Trying to speed up payments from business customers is nothing new for Ronjon Nag and Neeray Berry, the founders of a new invoice-financing company called Payplant.
The two were partners several years ago in Cellmania, a startup mobile technology company that had developed technology for building mobile app stores. But though it had well-known companies among its client base, the cash-crunched startup couldn’t get financial institutions to provide it with upfront cash backed by the invoices it was due to receive. “No one would lend us money against our clients,” Nag recalls. “Banks didn’t understand our business.”
Nag and Berry went on to sell Cellmania in 2010 to Research In Motion Ltd., then the still vibrant company that has since sunk in share of the mobile phone market and is now known by its brand name, BlackBerry.
Partly from their experiences at Cellmania, Nag and Berry have launched Payplant as their own service to help small companies build cash flow by getting financing backed by invoices usually due within 45 to 60 days from reputable companies. Payplant officially launched last month after operating in beta test mode since July 2013.
Payplant has already put up about $10 million in invoice financing for about 15 clients, including a consumer products company that sells merchandise to Amazon.com and firms selling technology and services to companies like Caterpillar Inc., Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., Nag and Berry say. With funding from their Payplant Alternatives Fund, they expect to put up $100 million in the next 12 months. Nag and Berry say they’re not free to name their clients.
Payplant charges clients about 1.2% of the due invoice amount. It pays 80% of the invoice amount up front, typically within 72 hours of a contract with its client, then the remaining 20% when the client’s customer pays the invoice, minus Payplant’s 1.2% cut. Payplant uses its own “invoice-scoring” technology, plus its own reviews of financial statements, to judge the financial status of clients and their customers before agreeing to finance a pending invoice. Clients apply online at Payplant.com, where once accepted as a client they can upload or e-mail copies of invoices. Payplant then electronically transfers funds to the client’s bank account.
Payplant further protects itself by demanding that its clients take on a “repurchase obligation,” which means that the clients must pay back any financed amounts if one of their customers fails to pay an invoice within 90 days of the due date. Nag, however, says that has yet to happen—and is unlikely to happen—because of the way Payplant vets its clients’ business activities.
Payplant is also building an invoice-financing business with clients that sell products and services to state governments. It recently received approval to provide invoice financing to suppliers to the state of Illinois, the first state it’s working with. Its terms are different when states are involved.
Instead of charging its clients a percentage of the due invoice, Payplant will receive the 1% per month of an invoice that states are typically required to pay their suppliers when they’re late in paying invoices.
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