What is dilutive funding?

A closer look at dilutive funding.

8 min read

When raising capital for your business, there are various funding options available. Two common types of funding are dilutive funding and non-dilutive funding. While both provide much-needed capital, there are significant differences between the two. Let's take a closer look at what dilutive funding and non-dilutive funding are and how they can impact your business.

What is dilutive funding?

Dilutive funding refers to any type of funding that results in the dilution of ownership in the company. When a business takes on dilutive funding, it issues additional shares of stock, thereby reducing the ownership percentage of existing shareholders. Dilutive funding sources often include angel investors, venture capitalists, and equity investors.

One of the most common forms of dilutive funding is equity funding, where investors contribute capital in exchange for company stock shares. This stock can be in the form of common shares or preferred shares. While dilutive funding can provide the necessary capital to fuel growth and expansion, it comes at a cost. In short, dilutive funding reduces ownership and control for existing shareholders.

What is non-dilutive funding?

Non-dilutive funding or non-dilutive capital refers to funding that does not dilute ownership. This source of capital allows businesses to secure capital without giving up equity in the company. Non-dilutive funding options include revenue-based financing, tax credits, and royalty financing.

Revenue-based financing, for instance, provides capital based on a percentage of a company's future revenues. This financing allows businesses to access the capital they need without sacrificing equity or control. Tax credits, on the other hand, can be a valuable source of non-dilutive funding. This source of capital is especially useful for businesses engaged in research and development or other qualifying activities. Royalty financing, a form of debt financing, enables businesses to receive funding in exchange for a part of future revenues. Finally, simple or venture debt gives companies access to lines of credit based on their success.

Choosing between dilutive and non-dilutive funding

Deciding between dilutive and non-dilutive funding depends on various factors, including the company's growth objectives, financial situation, and long-term plans. While dilutive funding can provide a larger injection of capital, it comes with the potential downside of reduced ownership and control. On the other hand, non-dilutive funding allows businesses to access capital without sacrificing equity, but the funding amount may be smaller than dilutive options.

Ultimately, businesses need to carefully evaluate their options and consider their specific needs and goals. It is not uncommon for companies to use a mix of both dilutive and non-dilutive funding sources at different stages of their growth journey. In the beginning, for example, a business might take capital from investors and then, later, take additional capital through non-dilutive funding. Striking the right balance can help ensure the availability of capital while minimizing dilution and maintaining control.

Companies should never consider non-dilutive funding as negative or problematic. This type of funding is often the best available in most situations and is highly desirable, especially if your company is eligible for it.

What is equity dilution?

Equity dilution is a term that often comes up in the world of business and finance, particularly when discussing funding and investment. Simply put, equity dilution refers to the reduction of existing shareholders' ownership percentage in a company due to the issuance of additional shares. This reduction, in turn, leads to diluted earnings.

When a company needs to raise capital to fund its operations, expansion plans, or other initiatives, it often seeks external funding from investors. These investors may be venture capitalists, angel investors, or even individuals who believe in the potential of the company. In exchange for their investment, these investors typically receive shares of the company's common stock.

The problem arises when a company raises new capital by issuing additional shares. These new shares dilute the ownership of existing shareholders because they now hold a smaller percentage of the total shares outstanding. This decrease in ownership percentage reduces their control over the decision-making process and potential financial rewards.

We measure equity dilution using various metrics, including earnings per share (EPS), outstanding shares, and price per share. The EPS represents the company's profit divided by the total number of outstanding shares. As more shares are issued, EPS may decrease, affecting the perceived value of the company.

Outstanding shares refer to a company's stock currently held by all its shareholders, including insiders. These owners include officers and directors as well as outsiders. It excludes treasury shares bought back by the company. Outstanding shares are sometimes called "issued and outstanding shares."

Price per share is the cost of a single share of a security, such as a stock, mutual fund, or bond. We express it in currency units such as a dollar amount. Price per share is used to calculate the total cost of ownership of a security. It also expresses the potential profits or losses that may result from investing in it.

Equity dilution can occur in different scenarios. businesses and early-stage companies often face dilution as they seek funding from multiple rounds of investments. Each new funding round brings in new investors and more shares, which dilutes the ownership of existing shareholders.

Equity dilution can also occur when companies grant stock options or equity-based compensation to key employees. These stock options and equity grants create additional shares, diluting the ownership of existing shareholders.

While equity dilution is a common occurrence in the business world, companies and shareholders need to understand and manage it effectively.

Companies must carefully consider the funding options available to them and the potential impact on their existing shareholders.

One way to mitigate the negative effects of equity dilution is by pursuing non-dilutive funding options. Non-dilutive funding involves securing capital without issuing additional shares or diluting ownership. Revenue-based financing, tax credits, and royalty financing are examples of non-dilutive funding options that companies can explore to minimize equity dilution.

Additionally, companies can strategically manage equity dilution by conducting regular valuations, watching their capital structure, and negotiating terms with investors. By carefully planning their funding strategies and considering the long-term implications, companies can minimize the impact of equity dilution on their ownership stakes.

Pre-money vs. post-money valuation

Regarding valuing a business, the two terms that often come up are pre-money and post-money valuation. These terms refer to the value of a company before and after a funding round, respectively. Understanding the difference between pre-money and post-money valuation is crucial for both businesses and investors.

Pre-money valuation is the value of a company immediately before a new round of funding. It includes the company's existing value and any outstanding debt or liabilities. We typically determine this valuation through negotiations between the business and potential investors. This valuation serves as the baseline for calculating the ownership percentage of new investors.

Post-money valuation, on the other hand, is the value of the company after the new funding has been secured. It includes the amount of money invested in the funding round, in addition to the pre-money valuation. The post-money valuation considers the infusion of capital from the new investors and it determines the ownership percentage of the business's existing shareholders.

To illustrate the difference between pre-money and post-money valuation, let's consider a hypothetical example. Let's say we value a business at $5 million before a funding round. An investor decides to invest $1 million in the company. In this case, the pre-money valuation would be $5 million, and the post-money valuation would be $6 million (pre-money valuation and investment).

The distinction between pre-money and post-money valuation is crucial because it affects the ownership stakes of existing shareholders and the dilution experienced by new investors. We calculate the ownership percentage of existing shareholders based on the pre-money valuation, while the ownership percentage of new investors is based on the post-money valuation.

For businesses, it's important to carefully consider the impact of funding rounds on their ownership and control of the company. Higher funding levels can lead to greater dilution for existing shareholders, as post-money valuation increases. On the other hand, securing substantial funding can also drive growth and propel the company forward.

For investors, understanding pre-money and post-money valuations helps them assess the potential return on investment. A lower pre-money valuation can mean a larger ownership stake in the company. A higher post-money valuation may indicate a higher valuation for future funding rounds or potential exit opportunities.


How do shares become diluted?

Shares become diluted when a company issues additional shares of stock, leading to a decrease in ownership percentage for existing shareholders. This dilution typically occurs when a company raises capital through certain funding methods, such as equity funding or convertible debt.

Equity funding is a common form of dilutive financing. When a company seeks equity funding, it offers shares of its stock to investors in exchange for capital. As new shares are issued to these investors, the overall number of outstanding shares increases, and the ownership percentage of existing shareholders decreases. This dilution is the result of the company's need for additional capital.

Convertible debt is another avenue that can lead to share dilution. This type of debt financing allows investors to lend money to a company with the option to convert that debt into shares of stock later. When the company chooses to convert the debt, it issues new shares to investors. This process increases the total number of shares outstanding and decreases the ownership percentage of existing shareholders.

Another factor that can contribute to share dilution is stock options and equity grants. Many companies offer these incentives to employees to attract and keep talented individuals. When employees exercise their stock options or receive equity grants, they acquire new shares, which can dilute the ownership of existing shareholders.

Share dilution can also occur during acquisitions and mergers. When a company acquires or merges with another company, it may issue new shares to the shareholders of the acquired company. This issuance can dilute the ownership of existing shareholders in the acquiring company.

Dilution is an important consideration for shareholders, as it can impact various aspects of their investment. For example, diluted shares can reduce earnings per share, which may harm the company's stock price. Additionally, diluted shares can impact voting rights and control within the company.

To mitigate the potential negative effects of share dilution, companies may implement anti-dilution provisions or take other measures to protect existing shareholders. Such provisions may adjust the conversion ratio or provide additional compensation to existing shareholders in the event of share dilution.

The effects of dilution

Dilution is a crucial concept for investors to understand, as it can have significant effects on their investment. When a company undergoes share dilution, it means that the ownership percentage of its existing shareholders is diminished. This process happens due to the issuance of new shares or the conversion of debt into equity. This dilution can occur through various means, including equity funding, convertible debt, employee stock options, and even mergers and acquisitions.

One of the most noticeable effects of dilution is the impact on earnings per share or EPS. As businesses issue new shares, the total number of outstanding shares increases, dividing earnings among a larger pool of shareholders. This process can result in a decrease in EPS, which investors could see as a negative. A lower EPS can lead to a decline in the company's stock price, as investors may perceive it as a decrease in profitability.

Additionally, dilution can influence voting rights and control within a company. The issuance of new shares diminishes existing shareholders' voting power may as their ownership percentage is diluted. This dilution can weaken their ability to influence important decisions and corporate governance.

Furthermore, dilution can impact the value of common stock. As the ownership percentage of existing shareholders decreases, the value of their ownership stake in the company may also decline. This change can be distressing for investors who rely on the appreciation of their stock holdings.

However, it is essential to note that not all forms of dilution may have negative consequences. In some cases, dilution may be necessary to secure much-needed capital to fuel company growth and expansion. For businesses and early-stage companies, dilution through equity funding or convertible debt may be a favorable trade-off for accessing the necessary resources to fund research and development, expand operations, or explore new markets.

To mitigate the potential negative effects of dilution, companies may implement anti-dilution provisions or undertake strategic measures. For example, anti-dilution provisions can adjust the conversion ratio when dilution occurs, providing some level of protection for existing shareholders. Further, companies may also seek non-dilutive funding options such as non-dilutive capital or revenue-based financing to minimize the dilution of existing shareholders' ownership.

In conclusion, dilution can have various effects on investors and their investments. It can impact EPS, voting rights, control, and the value of common stock. While dilution may be inevitable for companies seeking additional capital, investors must carefully consider the potential consequences and the company's strategies to minimize the negative effects. Through prudent financial management and protective measures, companies can aim to strike a balance between capital infusion and the interests of existing shareholders.

SAFEs and equity dilution

SAFEs, or Simple Agreements for Future Equity, have become a popular alternative to traditional equity financing in recent years. They offer businesses a way to raise capital without immediately diluting the ownership of existing shareholders. However, companies and investors need to understand the potential impact of SAFEs on equity dilution.

Unlike traditional equity financing, which involves selling shares of common stock to investors, SAFEs are a form of convertible security. With a SAFE, an investor provides capital to a business in exchange for the right to receive equity in the company at a future date. The conversion happens after a triggering event such as a future equity funding round or acquisition.

The advantage of using SAFEs is that they provide a way for businesses to raise much-needed capital without immediately setting a valuation for the company. This feature can be beneficial for companies still in the early stages of development or don't have enough financial history to determine an accurate value.

However, it's important to note that SAFEs can still lead to equity dilution in the long run. When a SAFE converts into equity, it usually does so at a discount to the price per share paid by additional investors in a future funding round. This fact means that existing shareholders may see their ownership percentage decrease once the SAFE conversion occurs.

Additionally, SAFEs often come with a valuation cap, which sets a maximum valuation at which the SAFE can convert into equity. If the company has a significant increase in valuation before the SAFE converts, existing shareholders could experience more significant dilution.

While SAFEs provide flexibility and an alternative to traditional equity financing, companies and investors should carefully consider the potential implications of equity dilution. Businesses should evaluate their funding needs and long-term growth plans to determine if SAFEs align with their goals.

When using SAFEs, businesses must consider the timing and terms of the conversion, including any discounts or valuation caps. Investors should also assess the potential dilution impact on their ownership stake and evaluate the company's growth potential.

We always advise execs to consult with legal and financial professionals to provide a thorough understanding of the impact of SAFEs on equity dilution and overall capital structure.

Don't rely on notes for too long

As a founder or business owner, it's natural to seek external funding to fuel the growth and success of your venture. Funding can provide the much-needed capital to expand operations, hire key employees, conduct research and development, and bring new products or services to market. However, it's important not to rely on funding notes for too long.

When a company relies on notes for an extended period, it can lead to many challenges and drawbacks. One of the main concerns is the dilution of ownership. Each time you take on a funding note, you are essentially borrowing money with the promise of repayment plus interest. However, we associated this type of funding with the issuance of new shares of stock or conversion into equity. This conversion, in turn, dilutes the ownership of existing shareholders.

 This dilution of ownership can have long-term consequences, as it means that you have less control and equity in your own business. The more funding notes you take on, the greater the percentage of ownership that gets distributed among investors. This dilution can make it harder for you to make strategic decisions and maintain the direction of your company.

 Another drawback of relying on funding notes for too long is the increased pressure for returns. When investors lend their money to your business, they expect to receive a return on their investment. This expectation means that you are under pressure to deliver substantial growth and profitability within a relatively short period. This pressure can lead to rushed decision-making, compromising the long-term sustainability and viability of your business.

Moreover, relying on funding notes for too long can result in distractions from your core objectives. When you have a large amount of borrowed capital, it can be tempting to use it for unnecessary expenditures or pursue flashy projects that may not align with your strategic goals. This loss of focus can divert resources and attention from what truly matters for your company’s success.

Additionally, an overreliance on funding notes can limit your future funding opportunities. Investor interest may wane if they see that your company has already raised significant amounts of capital through borrowing, without showing substantial progress or returns. This fact can make it difficult to secure additional funding rounds in the future, hindering your ability to grow and expand your business.

Warning signs of dilution

Dilution can have significant implications for a company and its shareholders. Investors and stakeholders need to be aware of the warning signs of potential dilution to make informed decisions. Here are some key warning indicators.

1. Increased issuance of shares: One of the most obvious warning signs of dilution is the frequent issuance of new shares. If a company consistently issues new shares to raise capital, it could lead to a decrease in existing shareholders' ownership percentage.

2. Multiple funding rounds: Companies in need of additional capital may seek funding from various sources such as venture capitalists or venture capital firms. While this can be beneficial for growth, each funding round typically involves issuing more shares and diluting existing shareholders.

3. Convertible debt or equity financing: Convertible debt or equity financing allows companies to raise funds by offering investors the option to convert their investments into shares. While this may seem like an attractive option, it can result in dilution if the conversion price is favorable to the investor.

4. Stock options and employee equity programs: To attract and keep key employees, companies often offer stock options or equity programs. If a company grants a significant number of stock options or equity to employees, it can dilute existing shareholders' ownership.

5. Downward pressure on earnings per share: Dilution can have a direct impact on a company's earnings per share (EPS). If the total number of outstanding shares increases significantly while earnings remain stagnant, it can lead to a decline in EPS, signaling potential dilution.

6. Poor financial performance: A company that consistently underperforms or experiences financial difficulties may resort to dilution to raise capital. If a company has a history of dilution, it may be a cause for concern and investors should thoroughly evaluate it before making investment decisions.

7. Lack of anti-dilution provisions: Companies that do not have anti-dilution provisions in their corporate governance documents or agreements may be more susceptible to dilution. Anti-dilution provisions help protect existing shareholders by adjusting conversion ratios during dilution events.

Investors must conduct due diligence and closely watch these warning signs of dilution. Dilution can have a significant impact on a company's financial health and shareholders' ownership stakes. Being aware of these signs can help investors make informed decisions and manage their risk effectively.

What does 'minimally dilutive' capital mean?

Regarding fundraising and securing additional capital, entrepreneurs and business owners often strive for "minimally dilutive" financing options. But what does this term mean? In simple terms, minimally dilutive financing refers to funding sources that have a minimal impact on the existing ownership percentage of shareholders.

For many companies, maintaining control and preserving the ownership stakes of existing shareholders is crucial. Traditional funding options, such as venture capitalists and venture capital firms, often involve the issuance of additional shares. However, minimally dilutive financing options aim to minimize this dilution and provide a more favorable outcome for the company and its shareholders.

One popular form of minimally dilutive financing is non-dilutive funding. Unlike traditional equity funding, non-dilutive funding does not require the issuance of additional shares or the dilution of ownership. Instead, companies can secure funding through revenue-based financing, tax credits, or royalty financing. This process does not result in a loss of ownership for existing shareholders.

Another minimally dilutive financing option is debt financing. By raising capital through loans or other forms of debt, companies can avoid dilution altogether. Debt financing allows companies to access much-needed capital without giving up ownership or equity in the company. However, it's important to note that debt financing comes with the responsibility of repayment, including interest, which may affect a company's financial obligations in the long run.

Companies may also explore convertible debt or equity financing as a minimally dilutive option. This type of financing provides the opportunity for investors to convert their investments into shares later. While convertible financing can lead to dilution if conversion prices are favorable to investors, it offers the benefit of raising capital without an immediate loss of ownership.

The key to understanding minimally dilutive financing lies in evaluating the impact on existing shareholders' ownership percentages. Funding options that minimize the issuance of additional shares or provide alternative means of raising capital can be considered minimally dilutive. By exploring options like non-dilutive funding, debt financing, and convertible financing, companies can optimize their capital-raising efforts while striving to maintain control and ownership.

While minimally dilutive financing options are desirable, it's important for companies to carefully evaluate the terms and conditions of any funding source. Investors should consider factors such as interest rates, repayment terms, and potential conversion ratios to guarantee that the benefits of minimally dilutive financing outweigh any potential drawbacks.

 Pro Tip: Don't raise more dilutive funding than you need

Regarding securing funding for your business, it's important to strike a delicate balance. While it may be tempting to raise as much capital as possible, it's crucial to evaluate your funding needs and avoid raising more than you require. Here are a few reasons it's wise to resist the urge to overfund your business:

1. Dilution of Ownership: One of the consequences of raising excessive capital is the dilution of ownership. Each time you bring in new investors, you are giving away a part of your company in exchange for their funds. This process means that your existing shareholders' ownership stakes will decrease with each round of funding. By raising only what you genuinely need, you can maintain a greater percentage of control and equity in your business.

2. Increased Pressure for Returns: By taking on too much funding, you may inadvertently put excessive pressure on yourself and your team to deliver sky-high returns. When investors provide larger sums of money, they naturally expect larger returns on their investment. This type of investment can lead to added stress and the need to achieve rapid growth and profitability, compromising the long-term sustainability of your business.

3. Distractions from Core Objectives: If you raise more money than you need, you can get distracted in pursuing unnecessary expenditures and flashy projects. This distraction can result in a loss of focus on your core objectives and the things that truly matter for your business's success. By raising an appropriate amount of capital, you can maintain discipline and make sure that you allocate every dollar wisely.

4. Limited Future Funding Opportunities: Opting for excessive funding early on may disrupt your chances of securing additional capital in the future. Investors may be hesitant to invest in a company that has already raised substantial amounts of money but doesn't show significant progress or returns. By raising only what you need, you can leave room for future funding rounds and maintain the interest of potential investors down the line.

Entrepreneurs need to resist the temptation to raise more capital than is necessary. By carefully assessing your funding needs and staying focused on your core objectives, you can maintain a higher level of ownership. You can also avoid unnecessary pressure, stay focused on your strategic goals, and keep future funding opportunities open. Remember, it's not about securing the most funding possible — it's about securing the right amount to drive your business toward success.

To avoid these challenges, it is crucial to diversify your capital sources and explore alternative financing options. Non-dilutive funding options, such as revenue-based financing, tax credits, or traditional loans, can provide much-needed capital without diluting your ownership or putting excessive pressure on your business to deliver immediate returns. By considering a mix of funding options and raising only what you truly need, you can maintain control, focus on your core objectives, and keep the doors open for future funding opportunities.

In conclusion, while dilutive funding can provide initial capital for your business or business, relying on them for too long can have detrimental effects. The dilution of ownership, increased pressure for returns, distractions from core objectives, and limited future funding opportunities are all potential pitfalls of relying solely on dilutive funding. By diversifying your capital sources and evaluating alternative financing options, you can navigate the funding journey more effectively and protect the long-term success of your venture.

About the Author / Author Expertise & Authority

John Biggs lives in Brooklyn, NY, and writes about fintech, cryptocurrency, security, gadgets, gear, wristwatches, and the Internet. After spending four years as an IT programmer, I switched gears and became a full-time journalist. My work has appeared in the New York Times, Laptop, PC Upgrade, Gizmodo, Men’s Health, InSync, Popular Science, and is the author of ten books. He is the former East Coast Editor of TechCrunch.com.

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