Q&A with Isaac Wagschal on One Percent Ventures’ Intentions to Transform MCA
One Percent Ventures, a loaded name with implications depending on who reads it, is the latest small business funding company to enter the fray. No, it’s not funding for the one percent, but rather the numerical percentage the company would make off first-time clients with near-perfect performance. They’d make just one percent…
The concept, which caught the attention of deBanked, had to be explained in detail, especially when a merchant paying only $500 on a $50,000 advance was communicated as an example. Say what? The catch is in a rebate and the cost independent of the broker’s commission. Nevertheless, One Percent Ventures CEO Isaac Wagschal seems to be bringing in a new concept, one that was originally supposed to be 0%, he says, but he was already stuck with his company name. deBanked did a Q&A to find out exactly how it all works.
– The Editor
Q (Adam Zaki): Why did you choose the name One Percent Ventures?
A (Isaac Wagschal): The original idea for One Percent Ventures wasn’t to be a funding company that gives one percent deals. Originally, we were going to provide branding and marketing services to small businesses who do not have any marketing, but can benefit from it. Our compensation was to be a one percent partnership in the company. Then a situation came my way where I was able to form a team of people with extensive knowledge and experience in the MCA space. I grabbed the opportunity and switched from marketing to funding small business.
We designed the product with a rebate that refunds basically the entire cost of the first advance. I realized that if we changed the rebate where instead of refunding 100% of the 1st advance factor cost, we keep 1%, I wouldn’t have to change the name and logo of the company. This is the reason our merchants are now paying one percent. If I had not already determined the name, the merchants would have been paying zero instead of one percent.
Q: What was the most difficult part of the shift from marketing to funding?
A: Shifting from marketing to funding was very difficult because of the nature of the market which existed at that time. That difficult transition forced the creation of our unique product, which includes rebates and payment-pauses. I looked into the mainstream MCA product in-depth, and realized that from a marketing point of view the product is flawed, and cannot be marketed properly. The more I scrutinized the MCA industry, I realized that the problems are not just from a marketing perspective. There are existential problems that need to be addressed, or they will eventually cause the demise of the industry altogether. Default rates are so high that mathematically the industry is forced to charge extremely high prices. This makes the product unmarketable to merchants who are not in the absolutely highest risk bracket.
I knew that unless we remade the product to be more attractive and marketable to a larger market share, the funding industry had no tangible room for expansion. Why would we want to get into this market space in the first place? As a team, we agreed that instead of hiring ISO-reps and underwriters, we would first hire accountants, actuaries, and data analysts.
We applied the same psychological principles used in marketing, where you try to predict and manipulate people’s reactions. By doing that, we were able to redesign the old MCA product. We introduced a rebate system that gives the merchant an opportunity to potentially only pay a $500.00 factor cost on a $50k advance. In this way, we expanded the current market share, and turned it into a hot product. I hear from ISOs on a daily basis who recontacted old unsuccessful leads, and turned them into deals after they presented the OPV-rebate and payment-pause-award system. This proved that the OPV product is expanding the market share.
Q: What are your thoughts about the market share in MCA?
A: The current market share consists of the absolute highest risk merchants who are willing to pay such high prices. It is becoming harder and harder to maintain deal flow. This has forced the industry to slowly keep raising the standard with respect to how many positions we are willing to accept. If nothing happens, we will soon find ourselves talking about 10th and 15th positions. This is certainly not sustainable, and puts an amazing amount of stress on the ISOs who are working tirelessly to maintain deal flow. They see it all happening, but feel helpless because at the end of the day, they can only present a product that a funder puts on the table. The tiny market of willing and able merchants is also a source of stress, and a key factor to the mistrust that is largely present between ISOs and funders.
Q: What are your thoughts on a relationship with the ISOs and funders?
A: Let’s face it, the way the current ISO-Funder relationship is set up scientifically creates a conflict of interest. It is simple math – when a funder loses a renewal that carried a potential profit of 50k and thinks that the deal could have happened if not for the 14 points that is reserved for the ISO, there is a natural conflict of interest. You can be honest with your ISOs and even give Rolexes and call them your partners on paper, but the spreadsheet still calculates a conflict of interest at the end. The lavish gifts are nice, but they do not eliminate the scientific conflict of interest.
We have corrected this fundamental problem by designing our business model so that our ISOs are genuine partners. This too is simple math – when a funder’s product is designed to issue an unheard-of large rebate, and 3rd party costs are deducted from the final rebate amount, the merchant will obviously be super happy because of the astronomic refund. More importantly, by using this model, the conflict of interests between ISO and funder is erased because mathematically the merchant paid the commission, not the funder!
Q: How does OPV make money? How do merchants qualify for all of your incentives? What are these incentives?
A: Let me first answer the latter part and explain how our product works and then I’ll come back to answer how we make money.
Our typical product is a ninety-day term at 1.49 sell rate. At mid-term, if the merchant didn’t miss any payments, they are eligible for an add-on, largely known as a renewal. At this phase, we begin to issue an OPV-Pause award after each cycle of four consecutive successfully completed payments. The pause awards can be submitted smoothly on our automated online system either one at a time, or they can be saved and initiate a pause for an entire week. After the final payment, if the merchant didn’t miss more than three payments, excluding the pauses, we refund the entire factor cost of the first advance except for 3rd party fees, processing fees, and 1% of the advance, which gives us only $500 profit on a 50k advance.
Every merchant that qualifies for funding, automatically qualifies for all the incentives. The OPV funding model is actually designed to perform better when more merchants actually receive the rebate. Why? Because that also means there has been a drop in the default rates. If every merchant was to qualify for the rebate, it would mean we had a zero percent default rate, which would allow us to make a healthy return, even if we made profit only on the 2nd advance.
This is precisely the reason we added the OPV-Pause awards. It is in our best interest to keep the merchant motivated to stay current on their payments, in order to qualify for the rebate. We even added a condition that in the event a merchant doesn’t have an unused pause award, they can purchase an OPV-Pause for 20% the daily payment. The goal must be to lower default rates so that we can lower the end cost. In this way we can expand the market share and keep the MCA industry alive. The OPV product is designed to do just that.
Q: What are your immediate goals for OPV? How about long term?
A: Phase I was designing the product and building the platform. Now in phase II, we plan to fund deals for at least a year before making any significant changes. We want to build relationships and earn trust by being transparent and honest, even when it hurts. At phase III we will analyze the data and make tweaks we deem necessary. At phase IV, given that the canary returned from the coal mine, we will share our intelligence, and license the OPV platform to reputable funders throughout the MCA industry.
Q: What is your outlook on the future of the non-bank small business funding/lending sphere?
A: In an effort to truly make a constructive change towards preserving the MCA industry, I will speak openly about the elephant in the room. We are all aware of the unfavorable new laws and regulations that constantly threaten our existence. As long as there are politicians who need to win elections, they will be on the hunt for “do-good projects.” There will always be a lobbyist that is looking for deal-flow, who is willing to provide the perfect “do-good” project. One of those will be – “Let’s save the poor merchant from the greedy funder.” The politician can only succeed because the nature of the MCA industry is such that our funders share only the good news. The bad news is confidential, so there is a stigma of excess profit in the MCA sphere. If we can successfully change that stigma, then we will be a thriving industry for many years to come.Last modified: October 21, 2021
Adam Zaki was a Reporter at deBanked.