‘Meet the funders’ to assist entrepreneurs with financing

BY KARENA BENNETT Business reporter bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, October 01, 2016

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FUNDSME Jamaica.com, an online portal designed to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) access best-fit funding to suit their business needs, hopes to connect at least 8,600 local entrepreneurs with potential funders at the staging of Jamaica’s first "Meet the Funders" event in November.

It’s a concept that has already provided financing to the tune of €20 million to at least 18,000 SMEs in Dublin, Ireland, across a number of industries subsequent to the launch of Fund SME’s "Pathway to Funding" platform almost a year ago by CEO Nollaig Fahy. Fahy is confident that Jamaica will be just as successful.

"We saw an opportunity to create an online platform which solves a number of problems since it has every single type of funder, a description of the types of financing and what it means for the entrepreneurs," he told the
Jamaica Observer in a round-table discussion last Friday.

The event will be held at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston on Thursday, November 3, 2016. Jamaica is FundSME’s first Caribbean market.

According to the CEO, after conducting feasibility study in June to determine the viability of starting such a business venture in Jamaica, "We had to come back because we saw an entrepreneurial spirit in this country that was really impressive."

The company went on to launch the platform earlier this month sparking the interest of over 250,000 SMEs. "Of that number 61 per cent of the participants are women. In Ireland it’s the total opposite so there is something going in Jamaica," he said.

Accessible via www.FundSMEJamaica.com, the website contains clear, impartial information on existing and alternative funding options available locally to SMEs. New or existing businesses seeking investment can use the platform to be connected with funding sources, which, in return, requires equity in the business or offers the most competitive rates and payment terms.

Based on the users’ answers to key questions using the Pathway to Funding platform, the website will return a suggested list of most suitable funders along with their contact details.

Funders on the platform varies across traditional banks, equity and ‘angel investors’, venture capital funds, invoice financing firms, peer-to-peer, crowdfunding platforms and government-support agencies. Currently on the list of funders are Scotiabank, Alpha Angels, EXIM Bank, National Commercial Bank, Lasco and Sagicor.

"Let’s say the SME is interested in food and agriculture based on how you have answered the questions, the platform then links you to a funder that is also interested in agriculture. That creates what we call a qualified lead and that match is up to 80 per cent of what the criteria is for the funder," Fahy told Jamaica Observer Sunday Finance.

"The SME isn’t guaranteed to get money, but they are 80 per cent closer than they were before. So both the SME and the funder benefits because it saves time, it’s really convenient and it gives each party direct contact," he continued.

The platform is accessible free of cost to entrepreneurs; however, funders will pay FundSME Jamaica a fee of two per cent of the value of funding provided to an SME.

Fahy said that as the platform develops; he is looking to expand the services into the Dominican Republic and South Africa before moving on to other countries.

FundSME has opened an office in Kingston where it has connected with Digicel Business, to source loans for small business.

Other local partners include the Development Bank of Jamaica, Inter American Development Bank, Jamaica Promotions Corporation and the Jamaica Manufacturing Association.


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