FFF – Family, Friends, Fools

Love Money vs. Smart Money

Small start-ups are always in search for promising financial support. Usually there are two favored options, either to turn to family members and friends or to hire a Business Angel in order to get the business started. In other words we are speaking of love money adverse to smart money. However, what exactly does this mean? Love money is received primarily from the people in the environment of founders like friends and family, whereas smart money takes a step forward and provides money, besides knowledge and important know-how. Smart-money investors are generally sophisticated business people, who bring an understanding of the financial markets, strong networks and an intuition for spotting trends before others with them.

The advantages of love money are obvious: good rates, lenient credit standards and the chance for FF-investors to take part in the start-up entrepreneur’s success. However, there are some notable disadvantages to love money that should be considered too. First of all, relations can suffer. The personal connection might lead love money-investors to ignore the uncertainty of such a high-risk business venture. Expectations regarding repayment, for instance, can be too high which leads to disappointment, if the friend or family member had not been clear about the possible risks. Another problem could be a lack of documentation. If an agreement is too unclear and not properly documented, it could lead to troubles later on. Furthermore, if the terms and conditions are documented, another potential obstacle could be failing to follow them. The best paperwork is useless, if you do not care about supervision.



Conflicting interests

One special case concerning troubles in this area of investments is now a Business Angel who takes on the role of an FF-investor. This of course could happen, if a family member or friend needs financial help to build up an enterprise. A Business Angel – usually investing in third-party companies – finds himself in the situation of providing both, love money as well as smart money. Obviously this is a very attractive combination for any aspiring entrepreneur, but it brings definitely some difficulties for the investor with it. The most important difference for a Business Angel who invests in some friends or family member’s start-up, is the way of communication which will not be the same as with any stranger. Everything will be discussed in a rather cautious manner, since you are dealing with very familiar people. They may very well address the “private” person in you, however the issues are predominantly relating to business. This leads to a discrepancy that is not so easy to handle.

Warning and advice

To manage the delicate tightrope walk between being the generous friend or a family member on the one hand and a cautious as well as a reliable investor on the other hand, it is extremely important for the Business Angel to be aware of the risks behind such an FF-investment. It could easily happen that you don’t judge things the same way you would do with a normal business client. Regular updates from the start-up entrepreneur, for instance, take a crucial part in the mentoring process. If they are missing, appear in irregular intervals, or do not address critical business issues in-debt, a Business Angel would normally disapprove. On the contrary, the same Angel is in danger to overlook this behavior, if he knows the person very well in private. But then look out: a nice friend might not necessarily be a good businessman! As for any other investment as well you should always keep in mind that the friend or family member could also fail. Some Angels do not invest, if there was no FFF-seed investment placed, as they will figure: “Not even the family of a founder trust him, why should I?” All in all handling the circumstances and paying attention to separate emotional and business issues as clearly as possible should be of first priority.



Caroline Ramberger, Bakk. phil.:

Miss Ramberger finished her studies of Journalism and Communication Science at the University of Vienna and is currently studying International Business Administration at the Vienna University of Economics and Business.




Debaise, Colleen: The family plan: https://online.wsj.com/article/SB119562618703400389.html# (2013-07-25)

Ennico, Cliff: Accepting money from friends & family: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/51542 (2013-07-09)

Robbins, Stever: Asking friends and family for financing: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/44612 (2013-07-09)

Zwilling, Martin: How to get funding from friends and family: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/217651 (2013-07-09)

Zwilling, Martin: Don’t hurt friends and family investors who love you: https://www.forbes.com/sites/martinzwilling/2013/04/16/dont-hurt-friends-and-family-investors-who-love-you/ (2013-07-09)