Seventy per cent of South African SMEs are rejected when applying for credit, for reasons such as non-compliance and credit health. Yet a solution is set to enter the market, promising to increase access to credit for small businesses and lessen the timeframes involved.
That solution is South African startup InvoiceWorx, which entered development last year and joined the AlphaCode fintech hub in Johannesburg earlier this year. It will be formally launched in the first quarter of next year.
In essence, InvoiceWorx acts as an online repository for financial information. SMEs are able to collate, store and retrieve their financial information digitally. This information is credit vetted and scored, and sent to different funders for credit application. The SME has the ability to track the status of their application with funders throughout the credit application process.
Co-founder Siya Ntutela told Disrupt Africa this system can speed up loans applications, and allow SMEs to minimise costs by comparing quotes from different funders.
“The funders can also reduce their cost of client acquisition by using our platform to source deals. Our credit vetting and scoring process is really the engine behind what we do, making us more efficient than traditional lenders, and reducing the credit application process from weeks to hours,” he said.
Ntutela said the InvoiceWorx is in the process of building its platform with input from lenders, who have reacted well to its premise. Self-funded so far, the startup also received a boost last week when it was awarded ZAR1 million (US$70,000) in funding from Merrill Lynch South Africa after a pitching event at AlphaCode. Ntutela said the cash will speed up InvoiceWorx’s development.
With the SME credit gap estimated at ZAR60 billion (US$4.2 billion), he sees a huge opportunity for InvoiceWorx.
“After much research of our competitors, we soon realised that lack of money was not the problem. Inefficiencies in process, time and cost are the biggest problem in closing the SME credit gap. Our platform seeks to provide a solution to this problem.”
The startup will initially launch in South Africa, but Ntutela said the platform has been built to be deployed anywhere where SMEs and lenders are trying to find one another.
“We are already having talks with various lenders in the SADC region for including them in our platform. Our intention is to democratise credit for SMEs in Africa as whole,” he said.
InvoiceWorx has a simple revenue model, charging lenders an origination fee which is a percentage of the transaction completed through the platform. It also charges the SME for any support services they require to comply with the credit application process, such as audited financial statements.
Ntutela said the only hindrance to InvoiceWorx’s uptake is the fact fintech is relatively new in South Africa, and most traditional lenders “still don’t get it”.
“We have spent a significant amount of time educating our lenders about what we are building,” he said.