Here's what I learned during March'03 from a number of phone calls, office visits, and online research.
SBA doesn't grant money, but guarantees 75% (maybe 85% if you're a minority) of the amount loaned by a regular bank.
Nobody will touch an internet-focused startup. That definitely includes agencies, but also any other business that depends on the net.
They'll have a strong preference for you having been directly employed in a senior-manager position in exactly the same business.
Not many banks do "startups" ("yeah, I've seen Chase do some, but they were things like a licensed doctor opening his own practice"). HSBC apparently is pretty active.
The realistic upper limit for a start-up loan is maybe $150K.
The bank will look for you to put in 33-50% of the total capitalization. Meaning you match that $150K with cash. I believe some of that can come from other sources, but (a) the SBA/bank must be senior, and (b) I think they want some personal skin in the game.
The SBA will look for collateral to back up their guarantee. E.g. if the bank is lending $150K and the SBA is guaranteeing 75% of that, they'll want collateral for $112K. Like a lien on your apartment (which isn't easy to do with a co-op).
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