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Crypto shares vs. private equity: a new era for defence start-ups (4/6)

In our previous articles, we've delved into the significant challenges defence start-ups face when seeking financing to bring their groundbreaking technologies to market. We've highlighted how traditional funding mechanisms, often fail to meet the unique demands of this sector. In this article, we'll take a deeper dive into the specific drawbacks of private equity for defence start-ups and explore how crypto shares offer a compelling alternative.

Private equity (PE) has long been a go-to source of funding for start-ups, but for those in the defence sector, it comes with a host of significant drawbacks that can hinder growth and innovation:

The Pitfalls of Private Equity for Defence Start-ups

  • PE investors often demand high returns, leading to loss of control for founders - special governmental customers don't like the prospect of potentially foreign entities controlling contracted defence start-ups as their reliability to fulfill contracts might be at stake;

  • Lengthy and complex fundraising process is ill-suited to fast-moving nature of defence tech - in particular in countries like Ukraine, where solutions must reach impact immediately - slow funding can mean missing critical opportunities to deploy life-saving technologies;

  • Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) concerns make many PE firms reluctant to invest in defence - uncertain prospect of follow-up funding rounds, making it difficult for start-ups to plan for long-term growth and sustainability;

  • Bureaucratic procedures and paperwork are slow and burdensome for agile start-ups - navigating complex administrative requirements can divert time and resources away from critical research and development efforts, slowing down innovation;

  • Accepting VC or equity financing requires ceding significant control over funds - this can limit a defence start-up's ability to make swift, autonomous decisions about resource allocation and strategic direction, which is crucial in rapidly evolving market opportunities.

Historical Hurdles in the Defence and Aerospace Sector

In addition to these challenges, the defence and aerospace (D&A) sector has historically faced several factors that have inhibited private equity investment:

  • Punitive costs of procurement exercises deter the PE community (mainly affects Tier 1) - the high costs associated with participating in government procurement processes can discourage PE firms from investing in defence start-ups, as they may view these expenses as a significant barrier to entry and profitability;

  • European PE houses restrict investments in "offensive defence" assets due to ESG - this limits the pool of potential investors for defence start-ups working on cutting-edge offensive technologies, as many European PE firms prioritise “ethical and socially responsible” investments;

  • Long timeframes and expensive requirements make it hard for PE to recoup rewards - defence contracts often involve lengthy development cycles and costly regulatory compliance, which can delay returns on investment and make it challenging for PE firms to achieve their desired profit margins;

  • There is a perceived "technological lag" between D&A corporations and innovative start-ups - this perception can make PE firms hesitant to invest in defence start-ups, as they may view established D&A corporations as better positioned to capitalise on new technologies and market opportunities;

  • The D&A industry is seen as a closed market dominated by a few players, discouraging PE investments - the concentration of market power among a handful of large corporations can create the impression of high barriers to entry for start-ups, deterring PE firms from investing in the sector due to concerns about limited growth potential and intense competition

The Emergence of Crypto Shares: A Game-Changer for Defence Financing

However, these paradigms are shifting with developments in technology, the pandemic's impact on the civilian aerospace industry, and the increasing participation of VC investors creating new opportunities for PE in the D&A sector. In this context, the emergence of crypto shares heralds a new era of flexibility, transparency, and speed that is poised to revolutionise defence start-up financing.

Crypto shares offer a compelling alternative that addresses the pain points of traditional financing head-on, providing a range of benefits for defence start-ups:

Key Benefits of Crypto Shares for Defence Start-ups

  • Share restrictions and multiple voting rights let founders maintain control - this ensures that defence start-ups can retain strategic decision-making power and alignment with their mission, even as they raise capital from external investors, addressing concerns about foreign control and reliability;

  • Electronic issuance is faster and more streamlined than traditional PE fundraising, often completing in weeks rather than months - this speed of funding is critical for defence start-ups operating in fast-paced, high-stake war-zones, where rapid access to capital can make the difference between success and failure;

  • Opens up investment opportunities to a broader global investor base - by tapping into a wider pool of potential investors, crypto shares can help defence start-ups overcome the limitations of ESG-focused European PE houses and access the capital they need to develop and deploy their technologies;

  • Transparency of blockchain enables a secure and compliant shareholder base (also regionally limited if required) - the immutable and auditable nature of blockchain technology provides a high level of transparency and security, ensuring that defence start-ups can maintain a compliant and trustworthy shareholder base (restricting investments e.g. coming from sanctioned countries);

  • Offer flexibility to combine with other financing instruments as needed - crypto shares can be integrated into a diverse funding strategy, allowing defence start-ups to leverage multiple sources of capital and adapt to changing financial requirements as they grow and evolve;

  • The digital nature of crypto shares makes cross-border investment easier than with traditional PE - by eliminating many of the bureaucratic and logistical barriers associated with international investments, crypto shares enable defence start-ups to access global capital markets more efficiently, opening up new opportunities for collaboration and growth.

Navigating Risks and Forging Strategic Partnerships

While the benefits of crypto shares are clear, it's essential to acknowledge and address the potential risks associated with this innovative financing model. As the law enabling crypto shares has only recently been passed, some regulatory uncertainties may arise due to the limited number of practical cases and the ongoing establishment of legal precedents. 

However, these risks can be effectively mitigated by partnering with experienced legal advisors like GreenGate Partners who specialise in this emerging field and can provide guidance on compliance issues and best practices. Moreover, while the market for crypto shares is still in its early stages, transparent and regulated early market entrants like ecrop are paving the way for a secure and reliable investment environment. As a regulated financial institution, ecrop is well-positioned to navigate the complexities of this nascent market and provide defence start-ups with a stable platform for issuing and managing crypto shares.

By adopting a phased approach to investment and aligning with reputable partners, defence start-ups can strategically manage the risks associated with crypto shares while positioning themselves to capitalise on the significant opportunities this new financing model presents. 

Conclusion: Embracing the Future of Defence Financing

Early adopters who take calculated risks and embrace the potential of crypto shares stand to gain a substantial competitive advantage in the rapidly evolving defence innovation landscape. As the market matures and more success stories emerge, the benefits of crypto shares are likely to far outweigh the initial risks, making this an exciting time for defence start-ups to explore this transformative financing option.

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