7 tips for landing an SBA loan

– Rachel Zippwald is the vice president of California Bank & Trust, a major SBA lender. The views expressed are her own. –

Small businesses seeking financing are in for a bit of good luck these days.

Special Small Business Administration incentives, such as the waiver of certain fees, are still available until the end of the year, so now is the time to apply for financing. There are, however, a few caveats.

While SBA loans are available, it may take a bit more work to obtain one and banks are requiring more information than they have in the past. The following are a few tips to facilitate getting your SBA loan approved.

1. Provide details on exactly how much financing you need and how you will use it. Banks like specifics, so be prepared to provide a precise dollar amount and give details of how you will use the funds. For example, if you’re seeking $125,000 to expand your business, explain to your lender how you will use the funds, such as you need $75,000 for working capital to support three months of expenses, and another $50,000 for seven networked computers and a server. Banks are impressed with research, so provide a written quote for the equipment. If you’re planning to consolidate debts and refinance for a longer term, provide copies of your promissory notes and state how much you think you can save with the refinance. Detailed loan amounts with copies of bids, promissory notes or proposals can help strengthen your loan package because your lender can understand the facts backing up the request.

2. Provide information about company management. When banks lend money, they like to understand who runs the company and to be familiar with their backgrounds. This is a key factor in presenting your loan for approval. Help your lender by providing a resume for each owner or key employee and describe their functions and responsibilities. If certain key positions have not yet been filled, include a thorough job description of the type of person you are seeking. This will confirm for the lender that you have analyzed your needs and have determined the requirements of the position.

10 tips for securing angel or venture funding

– Chris Lynch is vice president of economic development at the Irvine Chamber of Commerce. The views expressed are his own. –

During the Internet boom, investors were mostly interested in the potential of a company. These days nothing is considered a sure thing and if your startup business isn’t on the right track, or if you haven’t done your homework as an entrepreneur, then you won’t have much luck raising capital.

The following are 10 tips to help you secure the financial support and funding your business may need to succeed.

Don’t celebrate until the cash is in the bank

– Mark Suster is a partner at Los Angeles-based venture capital firm GRP Partners. This article originally appeared on his blog “Both Sides of the Table”. –

Recently I wrote a blog post about how I hated losing, but I embrace it as a way to learn, improve and increase my win rates.

One of the things I learned from my “post-game analysis” is that you’re most vulnerable right after you’ve won the deal. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but my experience tells me it’s true. At the moment you pop the champagne cork and let down your guard is when you’re easiest to attack.

TechStars’ founder predicts accelerator implosion

Less than two months from launching its New York program, TechStars co-founder David Cohen is already anticipating a critical mass being achieved in the startup-mentoring space within the next five years.

Cohen said that when he and two friends first launched TechStars in Boulder, Colorado four years ago there were just a handful of these accelerator programs. Now he said there are upwards of 60 across the country and he expects that to triple before the bubble bursts.

“There will be a run up to a couple hundred and then we’ll probably see a run down to 10 would be my guess over the next five years,” said Cohen, who has expanded TechStars to Boston and Seattle in recent years and has invested in more than 70 startups since launching the program. “There will certainly be a little mini accelerator bubble.”

Invest in lines, not dots

– Mark Suster is a former serial entrepreneur and a partner at Los Angeles-based venture capital firm GRP Partners. This article originally appeared on his blog “Both Sides of the Table”. The views expressed are his own. –

Everyone seems to be in such a rush to get shacked up these days.

In normal times investors will look for “traction” before investing. We want to make sure we’re in love. This sometimes frustrates entrepreneurs who just want to “get back to running the business.” But if you understand it you’ll see that it’s perfectly rational and it should also influence how you form relationships with investors. And remember, if we get married you’re stuck with us, too.

The first time I meet you, you are a single data point. A dot. I have no reference point from which to judge whether you were higher on the y-axis three months ago, or lower. Because I have no observation points from the past, I have no sense for where you will be in the future. Thus, it’s very hard to make a commitment to fund you.

Michigan launches “world’s largest” startup competition

The proliferation of startup incubator or accelerator programs has made it tough for most to stand out among the crowd. So the way the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition chose to do it, is by offering what it claims is the “world’s largest” cash award – $500,000 – to the winning business pitch.

The only condition is that the winner has to set up shop in Michigan.

“Seventy years ago we were Silicon Valley,” said David Egner, executive director of the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan, which provided $750,000 – in the form of a grant – of the more than $1 million in prize money for the competition. “That DNA is still here and we need to re-highlight the activities that are already happening and the things we need to do in Michigan to return it to its innovative roots.”

The contest is the collaborative efforts of four of the state’s biggest incubator programs: Ann Arbor Spark, Automation Alley, Macomb-OU INCubator and TechTown. The competition will be accepting proposals from startups around the globe through October 6 and will award the grand prize on December 12th. There is also a secondary competition just for students with concepts for longer-term business viability, which runs through October 22.

RatePoint taking aim at Yelp?

Customer reviews can be crucial to a small business, especially in a climate where consumers are trying to make smarter decisions about their purchases. It’s no surprise then that review sites such as Yelp, Local and Mahalo have flourished over the last few years.

RatePoint is the latest to attempt to cash in on the trend, having secured more than $20 million in funding since it launched in 2006. Recently the Needham, Massachusetts-based site got another $7-million from three local venture capital firms: Prism Venture Works, .406 Ventures and Castile Ventures.

Neal Creighton, RatePoint’s co-founder and CEO, insisted his company is not just another Yelp, noting RatePoint’s reviews come from actual customers and not just a community of reviewers that may have no connection to the company. It’s a subtle, but important distinction, said Creighton.

Index, Accel bet big on Squarespace

- Lawrence Aragon is the Editor-in-Chief of the Venture Capital Journal and Private Equity Week, both Thomson Reuters publications. This story originally appeared on PE Hub.com. -

Fast-growing Squarespace, a competitor to blogging platforms such as WordPress and TypePad, recently announced it has taken its first institutional money – a $38.5 million growth investment led by Index Ventures and Accel Partners. The deal values the company between $80 million and $100 million, according to a knowledgeable source.

The New York-based company landed on the Inc. 500 last year, coming in at No. 339. Inc. magazine reported that the eight-employee company had grown its revenue from just under $270,000 in 2005 to $2.2 million in 2008.

VCs, meet the new sheriff

Relatives of victims of the June 5 fire at a day-care centre wear angel wings during a protest against federal and local authorities in Hermosillo, in the Mexican state of Sonora. REUTERS/Alonso CastilloMove over venture capitalists, there’s a new sheriff in town: the angel investor.

As VC and private equity firms pulled back from the number of deals they made with entrepreneurs during the recession, it appears angel investors – wealthy individuals funding startups on a much smaller basis – have moved in to pick up the slack.

Last month Fast Company ran a blog titled, “Angel investors more powerful than VCs“, wherein author Brian Javeline, the founder and CEO of MyOnlineToolbox.com, stated angel investors “who used to promote entrepreneurialism have been acting more like traditional VCs.”

Michigan VC’s Top Ten list

Mina Sooch is one venture capitalist who knows how to captivate a crowd.

The chairman of the Michigan Venture Capital Association took a page out of David Letterman’s playbook by introducing her own Top Ten list at the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium, an annual event hosted by the University of Michigan in the small college town of Ypsilanti, about 20 miles west of Detroit.

Sooch, a managing partner for Michigan-based VC firm Triathlon Medical Ventures, talked about some of the challenges her state faces in getting deals done with entrepreneurs and boosting the amount of VC dollars invested locally. The latest report by the MVCA showed Michigan had fallen slightly from No. 16 to No. 19 overall in 2009 and that overall VC investment had dropped by nearly 50 percent, from $246 million in 2008 to just $131 million last year.

In an attempt to accentuate the positives, Sooch debuted her list of “Top Ten Reasons Michigan Will Succeed”: