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Understanding Debt vs Equity Financing

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Understanding Debt vs Equity Financing

Updated: November 20th, 2023

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Outside financing for small businesses falls into two categories: Debt financing and equity financing.

If you are unsure of the differences between these two types of financing, you’re in the right place. This blog post will explain equity financing vs. debt financing and share the advantages and disadvantages of each. Read on to learn more about the cost of equity vs. the cost of debt.

Debt vs. Equity Financing

So, what’s the difference between debt vs. equity financing?

Debt Financing

Debt financing means borrowing a fixed sum from a lender, which is then paid back with interest. Debt financing is a common method that individuals, businesses, and governments use to raise capital for various purposes. It offers several advantages, such as providing access to funds without diluting ownership, but it also comes with certain responsibilities and risks. Let’s explore some key aspects of debt financing:

Debt Finance Options

  • Short-Term Debt: This typically includes loans with a maturity of one year or less, such as trade credit, lines of credit, and payday loans.
  • Long-Term Debt: These are business loans with maturities exceeding one year, such as mortgages, corporate bonds, and government bonds.
  • Secured Debt: This option involves collateral, which the lender can seize if the borrower fails to repay the loan. Examples include home mortgages and auto loans.
  • Unsecured Debt: This type of debt does not require collateral, but interest rates are generally higher to compensate for the increased risk. Credit cards and personal loans are common examples.
  • Secured lines of credit from banks or other financial institutions: Though harder to get, this type of financing has low interest rates, and lets you draw down only as much cash as you need in any given period.
  • Term loans from banks or alternative lenders like Funding Circle: These provide the full amount of capital upfront, and require regular payments over a fixed amount of time. (Learn more about term loans here)
  • Credit cards from banks, credit unions, savings and loans, and other financial institutions: You borrow money that must be paid back with interest after a grace period.
  • Invoice or receivables financing from financial companies: When you need cash on hand, this form of financing fronts capital at a discount, for income you would receive later.
  • Merchant cash advance from MCA companies: This loan product is tailored to businesses that receive the bulk of their revenue via credit cards. The lender takes a fixed percentage of your daily credit card receipts. (MCAs can be a bit confusing, so be sure to check out the following guide if you’re considering an MCA as an option for your business.)

Interest Rates

  • The interest rate on a debt is a critical factor that influences the cost of borrowing. It is typically determined by factors such as creditworthiness, the prevailing market rate, and the duration of the business loan.
  • Fixed interest rates remain constant throughout the loan term, providing predictability in payments.
  • Variable interest rates fluctuate with market conditions, which can lead to lower initial costs but higher uncertainty.

Use of Funds

  • Debt financing can be used for various purposes, including starting or expanding a business, purchasing real estate or equipment, funding education, or covering unexpected expenses.
  • Businesses often use small business loans to finance their operations, invest in growth opportunities, or manage cash flow.


  • Borrowers’ ability to secure debt financing depends on their creditworthiness, which is assessed through credit scores and credit reports.
  • Higher credit scores generally result in more favorable loan terms and lower interest rates.

Debt Repayment

  • Repayment terms vary depending on the type of debt. Short-term loans often require frequent payments, while long-term loans may have monthly or quarterly payments.
  • Defaulting on debt can have severe consequences, including damage to credit scores, legal action, and the loss of collateral (in the case of secured debt).

Leverage and Risk

  • Debt financing can amplify returns when investments generate more income than the cost of borrowing. However, it also increases financial risk, especially when income falls short of expectations.
  • Excessive debt levels can lead to financial distress or bankruptcy if a borrower cannot meet their obligations.

Tax Implications

  • Interest payments on certain types of debt, such as mortgage interest on a primary residence, may be tax-deductible in some jurisdictions. This can provide a tax advantage to borrowers.

Balancing Debt with Equity

  • Many individuals and businesses use a combination of debt and equity financing to optimize their capital structure. Striking the right balance between the two is essential to manage risk and cost-effectively.

Equity Financing

Equity financing means the sale of a percentage of the business to an investor, in exchange for capital. Equity financing is an alternative method for raising capital, where ownership stakes in a business are exchanged for funds. Unlike debt financing, where you borrow money that must be repaid with interest, equity financing involves selling shares of the company, making investors partial owners. Here are some key aspects of equity financing:

Equity Finance Options

  • Angel Investors: These individuals typically invest their own money into startups or early-stage companies in exchange for equity. They often provide mentorship and guidance in addition to capital.
  • Venture Capital: Venture capital firms manage pooled funds from multiple investors and invest in high-growth startups or companies with significant growth potential.
  • Private Equity: Private equity firms invest in more mature businesses, often taking a controlling interest. They aim to improve the company’s performance and eventually sell it for a profit.
  • Initial Public Offering (IPO): Companies can raise equity capital by going public and selling shares to the general public through an IPO.
  • Friends and family (or other small investors): These private investors put a relatively small amount of money into your business in exchange for relatively small pieces of the pie.

Ownership and Control

  • Equity financing entails giving up a portion of ownership in the company to investors. This means that the founders and existing shareholders will have diluted ownership positions.
  • Depending on the percentage of equity sold, investors may gain a say in the company’s decision-making processes, especially in cases of significant ownership stakes.

Long-Term Capital

  • Equity financing can provide a source of long-term capital that does not require repayment. Investors share in the company’s profits and losses, aligning their interests with the business’s success.

Valuation and Negotiation

  • Determining the value of the company (valuation) is a critical aspect of equity financing. Investors and business owners must agree on a fair valuation before a deal can be struck.
  • Negotiations can be complex, involving discussions about the percentage of ownership, governance rights, and the investor’s role in the company.

Risk Sharing

  • Equity investors share in the business’s risk. If the company faces financial difficulties, shareholders may experience losses, but they are not obligated to repay invested capital.

Exit Strategies

  • Equity investors typically expect a return on their investment in the form of capital gains. Exit strategies can include selling the company, going public, or buying out investors’ shares through stock buybacks.

Dilution and Capital Structure

  • As a company raises more equity capital, the ownership stakes of existing shareholders can become diluted. This may necessitate careful management of the company’s capital structure.

Alignment of Interests

  • Equity financing aligns the interests of investors with those of the company. Investors have a vested interest in the business’s success, which can lead to active support and collaboration.

Regulatory Compliance

  • Depending on the jurisdiction and the type of equity financing, there may be legal and regulatory requirements that companies must meet, especially in the case of IPOs.

Transparency and Reporting

  • Publicly traded companies must adhere to strict reporting and transparency requirements, providing regular financial updates and disclosures to shareholders and regulatory bodies.

Before you seek capital to grow your business, you need to know where to find debt vs. equity financing, which of the two types you qualify for, and how to weigh the pros and cons of each. Watch the following video and read through the guide to learn what the best options are for your business.

Is equity financing right for your business?

Equity financing is most appropriate for high-risk technology and innovation startups, with the potential to generate a huge return on investment, as well as businesses in very cyclical industries that do not have a steady cash flow. Venture capitalists have demanding criteria; they typically seek to invest in companies with ambitious plans, like market domination or global reach. Investors of every type will carefully study your business plan for a strong background and management team, a demonstrated need for your product or service, a clearly defined pricing and sales strategy, preparation for competition, and realistic financial projections.

Pros of equity financing:

  • For new businesses with no revenue or those that are yet to attain profitability, equity financing can be your best if not only option.
  • Investors take on almost all the risk; they receive their returns only if the business succeeds.
  • No percentage of your revenues will be diverted to pay loans.

Cons of equity financing:

  • You give up a percentage of your business.
  • Investors may have control over key decisions and influence the culture of the company.
  • Landing investment can be a full-time effort, and reporting to investors regularly can take precious man-hours.
  • Investors or “equity partners” usually do not expect a return on their investment for 3-5 years, but they often exit after 5-7 years.

Is debt financing right for your business?

Many types of small businesses choose debt financing for its advantages, particularly those in traditional sectors like retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. To qualify for small business loans and secured lines of credit, companies need to show some operating history and profitability. Before you seek a bank loan or other form of debt financing, you need to have good reason to believe that you’ll have enough revenue in the future to pay off the debt. Lenders typically require collateral or a personal guarantee, a business plan, good credit scores, copies of your tax returns, financial statements, and an application.

Pros of debt financing:

  • Can be used by almost any kind and size of business.
  • You retain ownership of your business, which means you will not have to share profits long-term.
  • You know when you need to make loan payments.
  • There are a range of options (different kinds of loans, credit cards, lines of credit, etc.).
  • Interest on the debt can be deducted from the firm’s tax return.
  • Interest rates on loans are usually lower than the return on equity investments.

Cons of debt financing:

  • Requires repayment of both principal and interest whether business is good or bad.
  • Debt is an expense and expenses prevent you from reinvesting your revenue in the business.
  • There’s always a risk. Defaulting will cost you the assets (or personal guarantee) you pledged as collateral.
  • Lenders may restrict what you use the money for or whether you can look for more financing elsewhere.
  • With some analysis and information, you should be able to discern whether debt vs. equity funding will most benefit your business.

Secure Financing with Funding Circle 

If you’re still wondering whether to go with debt or equity financing, Funding Circle can help you weigh the benefits and disadvantages. Funding Circle provides various debt financing options for businesses of all sizes. Get in touch today for more information.


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