It used to be that entrepreneurs went to the bank to apply for a loan with hat in hand and maybe even a set of kneepads, in case the begging got really intense. Not anymore. This is the era of the low-grovel loan. A flood of new capital is heading for small companies, and it's not coming just from traditional banks. Any business owner who opens the mail is likely to find an offer for a credit card with a generous line of credit. Go on the Web and you can get almost-instant loans. You can also cruise through matchmaking sites with access to thousands of lenders and equity investors. Venture capitalists, backed by big institutions and pension funds, are handing out money at a record pace. "All the stars are aligned," says James D. Atwell, global managing partner for private equities at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PWC). "There is a ton of money out there."
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