By any means, Eyal Lifshitz didn’t have to take the rough-and-tumble life of a startup founder.
He’s got an MBA from University of Chicago, worked at the consulting firm McKinsey, and spent nearly 3 years as a VC at Greylock IL.
So when he decided to leave his cushy VC job in 2013 to launch his own startup called Bluevine, an online financing company, a lot of people thought he was crazy.
“When people say you’re crazy, it usually tells you’re on to something big,” Lifshitz told Business Insider.
Being a startup CEO meant working twice as hard and taking a pay cut by half. Lifshitz jokes his wife may not have been too happy about the decision, but he has no regrets.
Two and a half years in, Bluevine has raised $64 million in funding so far, has been doubling in size almost every quarter, and is expected to grow revenue by another 300% this year. It’s projected to finance $200 million to its customers this year alone.
But more than anything, Lifshitz is motivated by the fact that his startup is helping millions of American small business owners solve one of its biggest problems: cash flow.
Bluevine offers a service called invoice factoring. It’s one of the oldest forms of financing, but Bluevine makes it fast and easy by running the whole process online.
The way it works is simple. Most businesses that sell to other businesses get paid in 30-, 60-, or 90-day cycles. That delay often causes small business owners to run out of money because they still have to spend on salaries and growth, but typically don’t hold on to a huge cash reserve.
So instead they look for other financing options, like invoice factoring, which lets them sell their invoices to a third party factoring company at a discount for a lump sum of cash. When the invoice is eventually paid and cash is collected, a portion of it goes to the factoring company. While the fees vary, and could be expensive, invoice factoring is a popular choice because it gives immediate access to working capital.
Although there are tons of different factoring services, from one-man shops to big banks like Wells Fargo, it hasn’t always been available to most small businesses. The process typically takes a long time, the cost is high, and large banks tend to shy away from doing small deals.
This is where Bluevine comes in. It targets small business owners, so the loans are in the range of $5,000 to $250,000, and they’re processed within a day. Its technology also drops the cost of underwriting and pricing, giving a lot more freedom to the financing terms. It’s much more convenient than the more traditional services that could take months to process.
It’s why Bluevine is seeing a lot of competition from other tech startups like Fundbox, Tradeshift, and Taulia, who all offer similar services in one form or another. But Lifshitz believes there’s a huge untapped market as most small business owners don’t even know there’s an online financing option.
“It’s not easy being a small business owner, so we’re trying to make their life a little bit easier, at least on the cash flow side,” Lifshitz said. “This is an area really ripe for innovation and the opportunity is huge.”
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