Royalty financing is an advance against future product or service sales. The advance is paid back by diverting a percentage of the product or service sales to the investor who issued the advance.
Royalty Financing is appropriate for established companies that have a product or service, or emerging companies about to launch a product with high gross and net margins. Also for companies with elastic pricing–i.e., the ability to raise prices without impacting sales. Appropriate for companies that experience a quick cause and effect between marketing activity and sales increases.
Royalty financing may appeal to investors who typically do not make investments in private companies. In addition, angel investors; venture capitalists, and even state, city or regional economic-development agencies can be talked into the concept of royalty financing.
Royalty financing is inexpensive for companies with high-margin products or services. It is relatively easy to find because the technique appeals to a wide variety of investors. In addition, because royalty financing is essentially a loan, it generally does not provoke state and federal securities laws.
Many companies still in their formative stages face a difficult dilemma when looking for equity capital. Equity investors, whether they are angels or venture capitalists, often demand a big piece of the company because of all the risk they incur. The problem is compounded by the fear that, if the organization gives up 30 percent, 40 percent or even 50 percent of its equity on the first round of outside financing, nothing but a grubstake is left by the time the company goes public.
Enter royalty financing, which eliminates the dilemmas of equity financing by removing them from the picture, explains Peter Moore, founder of Rockwater Capital Management, a consulting firm in Portland, Maine, that helps companies raise capital, and a proponent of the royalty financing technique. “Instead of selling equity,” Moore says, “a company simply pledges a piece of its future sales against an advance provided by the investors.”
Here’s how Moore structured a financing transaction to help a software company turbocharge its sales. Rather than go after angel investors, Moore approached the Greater Portland Building Fund, and Coastal Enterprises Inc., quasi-public economic-development organizations charged with developing business in the state.
But instead of a loan or equity, Moore sought for his client an “advance” of $200,000 against its future sales. If the advance were made, each investor would get 3 percent of the software company’s sales for 10 years, or until they received payments totaling $600,000. This $600,000 would represent the original $200,000 investment, plus $400,000.
At the broadest level, for the investors to earn the agreed-upon $600,000 within the maximum allowable time frame, the software company would have to generate total sales of $20 million over 10 years. Although the software company had less than $1 million in sales at the time, it had over the course of its three-year life doubled sales each year.
“This was a big selling point,” Moore says. Moreover, investors were comforted by the fact that the firm’s software program, which helps companies manage hazardous-waste streams, meant there were 300,000 potential customers.
The deal was structured so that the time frame was flexible-up to 10 years to make repayment-but the return, $600,000, was not. Because of this, the return the investors could earn was variable as well and ranged from pretty good to exceptional. Specifically, if the software company repaid the advance in 10 years, the investors would earn a compound annual return of 11.6 percent on their investment.
If, however, the company’s sales mushroomed, and $600,000 was paid to the investors in five years, their compound annual return also mushroomed to 24.5 percent-a rate that even an institutional venture capitalist would have to admire.
It took Moore and his client about four months to hammer out all the details of the deal. One of the key terms he negotiated was for a delay in the commencement of royalty payments. Specifically, royalties did not accrue until 90 days after the deal closed. In addition, the actual royalty payments did not have to be paid until 60 days after the revenues were recognized.
“All in all, it was five months from the time the company received the financing until the first payment was due,” Moore says. “This gave the owners the time they needed to put the capital to work and start producing sales.”