I've always been leery about putting customers or competitors in a position where they can exercise significant power in a client company because once the camel gets his nose into the tent, the body invariably follows. Investors who just want to profit are far more predictable, even if they're harsher on the terms.
Your last sentence blithely used the word "loan" and sent an evil shiver up my spine because I've come to view debt as a MORTAL SIN in small company finance. My second law of small company finance is "Never even promise to give the money back." It applies to both debt and dividend paying preferred stock because I've never had a client that didn't have a better use for their cash than a debt or dividend payment. I have, however, lost several million dollars in companies that borrowed money when they really needed equity.
Beacon and Ener1 are in the tank today because they borrowed money they couldn't pay back based on hopes, dreams and a desire to avoid the dread spectre of dilution. It's the biggest mistake a company can make until it has sustained and consistent operating income that represents several times debt service cost. My personal bottom line is that if a small company believes it's big enough to incur substantial debt, it's too big to have me as a stockholder.
Earlier in my life I managed a lumber store for a good friend of mine who ran a multi-million dollar lumber business in South Africa and a more modest enterprise in America. His cardinal rule was cash. He showed me everything in his store and said, "You know who owns that? I do." No bank could ever claim any of it or take it away from him. We as shareholders of Axion Power can go to their plant and point at every product, patent and asset they have and say, "You know who owns that? We do."
I am thrilled about the way they have chosen to finance their operations.