Small Business Investment Company (SBIC), Explained

Anointed Inyang
Anointed Inyang August 1, 2022
Updated 2022/09/15 at 4:20 PM
small business investment company

Small business investment company (SBICs) supplies small enterprises with debt and equity, filling a position that venture capital organizations frequently fill. A small business investment company is privately held and licensed by the Small Business Administration (SBA).

An SBIC is generally the simplest and most successful way for an entrepreneur to receive beginning finance. Most small businesses requesting capital from SBIC are frequently mature, profitable, and large-stage businesses that generate a significant flow of cash that’s sufficient to service interest and sometimes principal payment.

Small business investment company (SBIC) small business fundings are originally in form of subjugated debt with enhancements.SBIC financings to small firms typically range from $2.5 million to $10 million.

However, each SBIC has its investment profile in terms of targeted industry, area, firm maturity, and the type and magnitude of funding the SBIC would give to small businesses. Small firms that are interested in getting investment financing from an SBIC should contact the SBIC directly.

What Small business investment companies do is that they lend money to small businesses, using revenue they have raised along with funds that are borrowed at a favourable rate, which is done with the help of loan guarantees provided by the SBA.

Note that SBA does not directly invest in small businesses, but rather makes it lenient for the SBICs to grow their finance by ensuring the loan responsibilities involved. These loan responsibilities are otherwise known as debentures, a bond backed by the general credit of the issuer rather than a specific lien on particular assets.

Small Business Investment Company(Operations)

The SBA has enacted several laws and policies governing SBIC operating requirements to ensure proper management. The main rules and policies are outlined below.

An SBIC and its partners may give managerial services to small enterprises in whom the SBIC invests, but only at competitive rates.

Unleveraged SBICs must appraise their assets annually following SBA-approved valuation rules. The SBA has issued model valuation rules that are similar to those used by private funds but do not adhere to generally accepted accounting principles.

The ability of an SBIC to borrow cash from external parties is governed by SBA regulations. Although SBICs that use debentures may incur solely unsecured debt, unleveraged SBICs may incur secured debt as well.SBICs must file a variety of reports with the SBA, none of which are overly burdensome. 

An annual financial statement certified by the SBICs independent certified public accountants, valuation reports, among other things, changes in regulatory investment, reports on changes in the SBIC’s management, material litigation, a brief report describing each investment, and copies of reports sent to investors and, if applicable, investors’ representatives are all included in these reports.

Each SBIC will be subjected to an annual regulatory examination by the SBA. If the SBIC violates SBA regulations, the SBA has specific rights and remedies.


The degree of regulatory infraction penalties varies according to the gravity of the offence. Warnings are issued for minor regulatory violations. For major violations, restrictions on dividends and new investments may be imposed, management fees may be decreased, and investors may be obliged to pay the SBIC their unfunded capital obligations. 

In extreme situations, the SBA may order the limited partners to dismiss the SBICs general partner or manager, as well as its officers, directors, managers, or partners, or the SBA may appoint a receiver for the partnership. learn more 


Requirement For a Small Business Investment Company

Before acquiring SBIC finance, first, you should pinpoint and examine existing  SBICs that may be concerned or interested in funding your company.

Make use of the SIBC directory this should be your first step in learning as much as possible about Small business investment company (SBIC) in your location or area that’s important to your company’s demand. When choosing an SBIC, put into consideration the type of investment it makes, and what amount is available for investment.

The SBIC must pay an upfront commitment charge of 1% to the lender, as well as a drawdown cost of 2% at the time of issue. There is also a semiannual, changeable fee of roughly 1%.

Investments in project finance, real estate, or passive entities such as a nonbusiness partnership or trust are often not permitted. The proceeds of a standard debenture can only be utilized to invest in small firms following the restrictions and parameters established by the SBA’s Office of Size and Standards.

Classifications of  an SBIC Debenture

Debentures are classified as either standard or discounted. Discounted debentures are classified into low-to-moderate income (LMI) and energy-saving.

The discounted debenture provides more advantageous interest and payment terms than the standard debenture. Under the LMI debenture, SBICs are required to invest in small businesses that have at least 50% of their assets or employees in low-to-moderate income zones, or 35% of their full-time workers reside in an LMI zone.

The proceeds from the energy-saving debenture must be invested in a company that is committed to lowering the usage of nonrenewable energy. Only businesses that the SBA considers to be “small” are eligible for SBIC funding and financing.


Rules Which Apply To Small Business Investment Company(SBIC)

SBICs have to work in accordance with precise and strict regulations. A comprehensive guideline is that 75% of the capital they invest must be invested in small businesses in the United States, and a US small business is defined as follows for these purposes:

  • Such a business has a net worth of less than $19.5 million
  • The business has had a median net income of less than $6.5 million over the past two years.
  • It should not have more than 49% of its workforce based overseas

The guidelines enunciate that SBICs are not authorized to invest in the following:

  • Project funding 
  • Real estate 
  • Businesses which re-lend
  • Small enterprises or businesses that have more than 49% of their workers based overseas

They are also not permitted to invest more than 10 per cent of their capital in a particular business.

The Loans Made By Small Business Investment Company

SBIC loans are called debentures and can be standard or discounted. A discounted debenture, as the name implies, provides better payment conditions and an interest rate than a conventional debenture. 

The reduced debentures are available in two forms:

  1. Low to moderate-income (LMI) debentures: the money invested in small businesses that have at least 50% of their employees or assets in low-to-moderate income zones, or 35% of full-time employees who live in an LMI zone.
  2. Energy-saving debentures: these investments are given to companies that are “mainly engaged” in activities that reduce the consumption of nonrenewable energy.

Two Types of  Small Business Investment Company

There are two types of a small business investment company (SBIC), which are:

Leveraged SBIC

Leveraged SBIC combines private money with funds made available under the SBIC credit facility.

when an SBIC obtains $50 million, it can access up to $100 million in SBIC leverage if the remaining $150 million is invested in small firms in the United States.

Non-leveraged SBIC

Because the SBIC does not charge interest on the money borrowed, non-leveraged funds can give additional funding to small firms.

SBIC Investors

5 Tips to Become a Successful Investor

Investors can either be a person or entity, domestic or foreign. With regard to banks and federal savings corporations, the SBIC act expressly grants permission for them to invest up to 5% of their assets and surplus in SBICs.

Investors owning 33% or more possession of an SBIC are required to provide certain background information to SBA and are compelled to SBA’s fingerprint requirement.

Every investor in an SBIC and people who have an unsettled 10% or more of an investor owing 10% of an SBIC must be singled out to SBA in the SBIC license application.

 Characteristics of a Successful SBIC

SBIC-licensed investment companies typically have four key characteristics:

Experienced management team: Team members have complementary skills and a history of collaboration.

Proven Investment strategy: There are enough successful, income-generating investments in a track record to demonstrate the ability to finance SBA-guaranteed debt.

Successful history: At least two team members have a successful 10-year history with investments that are comparable to those suggested for the SBIC.

The appealing Fund structure: It aligns with the incentives of the SBIC’s managers and investors.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

What is the  SBCI program?

The small business investment company(SBIC) program, is part of the United States Small Business Administration (SBA), and its aim is to bridge the gap between venture capital availability and the needs of small firms in start-up and development circumstances.

How do I know I have what it takes to receive an SBCI license?

The SBA grants licenses to SBICs for privately run or for-profit investment companies created with the intention of lending capital or debt to small businesses in the United States.

An experienced team of private equity managers must get a minimum of $5 million in private investor commitments (for a debenture fund), while the SBA can and frequently does demand the fund to have secured $20 million or more in LP commitments. 

For a debenture fund permitted to receive up to 2:1 public-private leverage, SBIC licensees are eligible to obtain up to a $20 million SBA commitment for every $10 million in private capital, which can significantly boost anticipated portfolio returns.

An SBIC’s overall size typically varies from $30 million to $225 million or more. SBICs can only invest in “small businesses,” defined as having a net worth of less than $19.5 million and a prior two years’ median after-tax income of less than $6.5 million.

How does the SBA participate in an SBIC? 

The SBIC plan is a “fund of funds,” which means that portfolio management and investment choices are certified by commercial fund managers.

As a result, the SBA has relatively little direct involvement in the portfolio management operations of an SBIC.

What are the best investment class historical returns for SBIC?

The SBIC program is working on an average-term project to compile historical returns on SBICs as an asset class, notably since the establishment of Participating Security (equity) funds in 1994.

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