We use technology to quickly identify quality entrepreneurs all over the world.
The entrepreneurs we’re working with have smartphones and their business activities leave a social media footprint. When they sign into our app and authenticate, which only takes a few minutes, we’re able to gather data that lets us see and measure that footprint and give it a score, which we call a kScore.
Through technology, we ensure investors of the safe handling of their investments.
Trade finance is safer by design than lending because the entrepreneur doesn’t get paid until we get paid. They don’t touch the money until the deal is done and we’ve received the investor’s share.
We vet the entrepreneur through the kScore and a KYC protocol and the trade itself through our approval process. Once we know it’s a good deal with solid, reliable parties on all sides and enough profit built in to allow for everyone to make money, we begin the deal process. Entrepreneurs use the cameras on their smartphones to securely upload deal particulars and evidence of progress as it’s executed. We can literally “see” their progress in real time as they do their part.
We don’t do lending. We finance entrepreneurs.
Lending isn’t the only type of financing that entrepreneurs need. Trade finance has been around for hundreds of years for bigger transactions, but it took technology to make it feasible for smaller entrepreneurial businesses (SMEs).
Why is trade finance a better solution? Here’s a problem that’s endemic throughout the developing world: say an entrepreneur in Rwanda has a contract to put a computer lab in a school for girls and he wants to buy PCs from the US. No seller in the US will ship a bunch of inventory to a small entrepreneur in Africa without getting paid first. And the school board doesn’t want to pay a small entrepreneur without seeing the goods. The entrepreneur needs financing for that few weeks when the goods are being delivered. This is what trade financing is for. Kountable becomes a party in the deal and buys the computers for the entrepreneur, who acts as agent to make sure they are delivered and installed, and then Kountable gets paid by the school and passes the money on to the entrepreneur, minus a reasonable fee.
In these scenarios, there is a lot less risk for everyone compared to lending the money to the entrepreneurs directly. It’s short term (avg. 90 days), and the entrepreneur doesn’t get paid until we do, so they have extra incentive to get the deal done on time.
The SME financing gap and estimated $1.6 trillion trade finance gap represent a huge opportunity for us. We can make a large impact by addressing this opportunity at scale because trade finance doesn’t have a lot of the complexity and regulatory friction that comes with lending.
We are able to get entrepreneurs the money quickly, much more quickly than a bank can generally originate a loan. Often in these transactions there’s a need for speed because the contracts are already in place and the clock is ticking.
Rather than measuring credit risk, we can measure performance risk, which is much more aligned with what an entrepreneur does to become a better entrepreneur. If you think about it, paying bills on time isn’t often what the best entrepreneurs who are growing fastest are focused on. Getting deals done well, on time and profitably, and building their networks and reputations is. By focusing on what matters we are able to identify the most promising entrepreneurs in any market and invest in helping them succeed and grow.
We work with exceptional entrepreneurs who work to resolve difficult challenges worth investing in.
Over the past 20 years there has been an explosion of microfinance loans, and as a result, a lot of people in the United States think of entrepreneurs in the developing world as being startups who are more at the subsistence level, or maybe making simple crafts or basic products to sell locally.
The entrepreneurs we work with are operating at a much higher level. They’re globally connected importers and exporters of world-class goods, fulfilling important needs in their countries. For instance, we have entrepreneurs who are providing the health care and education systems with vital equipment and supplies, manufacturing furniture, chalk for classrooms, bringing in computers and other technologies to help bring and keep people in their countries up to date with modern advancements. (Read more about these entrepreneurial successes on our resources page).
These entrepreneurs are a vital link between institutions and the best foreign suppliers of specialized goods and equipment along with the training in how to use and maintain them. They understand their local markets, what’s needed, and have the global connections to procure what’s necessary.
Access to financing for these entrepreneurs is difficult, in part, because financial markets in their countries haven’t yet evolved to be able to serve them and foreign investors can’t find them.
The cost of not supporting them is fewer local jobs, slower development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in these countries, slower development of their capability and competitiveness, and more dollars leaving the country that could be used to build the middle class whose growth would benefit all of us.
Local entrepreneurs are often shut out of being able to solve local problems because of lack of access to capital. It’s not lack of skill, or contacts or the ability to see and solve the problem, it’s finance. And it’s not that the money is not there to solve the problem. There is enough profit in these deals for everyone involved including investors.
We are stepping into uncharted territory.
The gap in trade financing is a difficult one to see. Entrepreneurs don’t like to talk about the deals they didn’t get, or didn’t execute well. Thanks to our pilot group that trusted us enough to bring us examples of contracts they had lost and deals where they had lost money, we were able to see where the real problems lay and how many of them shared the same experiences.
From founders Dr. Craig Allen with experience in trade finance, Chris Hale with an understanding of the appetite of wealthy investors for impact investments (esp. uncorrelated with an attractive yield) and Catherine Nomura’s experience with building products for entrepreneurs, our staff at kountable is armed with an unusual combination of skill sets and perspectives to approach this innovative solution to financing entrepreneurs.
These perspectives, in addition to where we’re at with mobile technology, data science, and uptake of social media in these countries makes it possible for kountable’s highly scalable solution to emerge.