I recently had the pleasure of interviewing entrepreneur Conrad Ford, who shared with me insight into his business, Funding Options and his journey to becoming a FinTech founder (which you can read here).
Tell me about Funding Options?
Funding Options is a one stop shop for business finance. If you are a business who needs cash and you don’t fit traditional bank lending, you can come online to Funding Options, answer some relatively fast and easy questions about your situation and very quickly we will match you with the correct lending for your business. We have referred businesses to more than 50 lenders this year and raised tens of millions of pounds of finance for those businesses. In that respect, we are far and away the biggest in our category by an order of magnitude.
How did you go about building your team? I noticed that you plan to double your staff within the next few months.
We doubled the size of our team in a twelve month period owing to growth. I think the most important thing about building a team in a Startup is attitude and aptitude above everything else. People we look for need to be incredibly fast on their feet and ultimately the raw materials of how ambitious and smart they are trumps everything. Culture is crucial. I have some amazing stories I could tell regarding personality and cultural fit, but that’s for another time. If somebody doesn’t fit the culture, no matter how relevant their experience, don’t hire them! Most of our hiring process at some point will involve joining the team for a beer or two in the pub – to determine a mutual fit.
How integral have your team been in the development of your business?
Essentially having a good team around you is the difference between sanity and insanity.
Your business was built to help SME’s find finance, how is service being received?
In the last year or two, it really has felt like; right business, right time. We are in the press a lot because this is a very news worthy thing to be doing. Our satisfaction scores are 94% and we have the highest possible rating on trustpilot (.com) which I am very proud of. We have a fully account managed service and pride ourselves on providing a personal touch – Recently one of our team was invited to the grand opening of a restaurant that they’d helped to secure the funding for!
I noticed recently that Funding Options has been selected to carry out the government’s new bank referral scheme for SMEs rejected for finance, how is that going?
Interesting fact – The banks will soon be breaking the law if they do not offer a referral to Funding Options for SME’s they have rejected. To give the context on that, the government passed a law last year that said they were going to force the banks to offer a referral to alternate lenders if they have rejected an SME’s finance request. It was announced earlier this year that we are one of three platforms out of dozens of applicants to be selected.
What does the future hold for Funding Options?
As a business, it feels like we have our mojo, we raised somewhere between one and two million around a year ago and we’ve done some really great things with that. Every metric that counts is rapidly going in the right direction. It now feels that our objective is to scale, and to scale very aggressively, and really begin to test how big the market is. It’s our job to find how big this opportunity is as we are the dominant force in our category. The category is there for the taking, the question is, is it a big one.
“Funding Options is the UK’s leading online business loan supermarket, in the last year linking SMEs with more than 50 alternative funding providers including marketplace lenders, challenger banks, asset financiers, and data-driven lenders, and raising tens of millions of pounds in vital SME finance. In the Spring 2016 Budget, Funding Options was recommended by HM Treasury for the new mandatory bank referral scheme.
Conrad regularly appears in major national press such as the Times, Telegraph and BBC discussing SME finance. Previously, Conrad worked in group strategy at Barclays, and he is a Chartered Management Accountant.”
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