I will be speaking with Oz Konar, the founder of Business Lending Blueprint, at 12:15pm ET on deBanked TV.
Konar teaches people how to build successful home-based businesses in the alternative finance industry and has a highly popular youtube channel.
Tune in at 12:15 on deBanked TV.
An Irish revenue-based e-commerce financing platform called Wayflyer raised $76 million in a funding Series A round this past week. It has been a roaring first year for the small fintech, so far funding $150 million to online merchants. The firm just launched its cash advance product 14 months ago and raised $10.2M in a seed round only six months ago.
Wayflyer offers e-commerce sales-based funding, without the need for collateral, from $10k up to $20M. They partner with firms across the UK, including a recent deal with the international athleisure brand Gym+Coffee.
Left Lane Capital led the round with investments from DST Global, QED Investors, Speedinvest, and Zinal Growth. The successful funding comes after the firm widened its credit facility by $100M to keep up with the demand for capital and a partnership announcement with Adobe Commerce.
The cofounders, Aidan Corbett and Jack Pierse came together in 2019. Back then, Corbett led an online marketing analytics firm called Conjura when Pierse, a former venture capitalist, proposed using analytic tech to underwrite what amounts to digital MCAs.
“Jack came to me and said, ‘You should stop using our marketing analytics engine to do these big enterprise SaaS solutions, and instead use them to underwrite e-commerce businesses for short-term finance,'” Corbett told Tech Crunch. “We just had our heads down and started repurposing the platform for it to be an underwriting platform.”
Launching in April 2020, Wayflyer funded $600,000 in the first month. In March of 2021 alone, the firm did about $36 million in advances.
“So, it’s been a pretty aggressive kind of growth,” Corbett said.
Leo Kanell, a funder from Utah, runs the 7 Day Funding CEO Challenge, a seven-day marathon video livestream of inspirational and educational funding content.
“So how [the challenge works] is basically, we’re looking for communities, and we’re building a community,” Kanell said. “Our focus is how can we help existing loan brokers, and then how can we help people who are looking for an additional stream of income that they can do from home obviously with the pandemic.”
All the action happens in a livestream on Facebook.
“Everybody kept asking ‘we need some training,’ so we built out a custom website for them so that they can build their funding empire from home,” Kanell said.
Many of the brand new market entrants are sales-minded individuals that are interested in working from home. Kanell has a sales mind and a small business funding background. He grew up in a family of nine from a small town in Utah with a population of only 3,000. He knew he would be a salesman when he turned a summer painting business internship into a $60,000 operation. After college, he tried his hand at real estate, but after 2008 he started looking for another industry.
“I started and went ‘Well, I’m gonna need money for that business,'” Kanell said. “I started looking at the different options to get financing for that next business venture, and it was very difficult, especially for a new business, especially if you’re a pre-revenue business or you don’t have a lot of sales and or collateral.”
He realized SMB funding was the business he should be getting into so he jumped in with both feet. From there he veered into a business education program alongside products like business credit cards.
He soon said that he was doing well, but he heard the funding industry calling his name. “Everything pulled me back into funding,” Kanell said and he decided to combine his education system toward loan broker training programs. He said many brokers don’t realize startups and pre-revenue bushiness can qualify for 0% for up to 15 months.
Now, Kanell hosts an industry podcast that features financial industry guests, and alongside funding, he looks forward to building a community of broker and funder education services.
“We’re going to not only get you the best funding guaranteed, but we’re going to educate you and empower you along the way,” Kanell said. “They can work as direct funders and keep 100% of the commission, and that if they want us to do the work you know, we can do splits.”
I sat down with Joe Camberato (@GrowByJoe), CEO of National Business Capital in Bohemia, NY. He shared tips about how to run a successful business and gave me a personal tour of his company’s office.
North Carolina is the latest in a series of states to introduce a commercial financing disclosure bill.
The “Small Business Truth in Financing Act” introduced on May 11th, would cover business loans, factoring, and merchant cash advances.
The language was copy and pasted from bills elsewhere, like the recent one in Connecticut. The “double dipping” term is noticeably absent from this one, however.
The North Carolina bill was introduced by Rep James D. Gailliard (D). If it succeeds in moving forward, it’s written to go into effect on May 1, 2022.
Forward Financing won a Silver Stevie Award for the Best Customer Service Department of the Annual American Business Awards, for their work helping clients during the pandemic year. The firm originated a total of $165,826,203 across 6,142 advances in 2020, a representative said.
“We are truly honored to receive recognition for the fantastic job our Account Servicing team does every day to help our small business customers,” Justin Bakes, co-founder and CEO, said. “Particularly in 2020, that help was needed more than ever before to help small business owners get through the most difficult months of the pandemic.”
The firm said that in 2020, thousands of customers reached out to the Account Servicing Department (ASD) to request payment relief from the pandemic shutdown. The company trained 18 team members from different departments to join ASD, nearly tripling the size of the team, the firm said.
Forward competed with more than 3,800 nominations submitted this year for organizations across the US. Since 2012, Forward Financing has provided more than $1 billion in funding to more than 26,000 small businesses.
A year into the pandemic and from the deBanked office in Brooklyn, it looks like the world is opening up again.
After a year of Zoom and LinkedIn networking, those in the industry lucky or talented enough to have survived can still complain without restraint about big government lockdowns and misguided legislation. Competing with Uncle Sam’s deep PPP pockets have slowed deals down, and with a new fund opening this week for restaurants, it might be more of the same.
But two funders said that though there is an initial slowdown when a new stimulus is rolled out, the programs have still been vital for business– and if firms kept up with contacts, the business could be booming even after the pandemic.
CEO David Leibowitz of San Diego-based Mulligan Funding said that his firm survived the worst of the shutdown. That was due in no small part to government programs that kept merchants in business.
“People forget where we were sitting in April, May last year, 20 million people filed for unemployment. The segments of the market that we serve in general don’t have more than 30 days of cash on hand at any time,” Leibowitz said. “There’s no chance that our market survives that without the level of government support that they’ve been given.”
Sure, there’s a dampening effect at first, but there wouldn’t be B2B without businesses to fund. Leibowitz said he thinks the macroeconomic effects of printing money will have consequences in the long term, but it’s the lesser of two evils.
Matthew Washington, the well-known CRO of PIRS Capital, has also been vocal about PPP. Like Liebowitz, he said it has its pros and cons, creating a slowdown and demand for capital in one stroke. In his experience, because the stimulus was limited to payroll and rent, merchants were hungry for other products.
“They’re only able to allocate it for certain things, payroll, and hiring people, right,” Washington said. “Our funding allows them to be able to use capital for other opportunities, like buying supplies, buying inventory. Although it’s kind of been somewhat slow, they need to have other working capital needs to be provided for.”
Washington also said some merchants used their PPP funds as low-interest loans, paying off and refinancing advances. PIRS has succeeded through the pandemic due to its relationship-based model.
“It’s all about keeping in touch with your merchants during this time, having a big pulse with the people you do business with,” Washington said. “We’re really a lean and mean company, we kind of have the community bank approach to this space; we’re more relationship-based.”
PIRS had only paused for 60 days and was lucky enough to be set up with recurring merchant partners that turned out to be essential businesses.
“We were very blessed; a lot of our portfolio was operating during the shutdown,” Washington said. “Our portfolio did very well for the circumstance.”
That was how they survived, a lot of good faith and hard work, but pinches of luck as well. Leibowitz said that contrary to popular belief, many good people lost their business during the pandemic. It wasn’t just bad actors and funders with terrible underwriting.
“In March, we had customers who, for reasons totally beyond their control, couldn’t pay. And we weren’t sure in March, how long that would go on for, we weren’t sure how bad it would get,” Leibowitz said. “If you’d asked me in March, April, were we going to survive this thing. There’s no way I would have been able to give you a confident answer.”
Some with public securitizations, well-run businesses, dropped out and disappeared. Leibowitz said Mulligan was able to keep every employee on staff and got through the “sh*t show.” In part, it was with help from competitors who specialized in PPP funding that Leibowitz said his firm was still going strong.
“So I think for all of its shortcomings, I have a world of respect for the SBA and the program. I think of Brock and guys at Lendio, I think of the guys at BlueVine and Kabbage, who really have done a truly extraordinary job of distributing that product to our target market,” Leibowitz said. “And I’m sitting here today, unquestionably, enjoying the benefit.”
So PPP helped, despite the slowdowns, in the short term, and Liebowitz said in the long term, the government overspending might get hairy. But with talk about the world opening back up, with bars open down the block for the first time in a year, what does Washington think about the near future?
The world just isn’t going to stop; it’s just evolving with the new temp of what’s going on; I think there’s a lot of positive things on the horizon for our business,” Washington said. “Once the vaccine rates, and everyone’s ‘cured’ how are they not going to open up.”
New York MCA firms are in the dark. In January, the governor delayed implementation of the APR disclosure bill until 2022. But the bill leaves it to the Department of Financial Services (DFS) to finalize how it will all work and not everyone is confident the outcome will be positive for business in New York State.
For example, Greenwich Capital, a small business funding company, has decided to move from Manhattan to Hoboken, NJ in preparation for the law. They anticipate that the cost of compliance will be high enough to warrant a trip on the PATH starting now rather than when it may be too late to contemplate later.
“There’s a lot of ambiguity, and our five-year lease was up,” Rich Gipstein, General Counsel at Greenwich Capital, said. “We’ll be moving to Hoboken for the time being and see what’s going on with this law. But in the meantime, it’s a lot cheaper for us.”
Based on vague wording language like double-dipping, Gipstein said there is no clear way to tell who or what the law aims to regulate. At least for his firm, it’s better to sit this one out.
“I think there’s quite a lot left open, and it’s intended to be broad,” Gipstein said. “There won’t necessarily be much time to know what the law means until it’s effective. I think there will probably be some lead time, but likely not quite enough for most businesses in the industry to adapt.”
For example: when does a deal become a “specific offer” and come under the purview of the law? In an industry where deals are won through cold calling, social media blitzes, and emails, when would it become necessary to disclose an APR? In a DM on LinkedIn? Rich said it is unclear what a “provider” is, whether it be funders, brokers, or ISOs. In the bill, a provider is required to make commercial financing disclosure clear and let a recipient know at the time of the “specific offer” the all-inclusive rates of a product. Without clarity, it’s hard to predict what the cost of compliance will be.
“I think, from my reading of it and from my understanding of New York’s position, it would seem that they are trying to regulate both funders and brokers under the same regulation,” Gipstein said. “I think it’s possible that the legislature intentionally left some things vague for DFS to fill in. The law basically says, ‘there’ll be regulations that will make this make sense.'”
Gipstein said it’s common for politicians to leave it to the regulators to finish the job, after all, the DFS has its nose to the grindstone in the day-to-day. But when a law affects an entire industry like this, Gipstein said it is uncommon for changes to be left until the last moment.
“It’s more than just disclosure requirements; this is not similar to what California did,” Gipstein said. “The law also dictates how to calculate the projected sales volume. You’re required to either use the historical method, in which you must always use the same number of months leading up to the deal, or you can opt-out and use your own projection. But if you use your own projection, that opens you up to disclose the results of all your deals to the government… It’s almost like an annual audit.”
The historic method doesn’t really work, Rich said when the industry comprises atypical merchants who wouldn’t be looking for funding if traditional methods could predict their sales volume. When it comes to self-declaring and letting the government poke around: Gipstein said the way a funder evaluates deals is proprietary. It’s what sets them apart; it’s the value proposition.
Greenwich Capital isn’t alone in their assessment. The Small Business Finance Association (SBFA), a trade group comprised of similar financial companies, has also been vocal about the law’s perceived shortcomings.
“You have a group of companies that are pushing these types of disclosures, for no reason other than their own self-interest,” said Steve Denis, executive director of the SBFA, back in October. “We’re fine with disclosure, we are all for transparency, but it needs to be done in a way that we believe is meaningful to small business owners.”
Denis had further said that those firms taking credit for writing the laws are the same companies that will end up suffering under the strict tolerance of an APR rule.
“The companies pushing this, the trade associations pushing it, they like to take credit for writing the bill in California and writing the bill in New York: I don’t even think they’ve read it,” Denis said at the time. “It’s going to subject their own members to potentially millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars in potential liability [fines.]”
When the DFS finalizes the terms, it will likely make dealing with disclosure too costly to remain in New York State, Gipstein said.
Gipstein said we’ll have to wait and see if NY-based brokers will have to go through extra compliance even if their funders or merchants are out of state. The worst-fear scenario is a possibility that after New Years’ 2022, out-of-state funders will stop working with NY brokers entirely, just because they live in NY. Merchants in the state, subject to the law, may find commercial finance a barren marketplace.
“We’ve got a lot of different things to manage as we grow, and one of the things we don’t want to do is create is a large compliance department,” Gipstein said. “It’s just cheaper for us, after doing a cost-benefit analysis, to move to a different state. We’re probably not going to be a New York funder by 2022.”