Ed’s note: This post written by guest editor Alex Molloy, CEO of Valiant Finance.
Two years ago, my co-founder and I left our corporate jobs to start our own business. With natural excitement, we embarked on an incredibly well-trodden, notoriously difficult, and risky path.
Even with so many “new business experts” in the market, we knew that nobody could directly imprint their knowledge and experience of building a business directly onto our brain, and guarantee that their success would also work for us.
So we slogged through, re-inventing an age-old wheel – sometimes finding a shortcut, sometimes missing a shortcut, sometimes feeling like we knew what we were doing, yet most of the time feeling like we didn’t.
A year and a half later and our startup, Valiant Finance, has been awarded Fintech Startup Of The Year [at the inaugural 2017 Fintech Business Awards]. We feel privileged and lucky to have come as far as we have, but know there is a long way to go.
Here’s the idea
My co-founder, Ritchie Cotton, and I both come from finance backgrounds. Ritchie was an investment banking analyst at Credit Suisse, had extensive experience with coding and app development, whereas my experience lay in management consulting at McKinsey & Co., where I specialised in both healthcare and financial services. What we both had in common, however, was a desire to build something that we could call our own. This was the start of many weekends spent discussing and debating our entrepreneurial dreams, striving to find the one idea worth pursuing.
It wasn’t easy, and it certainly wasn’t a case of “miraculous inspiration”, but we eventually found our niche. We were well aware of the struggles small-business owners faced when applying for finance and had seen firsthand the pains this could wreak for our families and friends. The stats don’t lie. There are approximately 2.2 million small businesses in Australia. Over 500,000 of these businesses require a cash-flow financing solution each year. That equates to a staggering AUS$91 billion of new credit issued every year for loans under $2 million. Despite the massive need, around 20 per cent of loan applications are rejected by the bank, with a further one-third of business owners uncertain as to whether or not they will be able to get the finance they need.
This leaves a massive need that isn’t being served. It is unsurprising, then, that so many online and “alternative finance providers” have popped up all over the internet. However, there was no way for consumers to be able to cut through all the noise and find a loan that was right for them. And so Valiant Finance was born – one source of truth for business owners who wanted to find appropriate, manageable and timely business finance. By answering just a few, simple questions about their business and circumstances, business owners can instantly compare loan offerings from more than 60 of Australia’s leading lenders, covering the full spectrum of finance options.
Helping Australian businesses
We have worked tirelessly to ensure that Valiant has finance options for businesses of all sizes. For example, Renee had worked as a personal trainer for many years at a few different gyms. She was tired of working for other people and knew that she could create a better gym experience – one where people would feel motivated, included and comfortable. Her vision was Squad Gym – a unique gym with a welcoming and friendly atmosphere, where people could exercise without feeling self-conscious.
However, traditional sources of finance fell flat. Having already invested a significant portion of her own money, she only needed a small loan to finish the gym fit-out. Worse still, Squad Gym had already opened its doors, making this time critical.
Renee had a wealth of experience and a solid business plan, yet traditional lenders weren’t helping. Renee’s mortgage broker then referred her to Valiant. She worked with one of our credit specialists to find a flexible solution whereby a loan was secured against her gym equipment, giving her the extra funds she needed to realise Squad Gym’s full potential. Twelve months later and Squad Gym is thriving – just pop your head in at prime time and see the results!
Compare this scenario to Anna from DoughHeads. Anna had found success with her artisan doughnuts, initially selling them at Sunday market stalls. However, the time eventually came for Anna to open her own retail store, a massive financial undertaking. However, even with a clear business plan and solid financials, she struggled to find a lender – her lack of security was a constant hurdle. Sometime later, Anna was referred to Valiant through her accountant and we found her a lender who was willing to finance the store off the back of her strong financials.
The stories of Renee and Anna are all too common. Business owners around Australia have strong financials, well thought-out business plans and a burning desire to realise their dream, yet they are let down time and time again by lenders who are unable or unwilling to work with them to find a finance solution.
Valiant works closely with accountants, brokers and financial planners to help their clients find alternative finance.
Visit Valiant to learn more.