US en­trepreneur Nor­ton re­turns to Dublin for new start-up

Co-founder of stu­dent loan lender Fu­ture Fi­nance is back in busi­ness with new firm Sup­ply Fi­nance se­cures €4m in fund­ing and in­vests €1m in its first part­ner­ship

The Irish Times - Business - - TECHNOLOGY - CHAR­LIE TAY­LOR

Dublin-based en­trepreneur Brian Nor­ton is back in busi­ness with a new ven­ture that has 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.

Stream­lined

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 moved from Chicago 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.”

Ir­ish oper­a­tion

Mr Nor­ton, who is 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.

He 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. The ad­di­tional fi­nanc­ing will fund loans and hire more peo­ple in Dublin, Lon­don and Chicago.

The Ir­ish mar­ket is primed for a high-qual­ity con­sol­i­dated trade fi­nance player’

Sup­ply Fi­nance co-founder Brian Nor­ton: “We had great suc­cess with Fu­ture Fi­nance, which started here, and I’m re­ally con­fi­dent we can do it all again.”

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