Recently launched in Ireland, peer-to-peer lender Flender, is celebrating the successful funding of its first batch of SME loans. The Dublin-based financial marketplace, which recently gained full authorisation from the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and has launched a tax-free Innovative Finance ISA (IFISA) as well as a new referral scheme, wants to revolutionise the way people lend and borrow, fostered by a culture of loyalty and trust:
The co-founders and I had some start-up experience prior to Flender and had the opportunity to explore the entrepreneurial environment. So we thought about creating a platform where to put together the different sides of the market with a win-win-win approach, Flender CEO Kristjan Koik told Oliver* in this exclusive interview.
The company is itself a product of crowdfunding having raised £501,000 of launch funds through a public offering on the UK equity crowdfunding platform Seedrs:
We raised half a million pounds on Seedrs last January in three weeks. We did that mainly for three reasons: the value of the investment, the PR value of a crowdfunding campaign which means getting a market validation for our future operations and the opportunity of getting funded as it is not easy for start-ups getting funded from banks especially in such short period of time, Koik said.
Oliver*: What was the main challenge you had to face during your campaign?
Kristjan Koik : You have to work very hard on your crowd. When you have 75%-90% of your job done then it makes sense to get to a platform. But still it easier than go to the bank.
O*: What are the main trends of the market from your perspective?
KK: From a market point of view there is clearly a huge opportunity in giving people access to finance. More in particular, players are moving progressively towards SMEs changing the route to market by adopting different marketing strategies compared to the traditional ones. On top of this, FinTech platforms are becoming much more user-friendly compared to traditional banks easing cross border transactions.
O*: And the challenges?
KK: The main challenge is education. Compared to mature markets like the UK, for example, new markets are in a steep learning curve as the knowledge of the people regarding new ways of borrowing compared to traditional, old ways is really limited.
O*: What do you think about the hype around blockchain?
O*: Another big issue is Brexit…
KK: I think for us it is actually a good thing as the credit will become more expensive from traditional banks and this will push people through alternative finance providers.
O*: What do you see in the next future?
KK: Our platform is built to be multi-currency and cross-borders. So, after the UK, we plan to expand our operations in Germany as the FinTech is going to explode there, according to our analysis. Germany is going to be the biggest market for P2P lenders in three-year time.