Business loan marketplace Lending Express launched in Australia in 2016, and since then it’s facilitated $50 million in small business loans. But it was only last month that co-founder and chief executive Eden Amirav first set foot on Australian soil.
Now the Israeli startup has secured $US2.7 million ($3.5 million) in funding, Amirav has plans to further improve the artificial intelligence-enabled platform, and to get his message to even more Aussies.
Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, Lending Express connects small businesses seeking loans with alternative lenders. The business owner fills in an application via the online platform, and Lending Express runs an algorithm, immediately identifying the lenders that would be most likely to approve the loan.
Amirav says the team built the solution as a response to the alternative lending space, which has been “growing super quickly”, over the last 10 years.
“Suddenly you have so many options for businesses who couldn’t get money before,” he tells StartupSmart.
With so many alternative lenders, each focusing on different business sectors, Amirav says the opportunities were there for small business owners, but the lenders could be hard to find.
If a business owner goes through the long process of applying with one lender they think is a match, and then gets declined, “at that point they will be disappointed and won’t go ahead with other applications,” he says.
All the Lending Express algorithm does is match borrowers with lenders — it doesn’t lend any money itself, or guarantee success. But, for those businesses using the platform, Amirav says approval rates are 15%, compared to an industry average of 3%.
Equally, he says, “lenders are getting what they’re looking for”.
The business is based in Tel Aviv, but Amirav chose to start out in Australia because it’s a “very small-business focused region”.
According to 2015 data from the Parliament of Australia, over 97% of Australian businesses are small. There’s a demand for alternative lending, and the market is “very receptive to fintech”, Amirav says.
Lending Express provides an online experience, complete with immediacy, and advertises on Facebook and Google.
“Everything is happening online,” Amirav says. “The market we started in had to be a market that can comply with this kind of process.”
The startup’s latest funding was led by iAngels, an Israeli venture capital fund focused on fintech, artificial intelligence and blockchain, and Entrée Capital, a VC fund founded by entrepreneurs. It also included several existing investors.
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The funding will be used for two main objectives: to continue improving the algorithm to make the process even faster and easier for small businesses, and to increase the advertising budget.
Lending Express is also continuing its expansion in the US but, while there is a market in Israel, Amirav says bringing the service home is “not in our close roadmap”.
“For now, Australia and the US are big enough for us to continue growing. For now, we just want to make the product better and help more small businesses and lenders,” he says.