The Financial Crisis: A Survival Guide for Startups

Entrepreneurs often focus so much on running their companies that they don’t have time to worry about events in the outside world. Normally, this is how it should be, but the credit crisis slamming Wall Street right now is an exception, and it has deep implications for any startup.

The current mayhem actually began back in 2001. In an attempt to mitigate the economic impact of the dotcom collapse and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Federal Reserve began a series of interest-rate cuts, slashing the cost to borrow money to 1.75 percent from 6.5 percent. This was great at first: Entrepreneurs could borrow cheaply to build new businesses; consumers could borrow cheaply to spend money on our products.

There was an unexpected result, too. People began using the cheap rates to buy houses. Lots of houses. Investment banks then repackaged the new mortgage debt into all kinds of new securities that supposedly separated risky loans from safe loans. The result was cataclysmic: As housing prices plummeted, suddenly financial institutions had trillions of dollars of asset-backed securities that couldn’t be valued at all. Unable to borrow money, some of these banks are now failing, making credit hard to come by for everyone, including entrepreneurs.

If you are lucky enough to have customers, your customers are going to be less inclined to spend now. If, like most startups, you have no customers, you’re in worse shape: The angels and VCs competing to give you money last year will be far less willing to invest now.

So, what’s a founder to do? Read More about The Financial Crisis: A Survival Guide for Startups