Deals

UK-based Funding Circle raises $37M to fund American small businesses

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Funding Circle has raised $37 million to bring its peer-to-peer marketplace for business loans to the U.S.

The UK-based company powers a platform that connects small businesses with investors who fund their loans, earning an average of 5.8% interest.

Businesses seeking capital apply for a loan on Funding Circle and investors compete in an auction-style format. The lowest bid wins, so businesses get affordable loans without dealing with the cost and complexity of the banking world.

Lenders benefit in this scenario by receiving higher interest rates than they might with other types of investments.

Small businesses are a critical part of the economy, and making capital available for businesses is important for creating jobs and promoting economic growth. Traditionally businesses go through banks when they needed money, but over the past couples years, financial troubles have made it more difficult to secure a loan.

At the same time, advancements in online payments and financial services, as well as the growth of peer-to-peer marketplaces, have created an opportunities to bypass the banks and directly connect borrowers with lenders.

Funding Circle runs small businesses through risk and credit evaluations, and only established businesses are eligible to receive funding. Investors choose which business they want to invest in, negotiate how much interest they’ll be paid, and spread their total funding out to lower the risk that a single company will lose them large amounts of money.

Funding Circle is the go-between to make sure the businesses get their money and the investors are paid back.

To date, 56,891 people have joined as investors, and the site has issued $266,584,724 million dollars in loans. Funding Circle claims the application process takes 20 minutes, businesses get approval within 48 hours, and money could be in the bank account in as little as three days.

The company claims that its technology and approach can “strip out” the need for inefficient bank processes. It estimates that it helped create 10,000 new jobs in the U.K. alone and the British government recently gave Funding Circle $32 million to fund 20% of every business loan made via the marketplace.

There are already notable examples of this in the personal loan space — Lending Club and Prosper process billions of dollars in loans. Furthermore crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have created new channels for fledgling businesses to raise money, and companies like Groundfloor and SoFi are bringing peer-to-peer finance to real estate and education, respectively.

Funding Circle’s most direct U.S. counterpoint is Dealstruck, which provides debt financing to established businesses and uses technology to automate funding, originating, and serving of loans.

To support its entrance into the U.S., Funding Circle is partnering with Endurance Lending Network, who will lead Funding Circle’s U.S. operations.

Accel Partners led this round of funding, which brings the company’s total to $58 million. New investor Ribbit Capital contributed, along with existing investors Union Square Ventures and Index Ventures.

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