Most entrepreneurs looking for funding have heard about the various avenues available to them, but are not familiar with the positives and negative of each.
Following is a 10,000 foot level but focused discussion of the various sources
Friends & Family
Your dad, uncle or a rich body - almost always non-strategic, almost always come with confused valuations and even more confuse structures that will be costly to clean-up later, and often the money raised gets to be wasted on experimentation. It is however, the easiest money to raise since they know you and trust you the most. Raising Friends and Family round generally does give the VC's and the angels the warm and fuzzy that at least your relatives and friends trust you.
Angels (individuals & groups)
An individual angels or group of angels that pull together to invest - generally invest as individuals or as an LLC. If you have the right angel or the right lead (if a group) to spearhead the process things go smooth, theright group or person can bring significant focus to the process, the wrong angels can introduce a confused direction, non-professional angels often offer less assistance than you expect or they originally may claim, professional angels go out of their way to help a good entrepreneur. Angles often do not make second round investments, if dealing with a group the process may take longer than you expect. Example: Tech Coast Angels
Provide a place, some computer and office support, some HR and accounting support -- only the focused ones work, a lot of incubators have real estate motives which gets them derailed from operations, often too dilutive for very strong teams. Example: Idealab.
Venture Capital Firms
Organized large funds with a few managers in charge of investing the funds money and helping portfolio companies on the path to exit - funding ratios are very low (less than 1%), generally. The firm matters A LOT, concept stage investments are possible for insiders or entrepreneurs they have worked with before, but new deals must meet minimum requirements. Strong team is almost a must have. Example: DFJ
Management Intrusive Solutions
Informal Virtual Incubators - Individual angels who take a line position - they do make an investment and often request some options. Some entities have a formal limited fund with experienced operator partners offering money & interim CXO; usually utilizing convertible loan vehicles with options. Example: Momentum Ventures.
Risk Sensitive Loan & Warrant Models
Non-convertible loans with a warrant kicker - taking the first position, acting like a bank, but with a very aggressive risk profile. They are an excellent vehicle to bridge to the next round, but could be very expensive money. Example: Agility Capital.
None-intrusive Capital & Execution Models
Structured and staged investments coupled with extensive execution assistance without management replacement and with targeted valuation increases. This is a new and innovative model that reduces entrepreneur dilution and provides very early stage companies with what they need the most: focus and connections. It works best when the company valuation is not too high and the product is ready for market. For example: Venture Farm.
And naturally there is always credit cards, home equity loans and other boostraping stuff. Recent post on my blog: http://sidmohasseb.blogspot.com and a related podcast describes more channels and options.
Sid Mohasseb is the managing director of Venture Farm and the 2008 incoming president of the Tech Coast Angels in Orange County, the largest angel investment organization in US with close to a billion dollar follow-up investments by VC's. As an investor and board member, he is very active with a number of start-ups. He has a history of building and exiting companies, as well as, helping many of the fortune 500 with strategy, operations and execution advice. Learn more about Sid @ www.Mohasseb.Com Blog: http://sidmohasseb.blogspot.com/