Skip to main content

Contemplating capital: equity or debt financing for business growth?

Entrepreneurial decision-making often involves navigating intricate financial corridors, one of which is choosing a suitable source of financing for your business. Business owners often confront the decision to raise equity or secure debt finance for their business growth. The complexity of the decision warrants a deeper understanding of both paths and their implications for future profits and the business’s trajectory.

Cultivating growth: choosing the appropriate capital

A nuanced understanding of capital types is integral for orchestrating business growth. The primary capital sources for your business fall into two broad categories: equity investment and debt. Equity financing, also known as equity finance, involves an exchange of capital, or equity capital, for a stake in your business’s ownership. The capital infusion can originate from various sources, such as angel investors, venture capitalists, or through private equity firms. Equity investors often inject more than mere capital into your business ecosystem; they bring industry insights, knowledge, an extensive network of contacts, and mentorship.

Contrastingly, debt financing, also known as debt finance or simply procuring a business loan, involves a commitment to repay borrowed money with interest over a stipulated timeline. This could be obtained from conventional banks through bank loans, digital lending platforms, credit unions, or even through issuing bonds. Unlike equity financing, where you raise capital through equity investors, in debt financing, you raise money through lending money.

Navigating the capital landscape: sources of financing a business

Equity financing
Raising equity for business growth, especially for startup businesses or early-stage businesses, is typically done by selling a portion of your company’s shares to investors, who could be venture capitalists, business angels, or private investors. The primary benefit of equity financing is that there’s no obligation to repay the money raised or interest payments. Still, on the downside, it means relinquishing some degree of control over your business. Venture capital or angel investments are usually aimed at high-growth startups, and investors not only provide capital but often offer expertise and guidance. Crowdfunding, another method of equity financing, involves raising small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet.

Debt financing
On the other hand, debt financing involves borrowing money that will be paid back with interest over time, increasing cash flow from business profits. This could be accomplished through traditional bank loans, business credit cards, or issuing corporate bonds. Bank loans and credit cards are common forms of debt financing, but they typically require good credit scores and solid business financials. Small businesses often choose debt financing because they may prefer to maintain complete control of their business and use the borrowed funds to grow their own money. Loan payments must be made regularly, and failing to meet them can have profound implications.

Dissecting the implications: equity vs. debt finance

Pros and cons of debt
Debt financing is an effective tool for growing your business, but it has pros and cons. One significant advantage is that it allows the business owner to control their enterprise fully. Since lenders are not entitled to a share of your business, so they have no say in how it is run. Debt financing can also be cost-effective. The interest paid on the borrowed money is tax-deductible. Reducing taxable income from small business loans could result in significant tax savings.

Pros and cons of equity
Equity financing, too, has its unique pros and cons. The primary benefit of equity financing is that it does not require repayment, unlike debt financing. Equity investors share in the risks of the business, so if the company doesn’t perform well, you are not obligated to pay them back. This can substantially relieve financial stress and create more room for growth. Moreover, equity investors often provide more than just capital. They bring valuable expertise, mentorship, and contacts, which can significantly benefit your business.

Lending life to theory: pragmatic examples of equity and debt financing

Equity financing: Spotify’s story
As an instructive case study of equity financing, consider Spotify. In its early growth stages, the Swedish streaming giant heavily relied on equity financing to scale its operations. By 2008, Spotify had successfully raised around $21.6 million in equity financing from investors, including Northzone, Creandum, and Wellington Partners. This allowed Spotify to invest heavily in technological development and secure essential licensing agreements with record labels. In addition, it also facilitated global expansion to markets such as the U.S. The downside, however, was the dilution of control and sharing of profits among equity holders. As of the company’s direct listing in 2018, original shareholders owned significantly less of the company than in the initial stages. However, the capital raised through equity was instrumental in Spotify’s growth to its current valuation of over $50 billion.

Debt financing: Netflix’s narrative
On the other hand, a compelling example of debt financing comes from Netflix. In 2017, the streaming service announced it was raising $1.6 billion in debt to fund content acquisition, production, and development. As Netflix’s primary strategy has always been to invest heavily in content to increase subscribers, this extra capital provided a crucial buffer for the company to increase its content library while maintaining and growing its subscriber base. By choosing debt, Netflix maintained complete control over its operations and did not dilute shareholder value. As of 2021, Netflix’s strategy seems to have paid off, with a soaring subscriber base and substantial revenue growth.

Insights from the lenses of debt and equity financing
The stories of Spotify and Netflix are helpful guides for understanding the applications and implications of equity and debt financing. Spotify and Netflix had ambitious growth plans and needed significant capital to realise their objectives. However, their choices for funding were dictated by the nature of their operations, their growth strategies, and the environments they operated in.

Spotify’s reliance on equity financing, a common choice for tech startups, was mainly due to its need for substantial upfront investment, lack of initial profits, and the high-risk nature of its business model. The investors brought in the capital and contributed industry expertise, business networks, and credibility.

Netflix, meanwhile, was already a profitable business with a large and growing subscriber base, which meant it could comfortably service debt. By raising debt, Netflix made significant investments in content without giving up equity, thus preserving shareholder value.

The optimal path to growth
There is no universal blueprint for business growth. The optimal path for your business depends on many factors, including your business model, industry climate, development stage, and your comfort with relinquishing control. A balanced blend of equity and debt, or debt and equity financing, and debt instruments often emerge as a comprehensive growth strategy, mitigating the potential downsides of each choice.

Meeting loan criteria
To secure debt finance, lenders typically scrutinise your business’s creditworthiness. They consider factors such as your credit score, cash flow, collateral, balance sheet and business plan. Demonstrating your business’s profitability and capacity to repay the loan is pivotal in securing the loan. Remember, each lender may impose different prerequisites and loan conditions.

Venture capitalists and private equity
Venture capitalists and private equity firms play a significant role in equity financing and the growth of businesses in Australia. Venture capitalists and venture capital firms typically invest in early-stage or high-potential companies hoping for substantial financial returns. The aim is to invest when the company is still relatively small, provide strategic oversight, and contribute to business development to spur growth. By doing so, they hope to increase the company’s value significantly, enabling them to eventually exit through an acquisition or an initial public offering (IPO), thus reaping considerable profits.

On the other hand, private equity tends to focus more on mature companies that are underperforming or undervalued, aiming to improve their performance and, therefore, their value to corporate investors. These firms often acquire a controlling interest in the company, enabling them to make sweeping changes to business operations if necessary. Like venture capitalists, private equity firms aim to sell their stake in the company for a profit, either through a sale to another company, a public offering, or another investment firm.

Both venture capital and private equity play a crucial role in the Australian business ecosystem by providing companies with the capital needed to innovate, expand and become more competitive. In addition to funding, they often bring valuable expertise, industry connections, and mentorship to the businesses they invest in. Furthermore, their investment can have a signal effect, attracting other investors and making it easier for the business to access additional capital if needed. This access to financial and human capital from institutional investors can be the key to unlocking rapid growth for Australian industries.

Final reflections

As a business owner, the capital conundrum of equity vs. debt financing is a crucial inflection point. Reflect on your business relationship, growth ambitions, risk tolerance, and the potential value each financing option could bring your business. Whether you lean towards equity, debt, or a suitable combination of both, ensuring alignment with your business’s long-term overarching strategic narrative is paramount.

The calculus of this decision involves more than just numbers. It demands a deeper comprehension of the complex trade-offs, an acute awareness of your business dynamics, and a thoughtful contemplation of the future you envisage for your enterprise. Real-life examples such as Facebook and Starbucks can provide tangible insights. The choice involves more than mere quantitative analysis.


Average return
since inception


Portfolio value
as at Jun-23
Next and Previous

Start a Conversation.

Growing together starts here.

    Business OwnerInvestorAdvisorOther