I am no longer actively blogging on this website.
Among the people who shared it was Anil Stocker, Co-Founder and CEO of MarketInvoice. After I published the post I reached out to Anil, thanked him for sharing it and asked him if he would be interested in doing an interview for my blog. What you are about to read is the result. I am grateful to Anil for taking the time to do this.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself, please? What is your background and what did you do before you started MarketInvoice?
My route into the world of finance was very traditional – after studying economics at Cambridge, I joined Lehman Brothers and worked in the private-equity department until the collapse in 2008. I witnessed the problems faced by businesses first-hand, but knew I was powerless to help whilst working for such a huge firm, so firmly rooted in the financial services of the past. Two years after Lehman I got together with Ilya Kondrashov and Charles Delingpole, friends from Cambridge, to draw up a business plan – we got seed funding from friends, family and contacts, before launching MarketInvoice in early 2011. The idea was to build an online platform that would help business owners get working capital, and to catalyse the growth of their companies.
Can you explain, in simple terms, what MarketInvoice does?
MarketInvoice is a smart new way to fund working capital for growing businesses – we let business owners unlock funds from their unpaid invoices through our online platform. Businesses fill out a quick application form online and get approved in 24 hours, then they can upload invoices to the platform and get paid right away. We’ve completed 7,500 loans and nearly £500m of funding – and most of that in the last year or so. Businesses have used the funding to hire more staff, launch new products and export into different markets.
What are the advantages of using MarketInvoice over traditional finance sources, like a bank?
Getting funding from MarketInvoice is quicker and simpler than any bank – the sign up takes less than 15 minutes and you can be approved to start trading within 24 hours, but usually that same working day. There’s no contract, or lock-in periods – you only finance the invoices you want to, and you can leave our service whenever you like, so we always have to be at the top of our game. Also, with our service, you’re not adding any more debts or liabilities to your balance sheet as you would with a bank loan – your unpaid invoices are company assets that are ready to monetise.
Are there any disadvantages of using MarketInvoice over traditional financing options?
What was the company like when you first started?
It was really scrappy, as with any start-up. Customers were few and far between, because no-one wants to be the first to try something new – in their eyes, there was simply too much risk involved. By the end of the first year word of mouth took over, and the clients snowballed from there. But the idea certainly took a while to gain traction – it was simply a matter of awareness.
How did the economic climate when you launched MarketInvoice impact on its’ success?
The climate certainly created a gap in the market for our type of service. The banks had completely retrenched from lending to small businesses, and perception of the high-street giants was at an all-time low. Not only were banks rejecting loans, many owners simply weren’t even trying out of fear of rejection, or lack of trust. There was an inherent distrust between individuals and the traditional finance giants. But it only acted as a catalyst for our growth, we’d have succeeded had we launched in 2004 when everything was looking good for the economy. Banks have never really served small businesses well, so the gap in the market isn’t a new thing.
How did Ilya, Charles and yourself decide who would be CEO?
Myself, Ilya Kondrashov and Charles Delingpole all founded the business. We just looked at what our skills were and which roles they most naturally lent themselves to. I’m more of a salesperson than the other guys, so we decided I should be CEO.
How many people work at MarketInvoice today?
You have grown very quickly in a short space of time; what is your biggest challenge now?
We’re growing rapidly as a business, and we’ve only been able to do that with an incredibly committed team of staff who all believe in what we’re doing. We can’t be hiring for the sake of numbers – there’s such a demand for talent in the FinTech market, and persuading only the brightest and the best to join us is the definitely the biggest challenge we face at the moment. We want to expand our team, but with quality, not quantity in mind.
What are your plans for the company in the future?
We want MarketInvoice to be the go-to, one-stop destination for working capital finance. This means developing a whole range of products and solutions for businesses, and not just focusing on our invoice finance service. We’re currently testing a few new ideas which we’re really excited about.
I can’t wait to see them. Thank you for your time.