Dublin-based entrepreneur Brian Norton is back in business with a new venture that has just secured €4 million in funding and invested €1 million in its first partnership.
Mr Norton, who moved to Ireland five years ago from the US to establish Future Finance, and previously led the fast-growing student loan specialist, which raised £185 million (€212 million) under his watch. He has now teamed up with Canadian serial entrepreneur Jay Verjee to establish a new fintech platform known as Supply Finance.
The Dublin-headquartered start-up provides professional-grade trade finance to SMEs across Europe through a network of partner brands. Its bespoke technology combines a purpose-built customer and financials management system with an automated underwriting engine to provide faster credit decisions for clients.
While enabling partners to move all their daily operations into the cloud, the platform also allows customers to interact directly with lenders to streamline funding processes and reduce administration.
“I could have gone home to the States to start my next business or moved somewhere else in Europe but [I] chose to stay in Ireland because my experience has been that Dublin is a fantastic place to start a business,” Mr Norton told The Irish Times. “We had great success with Future Finance, which started here, and I’m really confident we can do it all again.”
The entrepreneur, who relocated from Chicago to Ireland in 2013, said his new venture was aimed at making it easier for small business to get finance.
“Greater access to working capital is one of the keys to growth for any business and Supply aims to greatly expand access to this form of financing for SMEs across Europe. Through proprietary technology, ready access to capital markets and partnerships with experienced local operators, Supply’s approach to the market will allow for rapid growth and bring relief to SMEs desperate for funding,” he said.
Supply Finance has raised an initial €4 million in funding from investors that include Finch Capital and Fenway Summer Ventures, which previously backed Future Finance.
The start-up, which intends to establish a network of partners across Europe, also announced a €1 million investment in the Danish invoice financing services company Omniveta, a company that recently closed a €7.5 million credit facility from London-based fund manager Advance Global Capital.
“Our partnership in Denmark is just the beginning. Over the next five years, we hope to be in a dozen markets across the continent, serving thousands of SMEs through great partner brands just like Omniveta,” said Mr Norton.
“The core hindrances to growth for a mid-size trade finance company are sales, the scalability of internal operations and capital. Supply Finance partners with companies that have very strong sales functions but which are suffering from operational growing pains and limited funding,” he added.
Mr Norton, who is currently entrepreneur in residence at Dublin’s Dogpatch Labs, said he expects Supply will be operating in Ireland shortly.
“The Irish market is primed for a high-quality consolidated trade finance player,” Mr Norton said.
The entrepreneur added that he intends to stay based in Ireland for the foreseeable future.
“Dublin is a great environment where people are excited about new things. Partners, investors and employees are all happy to give things a go and the ecosystem through the support of the likes of Enterprise Ireland, the IDA, Dogpatch and so on is very supportive of start-ups which all makes my job that much easier.” said Mr Norton.
Future Finance, meanwhile, of which Mr Norton is now executive vice chairman, continues to go from strength to strength.
Last month it secured €40 million in a Series C round with existing investors with the additional financing to be used to fund loans and hire more people in Dublin, London and Chicago.