Mireia Badia founded the company with the help of Carlos Barrabés, at the age of 23 years. Studying International Business in Icade had allowed him to reside in Dublin for two years and to practice in the United Kingdom. There already began to talk about startups, collaborative economy, fintech and all this, but she, he says, was not aware of being part of that world until a while after having set up the company. He did it after working more than a year at ING and after having several conversations with Barrabés, a pioneer of e-commerce in Spain.
“It was the year 2012 and we were still going through the crisis. We knew that SMEs had a serious funding problem after the bank closed the tap. Our intention was to create something that would help them, but we were not very clear about what. We said, well, we could create a new entity, but we did not have money to give loans to SMEs, so, spinning with the concept of collaborative economy, we thought that people could help us.”
This is how Grow.ly was born in December 2013.
Grow.ly is a crowdlending platform that connects companies that need a loan with investors who have savings.
“In crowdlending, a single company is financed by a multitude of small investors and a single investor, in turn, can lend money to many different companies and diversify risk,” Mireia explains.
Counted like that, the formula seems simple, but the beginnings of the platform were complicated. “We did not get the first loan until June 2014,” he says, and given that the traditional dependence of companies on the banking system, the novel proposal of Grow.ly took a while to materialize in the market.
In 2015, the law regulating Participatory Financing Platforms (PFP) was published, among which are crowdlending and equity crowdfunding. The regulation requires them to be registered in a special register under the control of the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV). For Grow.ly the regulation was positive since it helped them gain confidence in the face of investors.
But the problem remained in the ignorance of SMEs. To solve it, Grow.ly developed a network that now integrates more than 100 collaborators from the world of consulting and financial advice to help them publicize the product and offer their clients the service of the platform to combine with other sources. of financing.
As for the investors, the growth has been organic since they are offered a product with a very attractive profitability that, in gross, represents 7% (between 4.5 and 5.5% in net). This is how they have managed to gather 3,300 registered users at the moment in the investing part. The loans formalized up to now amount to 390 and the sum obtained is € 16,464,888. The form of participation is like that of a pure and hard bank loan. The beneficiary companies pay the investors capital and interest back.
The conditions for the lenders are to contribute with minimum contributions of € 50 and maximum of € 3,000 per project. For non-accredited investors, that is, those with an annual income of less than € 50,000 or financial assets of less than € 100,000, the maximum amount to invest in the platform is € 10,000. In case of being an accredited investor, there are no limits.
Although sustained, Grow.ly growth is slow.
“I think that in a financial business you have to be a bit conservative. You have to aspire to grow, to make it big, but you also have to do it with your head, more when other people entrust you with their money”, says Badía.
The same caution is transferred to its own financing. In principle there were four shareholders who contributed their own resources (49% Mireia Badía with her family) to set up the company. This was the case until, in March 2017, they decided to promote the project and open up external financing. They did so through an equity crowdfunding platform with which they obtained the sum of € 440,000 contributed by more than 20 shareholders. Once the round is formalized, they request their first participation loan from the National Innovation Company, Enisa, in order to undertake technological improvements in the platform and some marketing action. “We needed funding for different aspects of the business and I, honestly, have always thought that Enisa is a very good instrument for this. Likewise, the interest rate is not one of the lowest in the market, but it gives you two years of grace, it is a type of loan that balances well,they give you visibility and rigor and they accompany you, as far as they can, in the growth of the company. All this seems very interesting to me. “