Hybridization is a recurring theme in industry discourse at the moment. Many formerly specialist platforms are attempting to branch out beyond their bread and butter (whether that be consumer finance, invoice funding, etc.). Typically such shifts are motivated by a desire to capitalize on a strong market position. Sometimes hybridized models spring up in the form of new entrants eagerly attempting to differentiate themselves from the established players. One way or another, the borders between terms that were just starting to become familiar (peer-to-peer consumer loans, P2P lending for SMEs, online invoice finance) are becoming blurred.
And then we have the aggregation space. A surprisingly large number of entrants on both the investment and fundraising sides of the equation are attempting to convey the complete range of alternative finance-sourced opportunities from a single, intuitive portal.
Back in January 2015 Symbid announced a shift away from traditional equity crowdfunding, moving instead towards a blend of investment instruments. We now have a much clearer idea of how that plan will be delivered.
The Funding Network will become a melting pot for both traditional and alternative forms of SME funding. It is neither exclusively targeted at fundraisers nor at investors, instead showcasing a range of product types to investors (both institutional and private) and a mixture of fundraising methods to small businesses. The Funding Network facilitates equity crowdfunding, marketplace lending, bank loans, venture capital and angel investment, as well as catering to structured funds.
The portal comes equipped with an array of monitoring and data tools – allowing investors to trace the performance of their investments around the clock. The platform’s technological toolkit served as a strong lure for securing the allegiance of Credion – a Dutch financial advisory firm. In December last year, Credion committed to processing funding transactions for the entirety of its 1,200 clients (carrying an anticipated funding volume for 2015 of $800m) via the Symbid platform. The “Symbid platform” – which in point of fact means The Funding Network.
“Our mission at Symbid is to simplify the way small businesses are funded through technology that enables a more transparent and efficient way of doing business. The launch of The Funding Network™ in the home of the world’s first stock market is a step towards a more democratic financial future for us all. As an early mover in crowdfunding, we pushed ahead with paradigm-shifting technologies that help to level the financial playing field for investors and entrepreneurs. This is a logical evolution for a financial industry still grounded in a traditional, vertical, offline way of operating. The Funding Network™ will be the most efficient capital market for private companies.”
So, to summarize, The Funding Network appears to be poised to deliver:
The Symbid team is certainly not short on ambition. The platform recently suggested that a broad rollout across Europe is also on the agenda. There are of course those within the industry who look upon product diversification and international expansion with concern. The main worry is that expansionist platforms will encounter a range of technical and regulatory quandaries that they do not have the necessary expertise to weather.
Whether or not Symbid will run into such troubles remains to be seen. For now, The Funding Network looks to be the most comprehensive effort to aggregate and integrate alternative and traditional financial services to date. Mr. Zandvliet summarized:
“Symbid aims to revolutionize the financial industry in a way that enables more people to connect, fund and grow. We have but one message: let’s invest in each other.”
AltFi is returning to Amsterdam for its second annual Summit in the city. The inaugural event last year was a roaring success, with key figures from across Continental Europe's alternative finance and digital banking sectors highlighted. These included Jeroen Broekema, managing director of Funding Circle Netherlands, and Mieke van Engelen, head of innovative partnerships at ABN AMRO's standalone lending platform, New10.