Fundbird: Sharon Argov and Noa Wolfson
The founders discuss launching a start-up to make an impact, transparent business models and breaking into the lucrative alternative finance market...
Name: Sharon Argov and Noa Wolfson
Company name: Fundbird
Date launched: 27/07/15
Tell us what your business does:
Our mission is to make the new world of financial products accessible for all small businesses. It is a platform that matches small and medium businesses with the right alternative funding for them, be it a start-up loan or equity crowdfunding.
With the amount of alternative finance options growing at a faster rate than ever, we believe it is important that small businesses have a platform that can help them navigate the options, and that can direct them to funding that is the right fit for their individual requirements.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Sharon: I have been an entrepreneur for many years and therefore I know how hard it can be to secure a bank loan and how financial issues can have a strong impact on your daily life. We set up Fundbird to address this issue directly. While it’s great that small businesses now have these alternative options for funding, it can be a daunting landscape without the right knowledge or a financial background.
Not every small business owner will know which type of funding is best for them, and knowing how hard it can be to secure finance, we wanted to help businesses navigate the new options available.
How did you know there was a market for it?
Small businesses are the group that has benefitted most from FinTech. The emergence of the alternative finance industry has provided small and medium companies with so many new ways to seek various solutions and models for funding, enabling companies to bypass the banks and speed up a process that previously would have taken several weeks.
There are now so many alternative finance options, and the choices are growing even more. Therefore, we started Fundbird, to help small businesses to navigate all these options – for as long as there are alternative funding options and thriving small businesses, there will be a market for us.
What were you doing before starting up?
Sharon: I’ve been an entrepreneur and a business owner for many years now, building my first company in my early twenties. I took a loan from my father and established a short-term rentals venture in Spain. In the last decade I’ve honed my skills in online marketing in various industries. I played an integral role in building the online gaming entertainment business 888.com, which floated on the London Stock Exchange with a valuation of $1.5bn in 2005. I have also run my own boutique affiliate marketing agency, helping online brands and start-ups to monetise their business models and build efficient user acquisition strategies.
Noa: I began my career as a sole trader, working as a broker in the real estate industry of New York City. In the late nineties, the time of the first internet bubble, I began renting and selling lofts. It was then through my clients that I discovered the online world and began applying what I had learnt to my own online marketing efforts of real estate projects I was involved with. After a decade of leading marketing and user acquisition divisions of different online brands, I knew I was ready to go back to being an entrepreneur. I joined forces with Sharon, leveraging the knowledge and skills we honed to build a company that made an impact and helped small business owners succeed.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Noa: When I was working in the online marketing world, the thing I loved most about the space was that everything was measurable, and you knew right away what impact you were making. It was this that made me realise I wanted to run my own business in a space that I knew I could make a positive, measurable impact.
Sharon: I guess you could call me a serial entrepreneur! When I was 16 I began selling lemonade to beach-goers stuck in traffic outside Tel Aviv, and then started my short-term rentals business in Spain when I was 21. It’s always been a passion of mine and, having experienced struggles and challenges as an entrepreneur, running a business that helps other entrepreneurs is a dream come true.
How did you raise the money?
We raised a £1m seed funding from fintech angel investor Yuval Tal, and Rhodium capital.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
We partner with lenders, such as MarketInvoice and iwoca. The platform provides them with a pipeline of good quality, well-matched leads that can be converted into long-term customers.
When a lead is converted into a customer, the lender pays us a flat fee. All lenders pay us the same fee, this is important as it means we remain transparent and impartial. The service is, and will remain, totally free for the small business owners.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
As entrepreneurs, you face challenges on a daily basis, whether that’s a problem with the product, with the market, a legal issue, or even with your investors – the list goes on!
However, the best way to overcome these challenges is to surround yourself with the right people. Ask experts for help and utilise the valuable resources that are available in the start-up community.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Sharon: For me, the breakthrough moment actually came before setting up Fundbird when I realised that this solution was needed, as this pushed me to take the plunge and make the Fundbird idea a reality.
A close friend of mine is a large seller on an e-commerce site and at Christmas, she needed to double her supplies to meet demand, but couldn’t finance this herself. I asked her why she didn’t use an alternative lender and was shocked to find out that she didn’t know what I was talking about. This was the breakthrough moment for me as it pushed me to take the plunge and set up Fundbird with Noa to help people just like my friend.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Sharon: Setting up and running a business is probably one of the hardest things that you’ll ever do. Not only do you need to have a strong idea, you must also have a strong desire to make it happen. My advice would be to make sure you know exactly what running a business entails – you need to have commitment, energy and time. But as hard as this process is, it can also be one of the most rewarding jobs, so as long as you go into it with your eyes open, you’ll reap the benefits!
Noa: To add to that, I would also say that it’s important to pick the right partner, and have a strong vision that will really bring value to the space you are targeting.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time
Our mission is to make FinTech products and services accessible for every small business owner in Europe. We have started in the area which business owners normally struggle the most – accessing funding and credit.
We hope to bring the best, newest and most trusted FinTech companies to small and medium enterprises in a way that will help them understand what type of solution is best for their individual needs.