It's always been tough for small businesses to tap into private-equity money. Many PE funds are looking to buy up big, distressed companies and often bypass small businesses entirely.
Probably the best known type of small-business focused private equity firm is small business investment companies, or SBICs. SBICs are privately owned and managed investment funds licensed by the U.S. Small Business Administration. They're allowed to invest in small businesses using funds borrowed with a SBA guarantee. The SBA's involvement has helped these private-equity funds borrow more easily.
SBICs, however, aren't the whole picture in small-company private equity. And there was no easy way to research all of the PE funds that might be a resource for entrepreneurs -- until now.
The SBICs' 50-year-old organization, National Association of Small Business Investment Companies, or NASBIC, is reorganizing as Small Business Investor Alliance. The group is expanding its mission and membership to include all investment limited partnerships, venture funds and lower-middle-market private equity fund managers. Jumping on board with the new group are 23 founding members including Argosy Capital, Access Funds, Capital for Business, Centerfield Capital, Founders Equity and Wells Fargo Bank.
SBICs have long been a little-known but valuable source of small-business funding -- they invested $60 billion in more than 100,000 small companies since 1958. This year so far, SBICs have invested $2.57 billion, which supported over 56,000 jobs, the Alliance reports.
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But beyond SBICs, tracking down other private-equity firms that would take a look at a smaller business has been a process that required a lot of sleuthing. Hopefully the addition of a broader range of PE firms to the Alliance will make it easier for entrepreneurs to research and find private equity funders that are a fit for their business.
The new Alliance holds conferences and other events for its members -- possibly a good way to connect and meet funders in the future, now that the group's mission is broader. The Alliance is making this move in hopes of expanding funders' interest in making small-business investments to help kick-start our sluggish economy.
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