Investly was originally into online equity fundraising but pivoted and found that invoice discounting is a bigger pain point than raising equity for SMEs. In a recent UK survey, SMEs named “accessing external finance” as their poorest area of expertise, falling sharply behind all other capabilities, including people management, managing taxes or introducing new products.
Estonia-based P2P invoice finance platform, Investly, was founded in 2014 by Siim Maivel. The startup was accepted to the Estonian Accelerator, StartupWiseGuys within a month of launching. Ruth Chamberlain joined as a co-founder in April, in the same year of the launch. Siim Maivel is the CEO and leads the Estonian business as well as oversees the international expansion.
Estonia to the UK, like TransferWise and Skype
The company was initially focused on its home market of Estonia, home of tech giants like TransferWise and Skype. The company expanded to the UK when it realized that repayment terms are even longer in the UK market and invoice discounting is more complicated, inflexible and expensive for the small business. Also, the P2P market space in the UK is more mature as it has been there for a decade and the investors are comfortable becoming lenders. Initially, the startup was funded by fintech business angels and after 18 months of their launch, it raised €600,000 (to start operations in the UK) from SpeedInvest (venture capital group). Its prominent investors are Stefan Klestil (partner at Speedinvest), Calum Cameron (MD at Startup Wise guys) and Sonny Aswani(Entrepreneur and industrialist in Asia and Europe). Its team comprises of 8 employees with 3 software engineers, a CEO, one CLO, one product manager, one country manager and one providing customer support services.
In the UK, Ruth Chamberlain is the country lead and looks after all aspects of Investly from the borrower and investor side respectively. It aims to provide an invoice discounting platform where a business sells an invoice in an auction to Investly’s investors with an agreed discount. Though Investly has major competitors in the business lending space; Assetz Capital, Rate Setter, Funding Knight, Funding Circle, Thin Cats, Market Invoice and ArchOver; the startups specialization in an Invoice Financing only model coupled with an extreme focus on a simple onboarding process for even non-tech oriented entrepreneurs is its big differentiator. But the key unique selling point, especially in comparison to brick and mortar banks, is that there are no hidden charges or reserve exclusions, just an upfront one-time fee charged by the startup.
Investly has a very simple pricing model; it charges a one-off transaction fee to the businesses selling their invoices on the platform. The fee is a percentage of the invoice amount; no hidden charges, reserves or delayed costs are charged to the companies. Invoice financing will be made available to any client of Investly who passes the platform sign- up criteria, which includes credit checks and confirmation of identity. As soon as the credit checks get cleared, SMEs are allowed to sell invoices to investors within two days. To ensure high-quality businesses and minimum payment defaults, both the SMEs(issuing invoice) and the company(that will ultimately pay) are being evaluated.
Right from signing up to uploading the first invoice, the transparent one-fee payment is really a good value for the businesses. For example, if an SME has an invoice of £10,000 for sale, the agreement may be reached at £9,600. The ‘seller’ or invoice owner will be forwarded the agreed £9,600(less Investly Fees), while the remaining £400 will go to the investor, with Investly getting 2-5% of the invoice value as a service fee.
Currently in the UK, institutional investors and high net worth individuals will be invited to buy the invoices. After a complete FCA authorization, retail investors would also be able to lend via Investly.
Yield and defaults
Expected returns currently range between 10%-19% pa gross before losses. A loss rate of 0.2% is estimated by the platform. The minuscule loss rate projection can make returns through Investly extremely lucrative for its Lenders.
According to Nesta, the UK P2P Finance sector had expanded by an estimated 161% YoY to 1.74 Billion Pounds in 2014, and an 84% jump in 2015 to 3.2 Billion pounds, with the bulk of the growth coming from business lending. Invoice trading is being ranked third after P2P business lending and P2P consumer lending, having a share of £270m in 2014.
This figure will only grow in the future as specialist players like Investly are launched to help the SMEs raise finance at competitive APRs. With “Innovative Finance ISA” provision included in the UK budget, the majority of peer to peer earnings for individual investors would be tax-free. This would encourage the savers to directly invest through platforms like Investly, who are able to generate a superior return for the savers compared to the traditional banks. The financial recession has crippled the appetite of the big banks and p2p lenders have taken advantage by launching many innovative products. The Fintech industry might be getting crowded, but the gap in the market is just too big to ignore. Investly, with its aim to dominate its niche and the vision to expand across Europe can create a very valuable moat for its investors and lenders.
Author: Heena Dhir and George Popescu