A vintage year is the year during which a small company first receives investment capital. This capital may come from private equity funds, from the owners' personal savings, as well as from a wide range of other sources. A company's pilot run may be affected in part by what business cycle a vintage year occurs in—whether the market is up or down—as well as by what funding is received during that period. Different business cycles and types of funding may affect what returns investors can expect on their contributions, which may also affect how much they decide to invest.
The success of a vintage year may depend in part on what type of business cycle a company is entering into; different business cycles can affect how much investors are willing to give, and how much they may expect on their returns. At peak market, investors may feel more optimistic about a start-up company's value, and therefore fund more money. More funding is certainly a good thing for a business, but the possible downside is that such periods can also cause investors to overvalue a company’s worth. This may make it difficult for a new company to meet investors’ inflated expectations for returns on their money.
On the other hand, when a market is underperforming, investors may be more likely to undervalue a company's worth. Being undervalued can be a blessing and a curse: funds may be harder to come by, but investors might expect less in return, allowing a seaworthy company to retain more earnings in the crucial first years. This also can reduce the pressure to perform, giving a new company a bit of breathing room.
The source of funding during a vintage year may be just as important as the amount of money received. Funding sources can have a direct impact on how much money a company is able to retain. For example, if a start-up company's owner uses personal savings to start his or her small business, profits during the vintage year have a high likelihood of staying within the company. If, as is the case with many small businesses, funding comes from a combination of small business loans, venture capital firms and private angel investors, company earnings will normally have to be divided among the business and its investors.
The way earnings will be divided among investors depends on the sources of the investment funding. A private equity investor may buy a percentage of stock in the company. Small business loans require regular payments with interest. A small company will thus have to decide not only what investing sources are willing to give the most money, but also which sources it has the best odds of being able to pay back.