Share Equity: Once it’s gone, it’s gone

Equity Sometimes there is little alternative but to issue shares to investors, employees and other stakeholders. If the company’s an early stage company then it has little else to ‘sweat’ to release some cash.

You might be able to benefit from the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) or the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) but – although technically related to your company – it is the investor that pockets the tax relief (not you). You might be able to squeeze some more cash out of the investors by virtue of the tax relief they will receive but (as the rules currently stand) you have to issue shares to them in return for their investment.

Whilst money for salaries is tight, employees may benefit from an approved share option scheme like the Enterprise Management Incentive Scheme (EMI). Although they only hold a piece of paper entitling them to the shares at some point in the future (say on an exit), you must still take into account the post dilution shareholdings once their shares are issued.

So you started with 100% of the company and very quickly you might find that your shareholding is down to not much over 50%. And then there’s that big VC round you’re contemplating in a year or so – further dilution to come…..

There is only ever 100% to divide up. For each 1% that goes it has gone (probably) for ever. Often it is a price worth paying as the old saying goes,

“its better to have 40% of a successful large pie than 100% of a failing tiddler”

But at every stage you should try to ensure that you have explored incentives that do not require you to part with your equity in your company. 

So you could look at R&D tax credits and grants. Also, further down the line the Patent Box could shave some much needed cash off your corporation tax bill.  These Government tax incentives and grants do not require you to give up any of your shares in return for the cash and so could allow you to get further down the line to achieving your milestones with no further decrease in your shareholding.

Often in practice, companies have little alternative but to push through with investment for shares in the company but its always useful to remember that there are other (non-equity) funding avenues available.

Image: Creative Commons License Richard Potts via Compfight

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