Equity Funding Basics

Equity Financing Basics

For most businesses there are two types of financing: debt and equity.

  • Debt financing is a loan. The lender gives you money and you promise to pay it back with interest—the cost of borrowing the money.  
  • Equity funding means selling a piece of your business. An investor gives you money in exchange for owning a piece of your company.

What do investors want?

Investors want a significant return on their investment. Generally, an investor wants at least a ten times return on their investment in 5-7 years through an “exit.” This is why equity financing is for high growth potential companies, such as tech startups or multi-location restaurants.  

What is an “exit?”  

An exit is the sale of the company to another company, a private equity firm or new investors through an initial public offering (IPO). When the company sells, those who have equity split the proceeds.

Who are the investors?

  • Friends and Family: The first people to invest are often the founders’ friends and family.  Remember, once money is involved your friends and family become investors, and as such, you need a structured agreement with them called a term sheet.

  • Angel Investors:  The first round of formal equity financing is typically from angel investors—those who invest their own money. Angels fund a few thousand to around $1 million as individuals or together in structured angel groups.

  • Venture Capital: Unlike angel investors, VCs invest funds from others. Their investments start around $2 million and they usually focus on later stage companies that are showing significant growth trends. VCs like to see a 30% return on their investment each year.

Tips before going after equity investments:

  • Confirm that your business has the growth potential equity investors like.  
  • Make sure you’re comfortable with the idea of an exit.  
  • Be aware that you could lose control of your company.
  • Join a local (or virtual) accelerator or incubator. They often provide education,  mentorship and equity financing connections.
  • Calculate the time and energy it takes to get funding—it’s not easy! Can you get customers to finance your growth for the same effort?
  • Use a lawyer who knows equity funding deals. A lawyer can save you time, money and protect your interest during tricky negotiations.
  • Select your investors carefully. A good fit can bring industry connections and insights along with funding to your business.
  • Research which areas different equity groups fund and target your efforts.


  • Gain needed funds for product refinement and company expansion
  • Owners do not have to pay back the funding.  
  • Investors often bring experience and connections into the industry  


  • You give up control, and yes, founders have been kicked out of their own company.
  • You could lose control of your company.  

Equity Financing for Women

When it comes to equity funding, women and minority owners have historically had a harder time accessing capital.  According to VC firm, Invest Her Ventures, only 3% of VC funding goes to women-led companies.  The reason for this discrepancy are complex, but it is starting to change.  There are a growing number equity firms looking for women-led businesses to fund. 

Click HERE to find a list of Angel and Venture Capital groups that focus on women. 

Equity Financing for Black and Hispanic Business Owners

Like women entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs from the African-American and Hispanic population can have a hard time being funded by traditional venture capital firms.  According to Forbes, less than 1% of equity funding goes to business owners with minority founders. The percentage of decision makers in equity firms is about the same.

Click HERE to find a list of Angel and Venture Capital groups that are trying to change that fact.