Millennials Don't Want Bank Loans; StreetShares Has a Solution
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Shark Tank meets eBay. That’s how StreetShares is putting together loans for small businesses and things are catching on.
Millennials say they would rather go to the dentist than a banker, according to the Millennial Disruption Index. So StreetShares is trying to make the process more pleasant. The Reston-based company was launched a year ago to connect small businesses in need of loans (up to $50k) with investors, who would compete for their business with competitive rates and terms. Co-founder Mark L. Rockefeller (pictured) says over 1,900 small businesses have signed up, although not all have filled out applications. A couple of hundred accredited investors are using StreetShares and a few million dollars in loans have been put together.
Here's how it works: Small businesses create a compelling online pitch for why they should be funded. Investors offer loans for some or all of the requested amount and the lowest interest rate bids are combined into a single loan, which allows the investors to diversify. StreetShares gets in on the deal by providing funds for the first 5% of the loan. Mark says this kind of financing is growing because of regs that make it difficult for banks to loan such small amounts. StreetShares was just named Best Investment by Harvard Business School’s 2015 New Venture Alumni Competition.
The company’s marketing strategy is to work with affinity groups, where members of those groups can lend to each other. First out of the gate are businesses launched by military veterans. Mark and co-founder Mickey Konson (pictured) are veterans, along with the entire sales team. The company has partnered with veteran-focused business groups to help get the word out about StreetShares and to direct $200M in small business loans to veteran-owned small businesses over the next four years.