As the year ends, lenders and funders across the globe are looking to meet goals, help businesses, and close the books on some of the most unpredictable months the industry has ever seen. Whether it comes to improving technology, hiring more staff, or creating completely new concepts on how to do business, any company worth its salt isn’t just going to be content with just staying stagnant.
“Our main goal for this year’s end is to scale our small business loan and MCA deal flow in order to maximize our syndication opportunities, which we want to overtake commission as our primary revenue stream,” said Zack Fiddle, President of CapFront. “We’ve already built a robust CRM and marketing automation system over the past year, we have great people and a proven process and product, and we just moved to a much larger space.”
From a brand-new office in Garden City, Fiddle seems to be expanding his company on multiple fronts. “The next step for us is hiring more support staff and more account managers to handle more leads from increased media [spending] and more referrals from our various business development channels,” he said.
Other fintech brands are looking to come up with new ideas surrounding borrowing. “We are coming out with a special lawyer loan,” said Justin Leto, co-founder and CEO of Miami-based Idea Financial, whose recent announcement about LevelEsq will allow the firm to divi out loans to attorneys who wait to get paid until when —or if — their client wins. “We’ll have the only insurance product that is available on the market that will cover the downside risk that the case [the attorney] is borrowing on goes to trial and loses.”
“It’s a really exciting time here at Idea Financial because we are able to leverage a lot of our existing resources and expertise to enter an entirely new market, which is legal lending,” said Larry Bassuk, co-Founder and President of Idea Financial.
Other firms are taking the current political and social climates into consideration when it comes to their end-of-year plans. “[We’ll] be analyzing risk a little more in case there is another lockdown,” said Drew Matthew, CEO of Infusion Capital Group. The two-person firm doesn’t plan to expand their staff too much going into the new year, but Matthew did flirt with the idea of bringing on an ISO-rep as his business expands.
“I think we’re going to pick up dramatically,” said Matthew when asked about the number of his future clients. “Once there’s no more [covid restrictions], SBA money, or no more fear of another pandemic shutdown, no matter what [we charge], the small businesses in America need us.”
This risk and surrounding political climate have no influence on the location of Infusion Capital’s offices in the future. “I know everyone is going down to Florida, but not us,” said Matthew. “New York or nowhere, baby.”
As seasons change and the year ticks its final months, lenders, much like the businesses they support, are looking to find the next best way to edge out competitors while offering the best product and services for their customers.
One month after Velocity Capital Group began offering broker commissions in crypto, CEO Jay Avigdor says it is taking off. It’s completely optional of course, but already seven of VCG’s ISOs have opted to get paid that way.
“The feedback has been fantastic!” Avigdor says.
In a previous interview with deBanked, Avigdor said that the initiative wasn’t about speculating on cryptocurrencies but instead about taking advantage of the transaction speed. Crypto can change hands faster than an ACH or a wire, for example, and VCG will send funds via a stablecoin so that there is no volatile exchange rate risk.
“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.’”
One broker attested on facebook that he received his commission from VCG within 5 minutes from the moment the deal funded via the DAI stablecoin.
Even a merchant requested that they be funded with crypto, according to Avigdor, which they accommodated. Payments back to VCG are still done via ACH debit, however.
The market cap of the cryptocurrency industry is currently at more than $2 trillion.
After the SEC shut down Pompano Beach-based MJ Capital Funding for running what is believed to be a $100M ponzi scheme, more than 2,000 investors are now struggling to figure out what happens next. But in hindsight, could they have known the risks?
Apparently, questions about MJ Capital had been circulating for months. A thread on Reddit with nearly 700 comments is now one of the best preserved insights into the company’s investor community mindset during 2021. There, posters traded anonymous barbs and insults in a spirited debate that challenged the company’s legitimacy. Those that argued it was a ponzi scheme were shouted down with reassurances from people claiming to be paid regularly.
“Scared money makes no money” is a mantra that comes up repeatedly.
The comments are eye-opening in retrospect as posters claim to have invested their life savings or know people that did on the hope that they would make 10% interest on their investment EVERY MONTH. One poster claims that his friend quit his job to promote MJ Capital full time and that he shaved his head, bought a suit, rented an office in Miami “and became some investment f***ing guru even though he could barely explain what the company would do with my money if I gave it to him.”
At least one person said that a friend invested as little as $1,000 into the company, an astonishingly small sum for an operation that is alleged to have raised as much as $129M in little over a year’s time.
Even now with the company’s assets frozen and a receivership in place, some users are wondering if that means their monthly checks will be delayed. Others are confused as to what the SEC lawsuit and temporary restraining order even mean.
“I am out a significant amount of money,” one user wrote. “Literally, my life’s savings. I am scared shitless as I am unaware of what will happen and if I will get my money back. Does anyone know what the odds are for investors who have not received any of their investment back?”
Despite all this, at least one poster thought the SEC’s reference to an undercover FBI operation could work in MJ Capital’s favor since an FBI agent, who posed as an investor, not only made an investment but also got paid.
“Anyone can go to the SEC or FBI to file a complaint about a company to bring them down,” they said. “And of course they are going to look into it. But facts hold up in court. The case file it self says that the [Undercover Agent] made an investment and got paid, proving that the business isn’t a scam and it works. Nothing illegal about what the company does.”
Meanwhile, on instagram, those claiming to be victims have been busy tagging accounts of the people who promoted the investment to hold them accountable. Most of those tagged accounts have already been made private and are not publicly accessible.
To deBanked’s knowledge, no criminal charges have been filed against anyone in connection with this case and it remains a civil matter with charges not proven.
It was all a ponzi scheme, the SEC alleged about MJ Capital Funding, LLC in a recently unsealed complaint. A purported MCA funding company in South Florida run by a woman named Johanna M. Garcia, is said to have raised between $70M and $129M from over 2,150 investors in roughly one years time.
According to the SEC, MJ Capital promised annual returns of 120% to 180% to syndicate in merchant cash advances and guaranteed the return of principal if the merchants defaulted.
Literally thousands of investors lined up to give their money, despite a similar scheme having just ripped through the community.
MJ Capital only funded between $588,561 and $2.9M worth of deals with the money, the SEC claims, while $27.4M was paid out to various entities including to sales agents for promoting the investment opportunity.
When someone tried to blow the whistle, MJ Capital responded by suing the whistleblower, “a cover-up effort” the SEC said was actually successful.
That is until an undercover FBI agent went to the company’s office in June and pretended to be an investor. The FBI successfully invested $10,000 into purported deals, and MJ Capital unknowingly made payments to the FBI as promised.
“Once the supply of new investors was exhausted, the MJ Companies would be unable to pay the promised returns to existing investors,” the SEC says.
Two companies are charged: MJ Capital Funding, LLC and MJ Taxes and More, Inc. in addition to Johanna M. Garcia personally. The SEC has already obtained emergency relief by securing a temporary restraining order and an asset freeze.
Coming in at rank #1,044 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list was a small business finance provider with a whimsical name, Capital Dude. Having some common ownership overlap with another Inc ranked company, Central Diligence Group (#2,893), the Dude told deBanked that they didn’t shut down or pause funding throughout 2020. In fact, they continued to grow.
“We really have to attribute the company’s growth to our hardworking and efficient team that made sure we didn’t miss a beat while having to work remote,” said company partner Andrew Hernandez.
The name, Capital Dude, was chosen to convey an easy process to their partners and clients, the company says, while at the same time being compatible with a mascot they had in mind. The Capital Dude himself is a superhero in a green suit with the letters “CD” emblazoned on his chest. He’s also got a red cape and a flashy smile.
Behind the optics, however, is a seasoned team.
“We got started in the industry during the ’08 – ’09 recession,” Hernandez said, “so when you experience getting started during a downturn, you quickly realize that the only way to keep going is to stick to your principles while continuously taking inventory of the ongoing situation and making any necessary changes quickly in order to protect the portfolio. While both downturns were very different in how they played out, applying that previous experience to the past 18 months has been interesting as we have seen a lot of similarities that are very measurable.”
Central Diligence Group, meanwhile, has gotten repeat recognition on the Inc 5000 list.
“CDG offers consulting and underwriting services to other alternative financing companies in the industry,” Hernandez explained. The “short term plan is to scale out this portion of the business in 2022 via licensing of our platform to funders, funds, accredited investors, etc.”
The companies are currently in the process of moving to a new office and they expressed that they are “very bullish on the future” and plan to increase their headcount and continue to grow.
Shopify Capital originated $363M between merchant cash advance and business loans in Q2, bringing the first half total to $671.6M.
“Not only does Shopify Capital help fuel our merchants’ growth,” said Shopify President Harley Finkelstein in the quarterly earnings call, “our data tells us that merchants that accept Capital stay with Shopify longer as they succeed on the platform and take more of Shopify’s other solutions, namely Shopify shipping, apps, themes and domains and maybe most importantly, extending capital when their business needs it, reinforces the trusted relationship that we have with our merchants, one that goes beyond what they have with their bank or any other vendor. When we talk about Shopify’s flywheel, this is exactly what we mean.”
Shopify Capital is in the same league as rivals Square and Enova in terms of small business financing volume. Square Loans originated $1B for the first half, for example, while Enova has originated $722M.
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.