With all the noise being made about how essential startups and small businesses are to economic growth and stability, you’d think that the powers that be would be a little more eager to help these job-generators protect their assets. The truth is, when it comes to security and protection, there are a host of laws and organizations designed to protect individual consumers from fraud, predatory practices, and everything in between. What’s more, while corporations and big businesses may not have quite the same level of protection, their budgets afford them the ability to invest in sophisticated banking and payment solutions. But SMBs? Not so much.
In fact, Gartner estimates that more than 10 percent of small businesses have been the victim of theft and/or fraud, with losses totaling more than $2 billion. That’s because small businesses are more or less forced to rely on a variety of ad hoc and manual processes, paper checks and online bill pay systems, which mean complexity, higher security risks and less control. MineralTree emerged out of stealth mode last November to come to the rescue of small businesses.
With a cloud-based banking and payment solution designed specifically for the 3 million+ companies with revenues between $500K and $50M, MineralTree is on a mission to give these SMBs a simple, streamlined solution that adds a bit of efficiency and security to their payment processes.
MineralTree launched last year with $1.5 million in seed funding and partnerships with big banks like Silicon Valley Bank. This week the startup added to its coffers, announcing that it has raised an additional $6.3 million in venture funding. The new round was led by Fidelity Growth Partners with participation from the startup’s previous investor, .406 Ventures. As a result of the investment, Shyam Kamadolli, Director at Fidelity Growth Partners, will be joining MineralTree’s board of directors.
And, going back to the startup’s early partnership with Silicon Valley Bank — this is an important part of the startup’s value proposition. Banks aren’t psyched on the prospect of disintermediation at the hands of alternative payment processors (cough, PayPal, cough), as many SMBs opt to use those services rather than big bank alternatives.
Banks want to strengthen their relationships with SMBs, especially as they grow into larger organizations and begin dealing with more complex payment needs as a result. That spells cash for the banks. While PayPal and the like own “merchant receiving,” MineralTree focuses on business sending and aims to help banks maintain control over this half of the deal.
MineralTree enhances and helps strengthen banks’ relationships with SMB customers, funding its own operations through partnerships with banks and allowing them to choose the price at which they offer their banking and payment apps to the bank’s SMB customers.
On the flip side, MineralTree offers SMBs security, mobility and visibility into the management of B2B payments via web and iPad apps. The solution is free for SMBs to use and MineralTree integrates into a SMBs’ existing accounting system, like QuickBooks, for example, providing financial and executive management with visibility and control over payment approvals, and the process as a whole.
But why would an SMB want to use MineralTree when they can just use bill pay, you ask? There is definitely still a belief that bill pay is the answer to SMB payments, but, in reality, it’s just not true. First off, SMBs don’t really use bill pay, and if they did, it would kill banks because of the associated expenses. In other words, bill pay is generally free to customers, which means that banks eat the costs.
So, MineralTree essentially offers a logical alternative: A secure, mobile-optimized payment solution that SMBs can actually use (at no cost), while bringing an attractive clientele (and an additional source of revenue) to banks. SMBs get to take advantage of the user experience normally reserved for big businesses and their treasury management solutions.
It could be that Square and PayPal et al are just adding too many attractive features with mobile payment systems and software integrated in-store as part of the day-to-day operations of SMBs for MineralTree to have serious long-term viability. But it’s probably more likely true that B2B payments are still maturing and that SMBs continue to represent a huge underserved opportunity.
By adding value to banks, which are growing prickly over the mention of the PayPals of the world, it seems that the startup is addressing a big market and playing it smart by keeping both sides happy.
For more, find MineralTree here.