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01/16/2023Romanow resigns from Clearco
09/06/2022Clearco shutting down Irish operations
02/25/2022Clearco launches The Founders Fund
02/24/2022Michelle Romanow is now CEO of Clearco
07/08/2021Clearco raised $215M from SoftBank

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Clearco is Now a Top Small Business Funder


Clearco Announces Major Layoffs, Paints Gloomy Picture

July 29, 2022
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Clearco, the international small business funding company led by celebrity CEO Michele Romanow, announced it was laying off 125 employees on Friday. Romanow shared the news on social media in an overall gloomy message about the business’ state of affairs. For one, the company says that Clearco is currently “considering strategic options” for its international operations.

In a letter from Romanow and Executive Chairman Andrew D’Souza, they state:

The short answer is the current macroeconomic environment looks very different today than in 2021. We have rising interest rates not seen since the mid-90s, the highest inflation in four decades, one of the biggest swings in European currency since the founding of the Euro, all compounded with a slowdown in e-commerce growth that’s been well documented and continued supply chain issues for companies of all sizes.

We were building to match the growth of the economy and now face significant headwinds that simply didn’t exist six months ago. We grew our headcount too quickly in anticipation of continued economic growth and that decision rests on us alone.

After assessing the current market conditions and uncertainty we’re seeing across the e-commerce sector, this was the most prudent action to take and was necessary to:

1. Ensure we’re able to support as many founders as possible, today and in the future, in their growth journey and;

2. To come out of this economic downturn a sustainable and profitable company.

Clearco to Invest €100 Million into Digital-First Irish Businesses

April 6, 2022
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Dublin IrelandClearco, the world’s self-proclaimed largest e-commerce investor that provides revenue-based financing capital solutions to e-commerce businesses, is making yet another move. Directed by CEO Michele Romanow, a star in the hit TV show “Dragon’s Den,” Clearco recently announced that it will be introducing its product to Irish founders and entrepreneurs. Upon continuation to support the 15+ % growth predicted in the Irish economy in 2022, the company plans to put €100 million into digital-first Irish businesses.

An international sales and business development hub has been developed in Dublin. The Clearco team currently consists of 75 members with a plan of adding 125 employees in the future. This will support Clearco’s plan to grow in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific in 2022.

This year Clearco plans to expand its products and services within current European operations and into new key markets across the continent. This includes Western Europe, Central Europe and the Nordic region.

Clearco has invested over $3.2 billion globally into 7,000+ businesses across three continents. Ireland is the fourth international market for Clearco. To be able to serve as many founders as possible internationally, the creation and development of its sales and development team is key.

Romanow stated “Clearco is excited to bring our revenue-based funding model to Irish founders. Ireland has one of Europe’s strongest economies and a dynamic start-up sector. We are confident that we will have a meaningful impact on the Irish e-commerce economy. Clearco is excited to establish this International Sales hub in Ireland to support our growth in the EMEA region. We’re impressed by the talent and tech skills here and I look forward to building the team to serve our growing customer base.”

Businesses in all 50 states have been funded by Clearco within the US market. However, over half of the company’s funding goes to businesses outside of California, New York, Illinois and Massachusetts, which received about 70%. Clearco believes the same trends will be seen in the Irish marketplace as they hope to help fund traditionally underserved communities.

Who’s Growing in the Industry?

September 6, 2022
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Despite Covid, several small business finance companies successfully secured spots on the 2022 Inc 5000 list for their stellar 3-year revenue growth. Here’s a snapshot of who made it:

Ranking Company Name 3 year growth %
127 Crestmont Capital 3,548%
271 Fountainhead 2,006%
799 Business Lending Blueprint 793%
835 Clearco 755%
970 Valiant Business Lending 668%
1,047 Funding Forward 618%
1,240 Lending Science DM 524%
1,587 Lendio 401%
1,876 Choice Merchant Solutions 324%
1,970 Nav 306%
2,343 Novae 250%
2,886 Velocity Capital Group 189%
3,262 Fundbox 162%
3,410 SBG Funding 154%
4,284 Flexibility Capital 107%
4,367 Fund&Grow 103%
4,737 ApplePie Capital 89%
4,959 Fundomate 82%

The Inc 5000 list requires companies to apply and submit data. Companies that may have qualified to be ranked could have chosen not to apply.

As Layoffs Hit Fintech Lenders, It’s Not All Roses

August 1, 2022
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Underneath all the good news about hiring sprees, loan volume surges, and profitability, is ironically just the opposite. Some fintech lending darlings of Wall Street have abruptly changed gears over the past few months and are now in a state of self-preservation. Is this a normal business cycle or is something else going on here?

4/19/22 – lays off 3,900+ workers, a figure that includes a round that began in December 2021.

5/24/22 – Klarna lays off 10% of workforce.

6/15/22 – Coinbase announced plans to layoff 18% of its workforce.

6/21/22 – NextPoint announces end of LoanMe business, citing “market conditions.”

6/27/22 – Amount lays off 18% of workforce.

7/13/22 – Kabbage confirms it is facing two DOJ investigations over its handling of PPP loans.

7/27/22 – Shopify Capital grew originations but Shopify’s parent company announced it was laying off 10% of employees due to lower than expected post-pandemic e-commerce sales.

7/29/22 – Clearco announces major layoffs (125 employees), citing inflation, interest rates, European challenges, and a slowdown in e-commerce growth.

7/29/22 – Amazon shrank its staff by 100,000 employees.

Kabbage Re-enters Small Business Funding Arena

December 8, 2021
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Kabbage BannerWhen Kabbage stopped lending in the Spring of 2020, many assumed they would pick up where they left off when they were acquired by American Express. Not quite. Since the deal in August 2020, Kabbage had been repurposed as a checking account service.

On Wednesday, however, Kabbage finally announced a return to funding.

“Kabbage from American Express today launched Kabbage Funding™, offering eligible small businesses flexible lines of credit between $1,000 and $150,000—now with the powerful backing of American Express. With Kabbage Funding, small businesses can apply in minutes to access working capital 24/7 to help manage their company’s cash flow.”

The only strange thing about it is the marketing that makes it sound as if Kabbage had never actually been in the funding business until just now.

Kabbage had been one of the largest online small business lenders in the country in 2019, generating approximately $2.7 billion in loan originations. At the time, it was more than Square, OnDeck, ClearCo, Funding Circle, Amazon, and Shopify.

Q&A with Rachel Sanders on how Small Businesses Can Utilize Blockchain Tech

December 3, 2021
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Rachel SandersAt the NFT BZL conference in Miami on Tuesday, deBanked bumped into Rootine, a vitamin company that is looking to expand into the crypto space. Rootine is a small business that exists fully in the tangible world and sells a tangible product. They offer a completely customized vitamin concoction to their customers via questionnaires that identify biomarkers on their online platform.

This all begs the question, how do small businesses like Rootine leverage crypto? Rachel Sanders, CEO and co-founder of Rootine, shared her thoughts.

Q (Adam Zaki)- Your product is obviously inspired by tech and customer experience. Why are these fundamentals of Rootine?

A (Rachel Sanders)- We are in the middle of a health data revolution. More consumers than ever before have access to critical data about their health and this access will only grow. People should be able to leverage their data to optimize their health with precision health products and actionable insights tailored to their unique data and goals. Technology is the key to make this possible.

At Rootine, our mission is to empower members to leverage their data to achieve optimal health and fuel their potential. Rootine analyzes your body to deliver a precision daily multivitamin engineered to optimize your health, and then fine-tunes your formula over time to continuously provide optimal support for your body. Our team has worked hard to build with a human-first mentality, creating a brand that both delights our members and makes a real, and positive impact on their health. We are proud to empower thousands of members to improve their health and are excited to make an even bigger impact in 2022!”

Q-What was Rootine doing at an NFT conference?

A- As the world of web3 and NFTs ballooned in the second half of 2021, we saw a community emerging celebrating vices and fueled by alcohol. There was also this odd dichotomy occurring where health influencers were changing their profile pictures to NFTs depicting un-healthy vices. We believed that heath should be a central part of the conversation in web3, so we dove in.

Rather than build a branded NFT project, we spearheaded a collaborative effort to launch Apex Optimizers, the first NFT project exclusively focused on health and human performance optimization. Community members represent brands like Eight Sleep, Rootine, Hydrant, Span Health, Bioloop, Aloha, Gwella, OneSkin, and Bristle. Early team members from Levels and founders at Bristle, health experts like Louisa Nicole and Dr. Sohaib Imitaz, professional athletes like Justin Gatlin, as well as a number of high performers and crypto and NFT heavy hitters like Steve Aoki.

It has been difficult working in unchartered territory (as a project like this has never been done before), but we were driven by a mission to build an inclusive community highlighting the importance of data-driven health and to deliver tangible real life utility to holders. We have been fortunate to collaborate with some of the top health experts, brands, athletes, and founders in human performance while building a community that is already inspiring its members to improve in areas like sleep, stress, nutrition, fitness, mental health and more.

Q-How will NFTs enhance your product? Why do you think your customers would be more willing to buy products that have some type of blockchain component?

A As we think about the future of the metaverse, consumer products and brands will play a large role. Exactly what that role looks like is yet to be determined. What we do know is that health will continue to matter and that consumer health brands will need to have a strategy around how they will tie their physical products and experiences into the digital world. As for Rootine, creating a trusted brand and impactful community is always top of mind. To do that, we want to be where our members are and offer unique opportunities that members will not find elsewhere.

One example of that is helping to launch Apex Optimizers. Apex Optimizers is just one of the offerings of the Precision Health Club and it is first and foremost an awesome community of like-minded data-driven health enthusiasts looking to improve how they look, feel, and perform everyday. Gaining access to that community is something Rootine can offer that others cannot, and that is valuable. Through Apex Optimizers we are also able to offer loyal Rootine members access to exclusive perks like 1:1 lessons with pro-athletes, multi-brand discounts and product drops, and real-life wellness experiences.

Q-What are you thoughts on access to capital for small businesses? Has Rootine ever found it difficult to get a loan? Do you think crypto could help the imbalance of access to funds for small businesses?

A- Access to VC capital is a challenge for many. In the VC world, only 2.2% of funding goes to female founded companies, and other minorities and underrepresented founders have similar difficulty. For others, the capital markets have been very founder-friendly recently, with companies raising VC funding at unprecedented valuations.

In the non-VC world, there are a number of new options coming to market that make it easier to get non-dilutive funding. Pipe and Clearco are two great examples. However, to get access to that funding, you have to meet specific size and business model criteria.

Crypto certainly has the ability to put more fundraising power into the hands of creators and builders. There will be more companies using crypto as a way to raise seed capital, and we are already seeing this trend. One thing to note here, is that as the barrier to enter web3 drops, there is going to be more competition for dollars, which will raise the bar on the projects and teams that will succeed in getting funding this way.

Q-Is crypto a topic of conversation in the office? I’m trying to gauge whether your staff has an interest in crypto or if this is just a pure marketing strategy.

A- We have a combination of people very into crypto (e.g. our lead product designer who was an early advocate and continues to be a key thought leader on the team) as well as crypto novices.

It has been exciting to see how the conversations on slack have created an environment of learning and support, helping more people get into the space in a way they are comfortable with. Apex Optimizers’ mission is to make an impact at scale through community, democratizing access to innovation, and by elevating the message around the importance of data-driven health.

For the brands involved, there is of course a marketing component, but at the core, we all came together to help more people live healthier lives because all brands involved support better health.

Q- The crypto space wants to move into the Metaverse. How will Rootine, a company that sells a physical product- vitamins nonetheless- pivot if the crypto community lives in a world where a desire to be healthy may decrease? (If I live in the digital world, with digital art, digital money, digital games, a remote job, and digital friends, why would I want to buy vitamins?)

A- Even if the majority of your life is spent in the digital world, you will still want to feel and perform your best on a daily basis. If people start to neglect health, their productivity decreases, their ability to be their best self at-home with their families and partners decreases, and their stress levels, fatigue and risk for chronic conditions increases. Rootine offers a convenient, at-home way to test your body and get precision multivitamins that can support better overall health, stress levels, energy, focus and more, fueling your potential.

Another interesting thing to note, is if you look at the people building the meta world, a vast majority are the same people who love to compete in athletic feats, biohack their bodies to optimize their productivity, or focus on specific diets. Because of this, health will always be a part of digital communities.

Q- What is the strategy here? Why mint an NFT? Is it to expose the brand? Attract investors? Corner a niche market? Who thought of this, and what’s the end goal?

A-Apex Optimizers’ mission is to make an impact at scale through community, democratizing access to innovation, and by elevating the message around the importance of data-driven health. IJ on the Rootine team originally came up with an idea to explore NFTs and the project has been a collaboration ever since. All people involved have helped shape the design, launch, community and the 30+ perks (and growing) that holders will gain access too.

Q- What is the best way for a small business, regardless of industry, to educate themselves and leverage the crypto market?

A- Get started. If you don’t own an NFT, buy one. Follow web3 twitter and join some discord servers. Research what other brands in your space or adjacent spaces are doing. If specifically looking at NFTs, find whitespace where you can build a unique project that is both collaborative and on-brand