Liberis raises £57.5M to offer finance for small businesses paid back via customer card transactions

Liberis, the London-based fintech that provides finance for small businesses, has raised £57.5 million in new funding to help support the company’s growth. The alternative finance provider makes loans against a company’s future credit and debit card sales.

The majority of the new capital being raised by Liberis is debt, which in turn will enable it to issue more loans. The facility is being provided by British Business Investments (the commercial arm of the tax payer-funded British Business Bank), Paragon Bank, and BCI Finance.

In addition, Blenheim Chalcot has made an equity investment into Liberis. The so-called “digital venture builder” also previously backed Clearscore, the credit scoring startup recently acquired by Experian.

Providing a new financing option as a replacement for a traditional bank loan or extended overdraft — which is increasingly hard for small businesses to come by — Liberis provides funding from £1,000 to £500,000 based on a company’s projected credit and debit card sales. However, the clever part is that the loan is paid back via a pre-agreed percentage of the business’ digital transactions, making it especially attractive to seasonal businesses that have very uneven sales throughout different times of the year. There isn’t a time limit placed on when a loan has to be repaid, either. Instead, the repayment schedule is directly tied to the size and pace of a small business’ card transactions.

In a call with Rob Straathof, CEO of Liberis, he conceded that this means the fintech startup is taking on more of the risk, but says the company is seeing the vast majority of loans paid back within the projected timeframe. To help manage risk and make the required sales projections, Liberis uses various data points, including transactions pulled in from a number payment platform partners such as Worldpay, and Sagepay. Similarly, it also integrates with take-out marketplace Just Eat, which gives the startup the ability to offer financing to small restaurants. The advent of Open Banking, which lets bank account holders share their transaction data via an API, will also enable Liberis to extend its reach.

Examples of small business customers given by Straathof include a local bakery that needs to invest in a new oven, a neighbourhood pub that wants to expand with a beer garden, or an online retailer that needs to incrementally restock to meet rising demand. “Our innovative product has proven particularly popular with retail and hospitality businesses where income fluctuates on a seasonal basis. New lending to small businesses by banks has been decreasing since Q4 16 and Liberis jumps into the void with our ‘pay as you earn’ funding solution,” he says in a statement.

To date, Liberis has helped over 7,000 small businesses, advancing £210 million in funding. However, it isn’t the only ‘pay as you earn’-styled finance provider. Amazon, of course, offers its own business financing based on Amazon Market transaction data. PayPal and Square also offer credit for retailers. Meanwhile, SME peer-to-peer lending platforms, such as Funding Circle, might also be viewed as a competitor.