Investing in the shares of start-up and early-stage companies can be satisfying and financially rewarding. But it is also very risky.
Loss of investment
There is a significant risk that you will lose your investment. Most start-up companies fail, and it can be many years before even the most successful start-up company begins to pay dividends. You are therefore much more likely to lose your investment than you are to see a return of your capital and a profit;
Lack of liquidity
If you make an investment, you will probably not be able to sell it for many years. Although it is sometimes possible to sell shares in a start-up company to other shareholders in the same company, it is much more likely that a share sale will be impossible unless and until the company is listed on a stock exchange or bought by another company. Even the most successful of start-up companies can take years to get to the point where it can be listed or sold;
Your investment will probably be diluted. If you invest, you will receive shares in the company. If the company needs to raise more capital at a later date, it may issue new shares. If those shares are offered to existing investors and you choose not to buy any more shares, your share of the company will decline. Your share of the company will also decline if the company only offers its new shares to new investors. The company might also want or need to offer its new shares on better terms than the terms available on its existing shares. For example, the new shares might have preferential rights to dividends or sale proceeds, a right of first refusal on further share issues, or better voting rights than the existing shares. Each of these things is likely to be to your disadvantage.
Rarity of dividends
Dividends are payments made by a business to its shareholders from the company’s profits. Most of the companies pitching for equity are start-ups or early stage companies, and these companies will rarely pay dividends to their investors. This means that you are unlikely to see a return on your investment until you are able to sell your shares. Profits are typically re-invested into the business to fuel growth and build shareholder value. Businesses have no obligation to pay shareholder dividends.
The need for diversification when you invest
Diversification involves spreading your money across multiple investments to reduce risk. However, it will not lessen all types of risk. Diversification is an essential part of investing. Investors should only invest a proportion of their available investment funds and should balance this with safer, more liquid investments
Donations and rewards
Giving money to a company can be satisfying; especially if it’s doing – or wants to do – something you think is worthwhile.
However, if you decide to give money to a company and it reaches its minimum target, it will be impossible, or almost impossible, to get it back - even if you change your mind immediately.
Lending money to start-up and early-stage companies can be satisfying and financially rewarding. But it is also involves risk including Loss of investment and interest payments, Lack of liquidity, Restricted redemption rights, Unsecured investments and being bottom of the chain to be paid when a business winds up. Most start-ups fail, and it can be many months or years before a successful start-up begins to make enough money to be able repay its debts. There is a significant risk that the company you lend money to:
• Will not be able to pay you back. If the company you lend money to cannot afford to repay you, you will lose some or all of the money you loaned to the company. You will also lose some or all of the interest you expected to receive in return for your loan;
• Will not be able to pay you back on time. If the company you lend money to cannot afford to repay you when the repayments are due, you may have to wait – perhaps for many months or years – to recover the money you loaned to the company and the interest you expected to receive in return for your loan;
• Will become insolvent. If the company you lend money to cannot afford to pay its debts to you or to its other creditors, the company may be wound up, dissolved or put it into receivership, liquidation or administration. If any of these things happen, you may not be able to recover the money you loaned to the company or the interest you expected to receive in return for your loan. You may also have to wait many months or years to recover any payment, and that payment may be much less that you would have been entitled to receive if the company had not become insolvent. This might happen because some of the company’s creditors (including the receiver, liquidator or administrator) might be entitled to receive their money before other creditors, and when they have been paid, the company might not have sufficient funds left to pay you.
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