London-based peer-to-peer small business financing platform MarketInvoice has raised £7.2 million from a Polish private equity company, despite question marks over Britain’s future relationship with Europe.
MarketInvoice raised the funding from the MCI.TechVentures Fund of MCI Capital Group, which has also backed Sweden’s iZettle and UK money transfer startup Azimo. Stockholm-headquartered venture capital firm Northzone, already an investor in MarketInvoice, increased its stake in the fintech company.
Anil Stocker, cofounder and CEO of MarketInvoice, told BI: “We’ve been talking to them [MCI] for about 3 months or so. We just finalised the deal around Brexit. They did quite a lot of diligence on the company and then we just signed after Brexit. The Brexit vote happened on the Friday and then we signed the week after.”
He added: “Nothing changed [as a result of the vote]. We actually raised money at a higher valuation than last year so that’s a great point because there’s a lot of people saying there’s pressure on valuations in fintech. They looked at it, they looked at the economic logic of what we’re doing, and they were pretty excited by that still, despite Brexit.” Stocker wouldn’t disclose the new valuation.
MarketInvoice is part of a wave of UK peer-to-peer businesses that have sprung up in the post-financial crisis world. A combination of bank lending drying up and poor returns for investors due to low-interest rates created the perfect conditions for peer-to-peer, where investors cut out banking middlemen by lending directly to businesses or people.
MarketInvoice’s online platform applies the peer-to-peer lending model to invoice financing, a form of business lending where companies can borrow money against unpaid invoices. It’s effectively a way for businesses to get hold of money they’re due in the future today, although at a discount. Professional investors lend money to small businesses over MarketInvoice’s platform and over £840 million since launch in 2010.
Profit is the new growth for investors post-Brexit
MarketInvoice’s funding round is the latest piece of evidence that investment in the UK’s thriving fintech scene has not been hampered by the Brexit vote, as some feared. Currency switching startups WeSwap and Revolut have both raised money since the EU referendum and crowdfunding platform Crowcube has attracted £39 million in pledged investment for a crowdfunding campaign targeting just £5 million.
While investors are still keen, Stocker says there’s more pressure on fintech startups to show they can be profitable in the wake of the Brexit vote, rather than just demonstrate super-fast growth.
Stocker says: “We have a profitable core to our business but we’re taking on money and investing because we really believe now is the time to hire great people, invest in automation, and really build out the brand.”
“When the good times are here and everyone’s getting really excited, people start to look only at growth rates and they don’t really look at unit economics,” he says. “I would say investors now are really focused on unit economics. Having strong growth obviously helps, but there’s a realisation that hey, these models need to make money because we can’t just keep providing more capital.”
Dan Cobley, the former MD of Google UK and now head of fintech at venture builder Blenheim Chalcot, and WeSwap CEO Jared Jesner have made similar points to BI in recent weeks. Jesner told BI: “The metrics that we are really focused on at the moment are profitability.”
‘We’ve done this raise with one eye on international expansion’
The MCI investment is MarketInvoice’s “Series B” round — its second injection of institutional funding — after raising £6 million from Northzone last August.
Stocker says the latest cash injection will be put towards new hires, moving to new offices, accelerate markets and “professionalise the business in terms of sales and how we handle customers who are applying,” Stocker says.
Alongside the new investment, the company announced it has hired ex-American Express staffer Lisa Gervis as its first Chief Marketing Officer and Rupert Thorp, formerly of Experian and Sky IQ, as its first Director of Sales.
What a lot of fintechs could do is keep a presence here and then open up an office in the EU and that way get access to the market
Stocker adds: “We’re also very close to finalising details of a new product which we hope to launch in Q4. It’s going to be very complementary to our current product. “
Overseas expansion is also on the cards. Stocker says: “We’ve done this raise with one eye on international expansion, given the money has come from a listed European private equity group. They back companies that go international, that’s definitely part of our plans. We’re excited about that but we don’t have any immediate plans to go abroad just yet.”
He added that he expects to see more fintechs opening up abroad in the wake of the Brexit vote, saying: “What a lot of fintechs could do is keep a presence here and then open up an office in the EU and that way get access to the market.
“There’s still a lot of uncertainty. If [May] can get a Norway/Switzerland-style deal with the EU where it’s access to the single market and free movement of people, things will probably continue as is here. I think the sensible thing [for fintech companies] is to wait, see what happens, and then make plans.”