Lawrence Field, founder and CEO of Silverado Foods in Tulsa, wasn't impressed with the stock price a venture-capital firm offered him last spring. So he struck what he hopes will be a much sweeter deal with another investor. Instead of selling equity right off the bat, Field went for what's known as "bridge" financing, wagering that the stock of his three-year-old company (which makes and sells a string of food products, including gourmet popcorn) will be worth a lot more later on.

Silverado, which Field had built with acquisitions to 1992 sales of around $3 million, was financed in its early days by private investors and then by venture capital. The $3.3-million bridge deal, Field explains, paves the way for him to buy some other businesses as well as expand distribution for all of Silverado's products.

The deal works like this: $3 million is arranged as a two-year note with an interest rate of 9%; the remaining $300,000 is a debenture that the investor, Commonwealth Associates Growth Fund, in New York City, can convert into about 25% of the company's stock when Silverado does an initial public offering. The plan, says Field, a former money manager, is to go public sometime in 1994, which -- if all goes smoothly -- should provide plenty of cash to pay off the note. And if the IPO doesn't take place within the two-year time frame? In that case, Silverado would be obliged to find another way to retire the debt, says Field. "I hope we'd have cash flow or the ability to borrow."