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

25. April 2024 Dr. Diethelm Baumann

In this fourth part of our blog series (4/6), we’ll take a deeper dive into the specific drawbacks of private equity for defense start-ups and explore how crypto shares offer a compelling alternative.

The Pitfalls of Private Equity for Defense 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 defense 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 defense 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 defense – 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 defense 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 Defense and Aerospace Sector

In addition to these challenges, the defense 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 defense start-ups, as they may view these expenses as a significant barrier to entry and profitability;
  • European PE houses restrict investments in „offensive defense“ assets due to ESG – this limits the pool of potential investors for defense start-ups working on cutting-edge offensive technologies, as many European PE firms prioritize “ethical and socially responsible” investments;
  • Long time-frames and expensive requirements make it hard for PE to recoup rewards – defense 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 defense start-ups, as they may view established D&A corporations as better positioned to capitalize 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 Defense 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 revolutionize defense start-up financing.

Key Benefits of Crypto Shares for Defense Start-ups

  • Share restrictions and multiple voting rights let founders maintain control – this ensures that defense 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 defense 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 defense start-ups overcome the limitations of ESG-focussed 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 defense 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 defense 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 defense 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 specialize 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 defense start-ups with a stable platform for issuing and managing crypto shares.

Conclusion: Embracing the Future of Defense 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 defense 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 defense start-ups to explore this transformative financing option.