Israeli start-up FundBox, which aims to “fix the small business economy using data science,” according to founder and CEO Eyal Shinar, announced Thursday that it raised over $17 million in Series A funding for its risk engine-based small business lending and invoicing system.
Unlike in a retail or service setting, firms in the B2B (business to business) field do not get paid up front. Instead, they are expected to bill their clients, with payment coming up to 90 days later. Meanwhile, a business has to come up with funds to pay its own suppliers, or risk getting cut off itself. Many businesses have to take out short-term loans, often at high interest rates, if a bank will lend to them at all.
FundBox helps where banks won’t, Shinar says. “FundBox processes tens of thousands of invoices daily, offering small business owners the ability to fix their cash flow by advancing payments for unpaid invoices. This effectively eliminates the net plus 30, 60, 90-day problem from which so many small businesses suffer, a problem that inhibits growth.” FundBox will advance businesses the payment for an invoice, charging not interest, but a processing fee. For example, a $1,000 advance for up to three months costs between $52 and $72, depending on the company’s creditworthiness.
FundBox’s technology is based on a data-driven small-medium business risk engine, which examines data from public sources about a company’s creditworthiness and assigns them a risk rating. Information sources include the Department of Motor Vehicles, credit rating companies, social media sources like reviews on Facebook or Yelp, LinkedIn and more. “None of these is an individually huge data point, but in aggregate with all of the other information, it builds a very accurate risk profile that is 99+% accurate,” according to the company.
Any business willing to connect its accounting software, SalesForce system or similar data to FundBox can ask for an advance. The application process is automated, so there is no cost or human bias or error. The application takes only 50 seconds to complete. The customer repays the loan in 12 weekly installments. If a FundBox client’s customer pays their invoice sooner, the client can repay the funds to FundBox with no penalty. They’re only charged for the capital they use for the time they use it.
FundBox has a sales office in San Francisco and does its R&D work in Israel. The company, barely one year old, was started by Shinar, formerly of the $5.5 billion venture fund Battery Ventures; CTO Yuval Ariav, formerly chief architect at Onavo, an Israeli start-up bought out by Facebook last year; and vice president of analytics Tomer Michaeli, formerly R&D specialist for the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office.
FundBox has tens of thousands of customers, most of them small B2B concerns that rely on invoicing for their income. In the recent round of funding, the company’s first so far, FundBox raised $17.55 million from leading Silicon Valley investors, including Vikram Pandit, former CEO of Citigroup; Tom Glocer, former CEO of Thomson Reuters; Jay Mandelbaum, former head of strategy and e-commerce at JP Morgan Chase; Emil Michael, senior vice president of business at Uber; and Shlomo Kramer, CEO of Imperva, among others.
Few companies get as much Series A funding as FundBox has, perhaps because the target market is so large, estimated at $72 trillion and consisting of small businesses that struggle to make ends meet because of “rough patches” between payments of invoices, Shinar said. “We’ve identified an unprecedented opportunity to bring data-driven innovation to a critically underserved and broken market, focused initially on allowing small businesses to immediately clear outstanding invoices and improve cash flow by accelerating payments,” he said. “However, the vision behind our company is much larger, as our proprietary engine can dramatically disrupt and modernize entire industries built around analyzing data. We are starting with small business credit because this is where we can have a significant and immediate positive impact, but the future is boundless.”