Crowdlending! Let’s take a look at this exciting new financing model, then contrast it to bringing aboard a private investor like me. Which is best for your average tech startup? Into this amazing topic, we shall tread lightly…
Crowdlending – P2P & P2B – is considered a subcategory of crowdfunding, or collective capital raising. In essence, pooling resources to fund particular needs. There are currently four different kinds:
Donation = No Material Return Expected
Reward = Products, Special or Unique Prizes, etc.
Equity = Funds in Exchange for Share of Company
Lending = Monetary Return Expected via Interest
Both crowdfunding and crowdlending are similar models, as both involve a large number of typically unrelated people giving financial support to startups, initiatives, nonprofits, etc., via a web platform.
The big difference is debt.
“Fund” vs. “Lend”
For example, Kickstarter is another huge crowdfunding intermediary and nothing guarantees the fully-funded projects they host will go as planned afterwards – it’s between backers and project creators. In fact, technically, Kickstarter never really takes possession of anyone’s money so they aren’t liable.
With crowdlending, there are various levels of recourse in case of default depending on which social lending marketplace you conduct business on. But they don’t take possession of money either, they simply facilitate exchanges.
Both methods are all or nothing, meaning if 100% of the funds/loan aren’t raised everyone gets their money back. But with crowdlending, once you loan the funds you’ve got to ride out the life of the loan which can vary.
No worries, borrowers don’t need to make thousands of individual payments with interest, but single monthly payments to the intermediary platform (who gets a small fee of course) that then disperses it to the appropriate channels.
Another example would be Prosper, a decentralized for-profit business, or marketplace lending platform.
For those who conventional lenders won’t finance.
Established SMEs who don’t want to exchange equity for funding.
Viable option for startups not yet generating cash.
The Investor Angle
Honestly, it’s pretty easy to see why SMEs and entrepreneurs, or even individuals looking to consolidate debt or finance new kitchen cabinets use crowdlending options like Funding Circle.
What’s in it for the individual lenders on these platforms?
– Portfolio diversification. Each platform has its own way to assign value/risk levels to their hosted small loans.
– Typically higher returns than conventional vehicles like a savings account, CDs, etc.
– Simple process. Investors can handle everything via smartphone and app. You can get super-involved like a crowdlending-style day trader, or choose an investment format for your kind of risk-spread and put it on autopilot – easily parcel out where money/profit goes – checking, IRA, back into your portfolio, etc.
– Managed risk. Investors don’t have to worry as much (this is improving all the time thanks to machine learning and A.I. – for example UpStart) in terms of administration, risk assessment, underwriting, data tracking, follow-up, and so on.
So, picture taking $1,000 and giving 40 startups a $25 loan towards their funding needs.
Or, how about 4,000 startups at $25 a pop.
Others have no limit on the investment blocks, so you could drop $250k into an even 500 different startups – spread from highly-vetted and low-risk to much higher risk-reward chunks.
Pretty simple concept really, similar to purchasing stocks in companies the old Wall Street way, just far more streamlined and modernized. The biggest challenge is investing enough capital to offset losses from defaults.
5, 20, or 100 defaults at $25 or $50 adds up quickly.
Where Crowdlending Originated
Well, the so-called Great Recession or financial crash of ’08 (many argue it’s still unfolding) created the economic environment, combined with evolving online marketplaces and the rapid widespread acceptance of digital transactions.
It’s rather hard to describe to be frank with you.
Needless to say, conventional lenders today find themselves with limited lending flexibility thanks to increased regulation, required levels of leverage, higher liquidity requirements, and so forth (while the central banks continue printing trillions out of thin air).
Startups are risky and caught in the mire of a generational funding gap, and to make things worse, “the system” has become risk averse.
Crowdlending is a viable option, but make no mistake there’s a downside…
Crowdlending & The Machine Inspection
With each passing day, the crowdfunding paradigm grows and becomes more invasive for borrowers. You think applying for a loan at a local credit union is difficult?
Imagine having your entire digital footprint inspected by a machine learning (A.I.) algorithm and then being assigned a value. This value determines the default risk level attached to any attempts at obtaining debt through “the collective.”
Social media history and connections.
All digital financial history.
Education – whole 9 yards.
Current and past employment.
Along with the normal stuff like identity and citizenship verification, credit report, and what have you.
It’s going to be like a bank inspection to the 10th power and likely visible for all to see – complete transparency. Right now, some crowdlending marketplaces are less invasive than others, but if you’re deemed a subprime borrower, don’t expect much better interest rates than banks could offer (sometimes, much worse until you build credit on that platform).
Fast-forward to 2025…whoa! You see where this is heading.
For eye-opening and deeply illuminating perspectives on crowdlending platforms, read both of these reviews and then browse their comments sections that go back years:
- Lending Club for Investors Review 2017: Still a Good Investment?
- Prosper Performance Review: Should I Invest In P2P Lending?
Enough said. Let’s talk about me now, ha!
Enter The Private Investor
What makes this route to seed-funds so much better, is the added value the right private investor brings to the table. If I decide to lend you $10,000, it’s because I believe in what you’re doing…AND fully understand what’s going on.
I see extremely high odds of positive ROI.
This is increasingly the case when it comes to crowdlending and funding, but how much can you really get to know a startup team or founder through a funding page or borrower profile?
The big three added values a private investor brings are always going to be…
Specific Industry Experience: For example, I specialize in optimizing or bringing to market software-hardware tech combos that involve manufacturing. Like many other private startup investors, I’m also a serial entrepreneur.
Unique Personal Networks: Each private investor maintains active professional networks. The better their network, the more they search for plug-and-play startups who they can quickly introduce and get profitable (or sold to bigger fish for a nice profit).
More Risk Tolerance: Because of the previous two, when the situation’s right we’re willing to tolerate far more risk than automated conventional means, traditional lenders, or VC’s demanding too much equity because they don’t know you.
Ideally, it should feel like you’re bringing a well-connected college buddy into the fold who has some money to invest in good ideas. Then, as long as you jive well together, share a similar ethos/vision, and have a clear contractual agreement signed, things should go smoothly.
That’s the ideal.
It brings us to the one huge downside of great private investors – they’re hard to bump into! Tons of people have a friend or relative with some cash set aside, but they rarely have the other added values of networks & experience.
Ready for a Startup Hunt?
You’re itching to get started, and the good news is that crowdlending platforms are pretty user-friendly. Research the top 3, 5, or 10 based on their unique pros and cons (as well as the interest rates they’ll charge), and submit your first loan application to their crowd.
Or, what if you submitted your pitch and applied to my 2018 Startup Hunt?
If you have a software-hardware combo and rely on manufacturing, you could get chosen and receive a nice debt-free small loan, my professional network, tons of PR…the works!
Thanks for your time, and happy trails.
Maybe we’ll chat soon.