Karen Mills of Harvard introduced us to the term “small business utopia” when she released her book earlier this year. She gives the example of the coffee shop owner who had all the information she needed to run her business at her fingertips. There would be an intuitive dashboard that not only helps her run her coffee shop but makes financial decisions and takes the pain out of managing business finances.
Some recent conversations and articles I have read have convinced me that we are well on the way to that rosy picture of the future. And it mainly comes down to data. Fintech is getting better at gathering and analyzing data then presenting it in useful ways. Lenders are approving loans more quickly and many now have such a rich history of their own data as well as hundreds of connections to other data sources that a much more complete picture of the financial health of a business is possible. Not only that but many of these lenders are real platforms with deep insight into their small business customers.
According to deBanked the five largest online small business lenders in 2018 were (in order) PayPal, OnDeck, Kabbage, Square Capital and Amazon. For three of these companies lending is just a side business, something they offer as part of their broader platform. Many small businesses use PayPal, Square or Amazon as the platform on which they operate their business. So, these big tech companies have insight into the day to day revenue fluctuations of their small business customers.