a credit rating from a bond agency. A private placement allows the issuer to sell a more complex security to accredited investors who understand the potential risks and rewards.
A More Demanding Buyer
The buyer of a private placement bond issue expects a higher rate of interest than can be earned on a publicly-traded security. Because of the additional risk of not obtaining a credit rating, a private placement buyer may not buy a bond unless it is secured by specific collateral. A private placement stock investor may also demand a higher percentage of ownership in the business or a fixed dividend payment per share of stock.
What is a Stock?
Stock (also capital stock) of a corporation, is all of the shares into which ownership of the corporation is divided. In American English, the shares are collectively known as “stock”. A single share of the stock represents fractional ownership of the corporation in proportion to the total number of shares. This typically entitles the stockholder to that fraction of the company’s earnings, proceeds from liquidation of assets (after discharge of all senior claims such as secured and unsecured debt), or voting power, often dividing these up in proportion to the amount of money each stockholder has invested. Not all stock is necessarily equal, as certain classes of stock may be issued for example without voting rights, with enhanced voting rights, or with a certain priority to receive profits or liquidation proceeds before or after other classes of shareholders. Stock can be bought and sold privately or on stock exchanges, and such transactions are typically heavily regulated by governments to prevent fraud, protect investors, and benefit the larger economy. The stocks are deposited with the depositories in the electronic format also known as Demat account. As new shares are issued by a company, the ownership and rights of existing shareholders are diluted in return for cash to sustain or grow the business. Companies can also buy back stock, which often lets investors recoup the initial investment plus capital gains from subsequent rises in stock price. Stock options, issued by many companies as part of employee compensation, do not represent ownership, but represent the right to buy ownership at a future time at a specified price. This would represent a windfall to the employees if the option is exercised when the market price is higher than the promised price, since if they immediately sold the stock they would keep the difference (minus taxes).
Shares vs. Stocks: What’s the Difference?
The distinction between stocks and shares is pretty blurred in the financial markets. Generally, in American English, both words are used interchangeably to refer to financial equities, specifically, securities that denote ownership in a public company (in the good old days of paper transactions, these were called stock certificates). Nowadays, the difference between the two words has more to do with syntax and is derived from the context in which they are used. Of the two, “stocks” is the more general, generic term. It is often used to describe a slice of ownership of one or more companies. In contrast, in common parlance, “shares” has a more specific meaning: It often refers to the ownership of a particular company.
What’s The Difference Between Shares and Stocks?
Let’s confine ourselves to equities and the equity markets. Investment professionals often use the word stocks as synonymous with companies—publicly-traded companies, of course. They might refer to energy stocks, value stocks, large- or small-cap stocks, food-sector stocks, blue-chip stocks, and so on. In each case, these categories don’t refer so much to the stocks themselves as to the corporations that issued them. Financial pros also refer to common stock and preferred stock, but, actually, these aren’t types of stock but types of shares.
A share is the single smallest denomination of a company’s stock. So if you’re divvying up stock and referring to specific characteristics, the proper word to use is shares. Technically speaking, shares represent units of stock. Common and preferred refer to different classes of stock. They carry different rights and privileges, and trade at different prices. Common shareholders are allowed to vote on company referenda and personnel, for example. Preferred shareholders do not possess voting rights, but on the other hand, they have priority in getting repaid if the company goes bankrupt. Both types of shares pay dividends, but those in the preferred class are guaranteed. Common and preferred are the two main forms of stock shares; however, it’s also possible for companies to customize different classes of stock to fit the needs of their investors. The different classes of shares, often designated simply as “A,” “B,” and so on, are given different voting rights. For example, one class of shares would be held by a select group who are given perhaps five votes per share, while a second class would be issued to the majority of investors who are given just one vote per share.
The interchangeability of the terms stocks and shares applies mainly to American English. The two words still carry considerable distinctions in other languages. In India, for example, as per that country’s Companies Act of 2013, a share is the smallest unit into which the company’s capital is divided, representing the ownership of the shareholders in the company, and can be only partially paid up. A stock, on the other hand, is a collection of shares of a member, converted into a single fund, that is fully paid up.
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