We are entering a golden age of small-business and entrepreneurial finance. Between the crowdfunding boom (both donations and soon-to-be investment-based) and the surging growth of peer-to-peer lending sites like Lending Club and Prosper.com, never before have there been so many places for those seeking and those providing capital to connect and transact.
As a result, more entrepreneurs and businesses have access to outside capital than ever before and for the first time, investors can efficiently build diversified portfolios of private equity and debt investments.
Compare all of this freshness and innovation against the ongoing dreariness of the public markets. While the Dow Jones increased 409 percent from 1990 to 1999, since 2000, it has only gone up approximately 39 percent. During that same time, inflation has reduced the dollar’s purchasing power by almost exactly that same amount (38 percent).
So the earned public markets returns have mostly gone not to traditional “buy and hold” (usually smaller) investors, but to traders using leverage and derivative strategies to “game” returns.
These two fast diverging worlds — the increasingly innovative and transparent one of private investing on the one hand, and the flat and more opaque than ever one of the traditional public market returns on the other are good news for both entrepreneurs and smaller investors.
For the investor, this means access to high returns. Research from the Kauffman Foundation Angel Returns Study and the Nesta Angel Investing study, compiled by Robert Wiltbank, have demonstrated that the average angel investor produced a gross multiple of 2.5 times their investment, in a mean time of about four years.
For entrepreneurs, this means faster and cheaper access to more capital, especially in smaller amounts.