Updated 1/24/22 | Originally posted 5/1/21
In a previous post, we described how much VC money SaaSCo founders should raise for working capital or growth capital, and how they might use that money to grow their business. Like most things related to building a SaaSCo, the answer to both is largely about timing.
When you're just beginning to build your business, venture capital equity or debt is your best bet. But as your business grows, it’s important to realize there are less costly, more efficient funding options. Think of VC funding as the building blocks of a more comprehensive, dynamic financing strategy that, in later stages, should include just-in-time financing.
Before we describe such a dynamic strategy, let’s first review the four main SaaS financing options available to SaaSCo founders.
Static funding / Upfront capital– With static funding, the goal is to get as much cash as you possibly can during discrete funding events. This financing model provides one large sum of upfront cash. The problem is, you don’t actually need it all, at least not right away. And whether it be through interest or by giving away shares of your company, you will pay for that cash you don’t need.
Venture equity – This is the most familiar version of financing for SaaS companies, yet it is also the most elusive and the costliest. If your company doesn’t show promise of becoming a unicorn, you’re unlikely to even get a meeting with a VC, let alone walk away with a term sheet. But if you do somehow pull off a round of equity funding, you will do so at the expense of ownership in your business.
What’s worse is this dilution compounds over multiple rounds. If you give away 10% to 20% of equity round over round, by the time you reach an exit seven to ten years down the road, the average founding team owns less than 15% of their company. Therefore, while equity funding is a good option at the very beginning stages of your business, it is not the only option and it will end up costing you dearly if deployed long-term.
Venture debt - This option will spare you dilution but will cost you cold, hard cash, usually in the form of 6% to 12% interest. Also, warrants and transaction costs add up fast. Plus, your lender will impose a number of covenants and operational constraints on your business. And, as the salt in your interest-paying wounds, if there is some form of liquidation event such as an acquisition, your venture debt will get paid first, potentially leaving you and other owners of the company with nothing.
Better to find a debt or equity financing alternative.
Merchant cash advance – This model is based on your actual monthly recurring revenue (MRR) and it pays in recurring installments. It means finding a lending institution willing to front the MRR (usually 2x to 4x) in return for a percentage of your net monthly revenue. This model can work well for e-commerce businesses; but for your SaaSCo that has long conversion cycles and fluctuating conversion metrics, it’s very hard to calculate how much this type of SaaS financing will cost you. And if your company is rapidly growing, the better you do, the more you will pay.
At Capchase, we recommend SaaS founders pursue an initial round of VC funding as startup funding to get the business off the ground. Call this pre-product/market fit (PMF). But it is imperative that you only obtain as much capital as you truly need at that stage of your business. Once you achieve PMF and have that oh-so-valuable recurring revenue on the books, it’s time to tap into that, when you need it. This is programmatic funding—also called just-in-time financing—and it’s especially useful to leverage this equity financing alternative as you continue to grow. .
Programmatic funding: only the cash you need, as you need it
Unlike static funding, programmatic funding happens in recurring installments and is designed to align to the dynamic nature of your business. It requires exceptional algorithmic modeling and data analysis. However, if done correctly, this on-demand business funding strategy can lead your SaaSCo to a much stronger financial position.
Just-in-time financing from Capchase
With the Capchase model of programmatic funding, we help you determine exactly how much capital you need and when. Then the system deploys that funding only when you need it.
Benefits of our programmatic funding
An alternative funding strategy as dynamic as your business
Since programmatic funding only works once you have signed customer contracts and committed recurring revenue on the books, you will need an initial amount of capital until that happens. This is why an early VC round makes sense for startup funding to invest in PMF, build your team, and acquire those initial customers.
But once your business is post-PMF and experiencing high growth, your business funding needs and options change. Rather than go back for more rounds of VC funding for SaaS financing—which will cost you more cash or further dilute your ownership–programmatic funding is an ideal choice.
With such a combined strategy, founders typically see about half the dilution as those who pursue a pure equity approach. What’s more, your stronger financial metrics typically mean a much higher valuation down the road because you’ve spared yourself dilution and you’ve grown more efficiently.
The bottom line is that your SaaS business is dynamic and recurring by nature. You need a business funding strategy that matches it.
Ready to learn what a just-in-time funding strategy can do for your SaaS business? Join the non-dilution revolution with Capchase today. Set up an account and let’s get started!