There are many ways to finance SaaS startups, such as bootstrapping or venture debt. However, investments from venture capital funds or business angels, i.e. venture capital, is the most popular financing method for young companies. In addition, there are alternative financing models such as recurring revenue financing (RRF), as offered by re:cap. But not all financing methods work for every startup, and that's why it's important to know their advantages and disadvantages. We discuss the most important financing methods in detail and compare them with re:cap to help startups choose what suits them best.
Equity financing: What startups should know
In equity financing, startups receive capital in return for shares in the company. This category includes IPOs as well as equity from venture capitalists such as venture capital funds and business angels. Good to know: For large, established companies, equity funding takes place in the form of private equity financing, e.g. by institutional investors - but this is usually not relevant for startups. Since going public is not yet an option for young companies, we will focus on venture capital in the following when we talk about equity financing.
Venture capital is the standard for most startups
Receiving funding from venture capital funds or business angels is part of the financing strategy for most startups. Although it is not the only option for financing (bootstrapping or crowdfunding are possible alternatives), for most startups it is the best or even the only possible option, especially at an early stage. How easy or difficult it is to find investors depends on various factors: the business model of the startup plays a role, but also the market in which it operates; its competition; and last but not least the economic situation - as 2022 has vividly shown. While successful startups were free to choose their investors in recent years, it has become much more difficult to raise fresh capital due to the current tense political and economic situation.
Pros and cons of venture capital
Venture capital is popular for a good reason. Those who find reputable, good fit investors and close an attractive deal with them at a good valuation, have several advantages at hand: The investors’ expertise, industry knowledge and network have a positive effect on the development of their portfolio startups. It also helps startups to strengthen their external image: If they can present well-known investors with an excellent track record, they gain trust of potential customers and partners, and it becomes much easier to find good employees. Also, venture capital funding rounds can, especially in later stages, be bigger than funding limits of RRF providers.
However, financing through VCs or business angels has downsides, too. Many months can pass before a funding round is completed, and startups give away company shares and thus a lot of decision-making power in return for new capital. Moreover, with the time, interest conflicts between a startup and its investors can occur. In any case, equity financing comes with a dilution of the company's shares - the more shares that are ceded, the greater the dilution, of course. Thus, it can happen that startup founders hold only 10 to 15 percent of their company's shares at the time of an IPO. The long term financial consequences of giving up many company shares are often underestimated.
Financing with re:cap: What startups should know
Startups have hardly any alternatives to equity financing before generating their first revenues. This changes when the first revenues are earned, because then other financing sources such as recurring revenue financing (RRF) also come into play.
Recurring revenue financing gives software companies with subscription models easy and fast access to capital by converting their future annual recurring revenue (ARR) in exchange for immediate upfront payments through an RRF provider. In addition, RRF financing is non-dilutive, which differentiates it from equity financing. re:cap offers such RRF financing options, allowing SaaS companies to convert up to 60 percent of their ARR into capital immediately and continuously. In this way, the method functions similarly to a line of credit, which startups can access whenever they need capital.
By the way, it is important not to confuse this method with the similar-sounding revenue-based financing method (RBF), in which context startups receive capital from investors who are entitled to a fixed share of recurring revenues in return. Which means, of course, that the faster the startup grows and the more revenue it generates, the more expensive this financing method becomes.
re:cap financing or venture capital: Which is better?
RRF financing with re:cap offers several advantages over venture capital. Startups do not dilute their shares and thus stay in control of their company. Instead of investing time and money into fundraising, reporting and due diligence, they can fully concentrate on growth. With the help of re:cap’s financing, the time until a next venture capital round is to be concluded can also be extended, so that the equity round can take place on better terms based on the greater growth. In addition, SaaS companies can supplement or increase the size of an equity round with re:cap financing and thus save shares.
So when is venture capital the right choice, and when should startups better rely on RRF from re:cap? On the one hand, it depends on the phase the company is in. For those who are still at the very beginning, venture capital is a very good solution. However, as soon as they start generating revenues, it’s a different story. Then the decision depends on what they need the funding for: If funding is to be invested in measures whose outcome and thus ROI is difficult to calculate today, such as the development of entirely new products, venture capital makes sense as growth capital. If, on the other hand, startups with a SaaS business model and already generating revenues want to invest in measures with a clearly calculable ROI, such as marketing or sales activities, mergers & acquisitions or geographic expansions, re:cap is an attractive alternative.
The good thing is that both methods can be combined with each other (and with other forms of financing such as venture debt, too). Startups, for example, start with venture capital and use it to finance expenses with outcomes that are difficult to plan. As soon as they achieve regular revenues, they supplement their capital with re:cap financing. They can use it for expenses until the next funding round and always have money available when they need it, since re:cap works like a long-term financing line. re:cap is also suitable for short-term expenses - e.g., when acquiring another company or for urgent investments that accelerate growth (such as sales, marketing, new technologies).
More financing options for startups
Recurring revenue financing can be a big win because it offers companies more choice and flexibility in their financial planning and capital stack without dependency on equity financing. That's a huge advantage, especially in a volatile economic period like the current one. A financing with re:cap helps SaaS companies to act more calmly and to continue to focus fully on their business and growth.