Which Startups Qualify For Emergency Federal Assistance? It May Depend on Their Investors
Baffled by the restrictions and sensing a race against the clock until they run out of cash or the program does, small businesses are scrambling to apply for government-backed loans to keep their companies afloat.
The requirements are especially confusing for venture-backed companies, many of which could be excluded from help under the original working of the $2 trillion stimulus package signed into law last week in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The stress of this is just tremendous because the money will be gone in a flash," said the owner of a company in downtown L.A. who preferred to remain anonymous because he did not want to alarm his employees. "No one knows what the rules are and this could mean the difference in my firm having to lay people off and not."
Friday is the first day businesses with fewer than 500 employees can apply for loans of up to $10 million under the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program.
Anxious startup founders received the news they were hoping to hear Thursday when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told Axios it was his expectation that the Treasury Department would issue new guidance in the next "day or two" that makes startups eligible for relief.
"I just got off the phone with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and this is going to be solved," McCarthy said.
But lawyers following the daily twists and turns of interpreting the hastily written legislation say it is too early for startups to breathe a sigh of relief.
"This remains an extremely fluid situation with new information being released daily," said Michael Avent, a partner at Perkins Coie LLP. "It is my hope that we will have clarity on these issues before the SBA begins accepting applications, but that is far from certain at the moment."
Startup founders are eager for a resolution, worrying if they act too soon the rules won't be solidified and if they wait the program, or their business, might run out of money.
"I'm hopeful we will qualify but I'm not counting on it," said Sofya Polyakov, CEO & Co-Founder of the Noun Project. "I'm in daily communication with our legal team but there's still not enough clarity on whether we would qualify."
The uncertainty stems from an "affiliation rule" that would require startups to count all the employees of other startups that their VC investor has backed, likely putting many startups over the 500-employee threshold, even if the companies are completely separate.
"The hard part is you have to look at affiliates and what it means to be an affiliate," said Avent.
In general, he said companies with a long roster of angel investors will have an easier time qualifying, which are usually early-stage startups. But Avent cautioned, "there are certainly companies that are very young and received venture funding at a very early stage," which could be problematic.
"The less likely that you have one investor that exercises control the better your chances of escaping affiliation," he added.
Another issue, especially for startups in expensive cities like Los Angeles, is that salaries are only covered up to $100,000, which leaves out most tech workers.
Christine Outram, CEO of Everydae, a seed stage digital tutor for high school students, estimates that the payroll protection would only cover two of her six employees.
"I don't want to lay anyone off, " said Outram. "I want to pay people."
- paycheck-protection-program - dot.LA ›
- Coronavirus Updates: California Unemployment Claims at 1.9M ... ›
Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.
The Los Angeles City Council capped service charges third-party delivery services like Postmates, Grubhub, Uber Eats can pass on to restaurants at 15% of the purchase price during the pandemic following similar moves in San Francisco, Seattle and other major cities.
Restaurants have long complained about charges from the popular apps as high as 30% are eating away at their business, and those worries have grown during the pandemic, as owners find themselves relying more heavily on the services.
- Countywide, Bars, Gyms and Theaters Close, Restaurants Move to ... ›
- COVID-19 crisis sparks 'inflection point' for online grocery — and ... ›
RealNetworks is releasing a browser extension that automatically identifies celebrities and other public figures in YouTube and Netflix videos, using the same facial recognition technology that the company originally developed for use with live surveillance video at schools, casinos and airports."StarSearch by Real" doubles as a video navigation tool, pinpointing the places the celebs appear in the videos, and letting users quickly jump to those spots.
Venture capital has fueled billions of dollars in wealth but it has largely excluded black Americans. Only 1% of venture-funded startup founders are black and more than 80% of venture firms don't have a single black investor.
Blck VC, a group of young black investors and entrepreneurs are calling on the venture capitalist community to diversify their ranks and support the black community. Declaring Thursday, June 4th, a day of action, the group launched a campaign called "We Won't Wait."