Velocity Capital Group is bullish on crypto as a means of payment. Company President and CEO Jay Avigdor told deBanked that the company is officially incorporating cryptocurrency in two ways:
(1) Brokers can now choose to get paid commissions in cryptocurrency instead of cash.
(2) Merchants can now choose to get funded via cryptocurrency instead of cash.
In both cases, Avigdor touted the speed in which cryptocurrency can change hands versus waiting around for an ACH or a wire.
“Our goal since day 1 of VCG, was to give ISOs and merchants the ability to access capital as fast as possible,” Avigdor said. “With VCG’s proprietary technology, we have been able to change that mindset from ‘as fast as possible’ to ‘the FASTEST possible.'”
The company says it will use stable coins (USD Coin and DAI) to conduct these transactions “in order to limit market volatility” but that depending on the merchant or ISO relationship, they would be open to transmitting Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc.
Merchants getting funded with crypto would still have their future receivables collected via ACH so that part of the arrangement would not change. The underlying business is the same.
VCG alluded to there also being potential tax benefits of taking payment in crypto.
Avigdor believes that among industry peers, VCG is the first to offer commissions in crypto. He further explained that this is only one piece of the puzzle and that there are plans to integrate the company’s technology in a way that will allow merchants to access funding in less than 20 minutes from the time of submission to funds actually being received.
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Erez Stamler, Managing Director of Fresh Funding, said that the events of the past year has been an up and down ride, from the initial shutdown shock to rushes in demand. Now that the world is back, those that survived are here to stay and need capital to grow.
“At first the system was in shock, then a phase where we saw a strong spike in submissions [where] the owners were probably looking for some sort of PPP-type solution, and that was not available by us,” Stamler said. “Going into 2022 we believe there’s a lot of demand out there. A lot of businesses have demonstrated growth during Covid and hopefully will continue that into 2022. As far as we can see right now, we’re going strong this year for sure.”
Alex Vasilakos, who tracks online interest in alt finance as the director of marketing for Finance Marketing Group, said there had been an increase in online searches for non-bank financing solutions in the past year because banks weren’t sure how the pandemic would pan out.
“We are back in the office, and we are seeing a large uptick in digital advertising since Covid, and it is continuing to increase,” Vasilakos said in an email. “I am seeing and predicting that people will be leveraging more online sources for financing than they have in the past.”
Amotz Segal, a startup co-founder of Edge Funder, said that if the Covid spikes and black swan events are over, there is no limit to demand, and the hybrid model is here to stay. Edge Funder uses lead generation and AI underwriting to make SMB deal-making easier, Segal said.
“I think nobody’s really bullish enough, I think we’re facing the beginning of the biggest expansion period of our lifetime,” Segal said. “Our team based in New York City will hopefully gradually go back to the office this fall. That being said, I don’t think that we will ever see a one-hundred percent office-space environment. I think what the pandemic did is accelerated a trend that already began of people working from home, working remotely, and not having to attend the office daily.”
Segal has grounds to be bullish: Edge was just acquired by Yes Lender after only a year of development.
James Lee, CEO and co-founder of Julius Technologies, said that people had definitely gotten a feel for remote work, but virtual does not replace in-person communication. Julius is a startup that creates cost-effective back-end infrastructure for fintechs, building efficient data analytics for credit underwriting.
“We will see some shift. People got a taste of what it’s like to work from home; the hybrid model is a possibility in the short term,” Lee said. “In the long term we’ll see if Covid comes back in the fall with people working closely together. Hybrid works, but face-to-face time is irreplaceable and very difficult to replace in a virtual sense.”
Lee said that in-person interaction is vital for networking, mentorship, and even random, spur-of-the-moment conversations that bring a team together. Lee recently completed the Techstars incubator program fully virtually. Everything but launch day was virtual in a process that is usually hands-on.
Some firms are back in the office full time. Samuel Yakubov, director of ISO Relations at Maverick Funding, said he was already working in the office in June and had high hopes for 2022.
Tyler Deters, president and CEO of Paradigm Equipment Finance in Utah, said his business was back indoors and on track.
“We are optimistic for the future,” Deters said. “Our staff has all returned to the office, and we are full steam ahead.”
Joe Lustberg from Upwise Capital couldn’t agree more and said his team had been working in the office through the shutdown. Lustberg is confident that the post-pandemic world will be great for business, and Upwise has been doing well servicing PPP, equipment and trucking financing, and niche cannabis industry funding. Upwise also took advantage of the dip in real estate to snag an office in Manhattan and “never looked back.”
“We made sure that everybody was vaccinated, and before the vaccination was available we were still in the office. We were getting tested monthly and my guys had the option to work from home,” Lustberg said. “To be honest, most of them want to be around the company culture, the show floor. It’s much easier for them to walk in my office and ask me a question than FaceTime. It’s good New York is coming back.”
Six or seven months ago, it might have been a market full of PPP loans, but MCA is coming back strong, Lustberg said. With government funds exhausted, he said even firms that had never taken an advance before are looking for funding.
Steven Hunter would agree the industry is back. As a consultant that works best coaching underwriting teams in person, however, the work from the home model has been a drag. He said hybrid may work for relaxed work environments, but to get ahead, in-person is the way it has always been and always will be.
“I think the fact that we have proven we can, in most situations, work remotely has made [funding shops] think: ‘well you know airfare, hotel, meals and Ubers.. you know it adds up.’ So, I think I think a lot of people are going to be cost-sensitive to travel in a way they weren’t before,” Hunter said. “But if you want to make it in this industry as a startup funder, and you want ISOs to give you deals, you cannot do that by the phone and you cannot do that via Zoom call. You have got to show respect for the good shops.”
Hunter said in the actual MCA business, you don’t win deals by calling them 100 times. You get deals from the best of the best by selling face to face.
“You get deals from [top brokers] by putting your ass on a plane and flying into LaGuardia, taking a cab to their office and camping out there for three days, and talking to them looking them in the eye and saying this is what I’m going to do for you,” Hunter said. “Sales is always going to be boots on the ground. You got to put people out there.”
Farid Shidfar is Head of US Operations at KEO, a small business finance company based in Midtown Miami. I sat down with Shidfar to ask about KEO’s recent foray into the market, what they’re seeing on the front lines, and their plans for the future. Our one-on-one interview is below:
In an age of changeups, the talent or tech a firm acquires has increasingly become what sets them apart from the pack.
Yes Lender, a funder based in Pennsylvania, recently teamed up with MCA AI underwriting startup Edge Funder. Yes bought Edge and will bring co-founders Amotz Segal and Kobi Ben Meir to the team as Vice President of Business Development and Chief Marketing Officer.
Segal, an industry vet with a decade of experience in MCA, said it was a great time to join forces and grow.
“[Yes Lender] weathered this pandemic in a pretty impressive way, I would say,” Segal said. “What they see now is an opportunity to take advantage of the post-pandemic market and the need for a more sophisticated data driven system to improve their chances to become one of the biggest names in this industry.”
Surviving the pandemic in style is something Yes Lender and Edge have in common. Back in 2019, Segal left Yalber and started an investment consulting firm. By May 2020, the pandemic had soured business, but he and his co-founder Ben-Meir saw an opportunity.
“During the pandemic, I realized fairly quickly that many of the MCA companies are going to go out of business because of the nature of the shutdown,” Segal said. “So I decided to take the opportunity and apply my experience, knowledge, and start my own platform.”
The idea was simple, he said: create something that would address the pain points of the industry. They worked with the concept of building a platform that treated business owners just as consumers are treated in consumer finance. They began generating leads directly from SMBs like a consumer funding product, though Segal said they would always be focused on working with ISOs as well.
Next, they focused on turning the application process into a seamless, automated process. While the MCA industry can fund in 24 or 48 hours, the consumer credit world still has it beat, with card applications processed in as little as 30 seconds. That is the target time for online MCA applications, Segal said.
He said they look forward to being a part of the Yes Lender team and executing that vision. Glenn Forman, CEO of Yes Lender, said in a release that the firm is fortunate to have joined forces with Edge.
“Their lead generation and direct-to-merchant funding platform are terrific complements to Yes Lender’s thriving ISO-driven sales channel,” Forman said. “Moreover, the addition of artificial intelligence to our already robust array of data-driven risk assessment tools will further strengthen our underwriting.”
A brother and sister team formerly known throughout the merchant cash advance industry have achieved major success in another market altogether, mobile shopping.
Recently, their app was acquired by Snapchat, according to various news outlets, and the tech has since been integrated into the Snapchat app.
Molly and Meir Hurwitz, both original stalwarts of the old Pearl Capital in New York, co-founded Screenshop in 2017, an app that integrated shopping with fashion and social media. Its initial launch received added buzz thanks to Kim Kardashian’s early involvement as an advisor. Notably, Screenshop CEO Mark Fishman was previously a Risk Manager at Pearl Capital, rounding out the former MCA crew.
“We’re No. 5 on the app store category of fashion,” Meir Hurwitz told deBanked in November 2017. “We’re just getting started.”
The success continued.
“Screenshop gives shopping recommendations from hundreds of brands when you Scan a friend’s outfit,” Snapchat wrote in a published announcement this past May.
More than 170 million Snapchatters use scan features every month, the company revealed.
“Screenshop is now a part of ‘Scan’ said Snapchat CTO Bobby Murphy during the company’s annual Partner Summit broadcast on May 20. The above screenshot is of Murphy demonstrating the Screenshop technology.
Less than eight months after Yardline announced their launch in the e-commerce financing space, they were acquired by Thrasio. The blazing fast progression from launching to selling the company suggests that Yardline’s niche presents a unique opportunity.
“There are many companies out there that look at e-commerce businesses in the space and say, ‘there’s no barrier for entry to operate in e-commerce, they’re all drop shippers, it’s a hobby, they have no skin in the game,'” said Seth Broman, Chief Revenue Officer of Yardline. “What Yardline does is really unique: One, we obviously have a lot more information and understanding of how they operate their business, and we can really break down on a deal by deal basis, what their margins look like, to get them a more customized offering that meets their needs.”
Yardline will fund Amazon sellers, for example.
Broman said that while most MCA funders know how to look at a merchant’s fixed costs like rent, payroll, taxes, and inventory to provide funding based on a gross revenue, those same funders don’t have a risk tolerance for e-commerce.
Yardline pulls data from digital marketplaces like Amazon and online storefront platforms like Shopify to make better credit decisions, Broman said, and this was a banner year for digital shopping.
“During COVID, you were seeing such an increase of demand for e-commerce goods; Amazon, Shopify, if you look at their stock price over the last 15 months, it’s incredible,” he said. “And the reason being retails closed, everybody’s shopping from home, and the demand for all my goods is through the roof.”
Before everyone was stuck inside, e-commerce already made up 20% of consumer commerce, Broman estimated. Then everything was online-only, and demand became nearly unlimited, he said. Amazon’s third-party sellers transact 60% of all products sold on the site, and Thrasio is one of the largest consolidators of those sellers in the world, Broman said.
Now, Yardline will have access to Thrasio’s international seller network.
“We’re confident in saying that untapped ecosystem can be very profitable for ISOs if they were to start focusing on e-commerce businesses,” Broman said. “There’s less demand for it, less competition, and now they have a home for where they can get these deals done.”
Broman said after the pandemic, typical brick and mortar stores were hit hard and required PPP to keep the doors open while e-commerce flourished.
“It’s not a matter if shopping online is the future; shopping online is the present. People will continue to shop at brick and mortar, people want to eat out, just look at New York City,” Broman said. “If you look at what Amazon offers, what Walmart’s doing, what Target’s doing, what these online marketplaces are doing to make commerce quicker and easier, there’s no doubt that it’s going to continue to grow.”