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October 31, 2013
Harvard Business School
It was September 2013, and NOWaccount Network Corporation (NOW®) co-founders John Hayes and Lara Hodgson were putting the final touches on the presentation deck for their annual shareholders’ meeting. Along with co-founder Stacey Abrams, the pair had designed NOW’s business model three years ago, and the company was at a critical juncture. NOW offered a program-called NOWaccount-that provided working capital to small businesses by converting their trade receivables almost immediately into cash. Founded in December 2010, Atlanta, Georgia-based NOW was serving clients in nine states. With 2013 year-to-date revenue of roughly $100,000, NOW was financed with $2.5 million of founder, and friends and family equity. NOW’s wholly-owned, not-for-profit special purpose entity (SPE), Trade Credit Guaranty Corporation (TCGC), purchased approved receivables, funding 90% of the invoice face values by electronic transfers into clients’ bank accounts. As of September 2013, TCGC had purchased more than $13 million of small business trade receivables from more than 40 clients. Once TCGC reached a scale of approximately $150 million of funds in use for receivable purchases, the co-founders planned to tap into the securitization market for capital by issuing asset-backed securities (ABS), collateralized by a pool of receivables, much like the credit card industry. ABS would provide TCGC ongoing capital at a lower cost. The question the co-founders confronted was whether they should get to the $150 million securitization threshold by piecing together smaller pools of capital from credit unions and possibly smaller banks (a slower approach but one that did not involve dilution because it was all debt finance), or by accepting larger chunks of capital from a major global bank and a private equity firm, getting them much closer to the threshold but at the cost of significant dilution (35%) as these financiers were also looking for a combination of equity and warrants in NOW.
As they prepared to discuss their options at the shareholders’ meeting, Hayes and Hodgson considered each option’s trade-offs in timing, cost, control, and execution risk.
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