Fri | Sep 22, 2017

LoanCirrus gets FirstAngels backing

Published:Sunday | February 5, 2017 | 2:00 AMTameka Gordon
LoanCurrus Limited and FirstAngels Jamaica signed a financing agreement on January 17, 2017. Standing (from left) are Desmond Campbell, Sandra Glasgow, Karey Powell and George Henry, while seated (from left) are investor Melanie Subratie and LoanCirrus CEO Michael Claire.

LoanCirrus Limited, a start-up web-based software company, is already weighing plans to deepen its global presence, propelled by the backing it signed off on in mid-January with FirstAngels Jamaica.

Founder and CEO Michael Claire told Gleaner Business that the company already has customers in Jamaica, Belize, Trinidad South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Nigeria and Philippines, but expects this to increase with the build-out of capacity that the Angel funds will allow.

LoanCirrus is the fifth venture to secure financing from FirstAngels Jamaica since the investment group was formed in 2014.

The software company targets microfinanciers with its web-based, browser-accessed platform that manages the lending process for the small lenders.

"The software manages client information, all the calculations around loans, repayment and amortisation of loans. It allows you to set up debt collectors and bailiffs and sends them documents (and) it even allows you to score customers," Claire told Gleaner Business.

The software was developed around two years ago and is available for subscription.

"Before FirstAngels, we had a couple of customers in the bag and a product that had some level of market testing. We took a year and built the product. We also went out to the market and made sure there was demonstrable interest and market traction," said Claire.

"What FirstAngels does for us now is to really allow us to get into the market with a level of financial stability and build out of the business," he said.

Typical of its mode of operation, FirstAngels, whose network comprises a mix of wealthy Jamaicans, has not disclosed the level of funding granted to LoanCirrus, but it disclosed the backer as investor member Melanie Subratie.

Claire said the working capital will finance operating expenses and the continued development of the product "because there are different features and modules that will be added to the product over the next several months and years."

EYES GLOBAL REACH

LoanCirrus hopes to increase its global presence to rival other cloud-based customer relationship management companies, he said. The company operates in SaaS mode Software as a Service - in which the user does not receive a perpetual licence to the software, but simply uses it and pays for it monthly based on some agreed metric.

The loan-management system is being marketed to small and medium lenders across the globe. About 30 per cent of the company's target market is made up of new businesses that are getting into microfinancing for the first time, FirstAngels said in a media release.

"Our strategy has been to make our software easily accessible to microlenders and to create a no-risk offer to attract them. Microlenders can immediately try the software for up to 14 days without any obligation by visiting the company's website," Claire said.

The businessman said he was inspired to create the platform through his work with his other company SpiderCentro, also based locally.

"We do a lot of work for financial-service companies in Jamaica and around the world that involve integrating lending systems, and we realised that the existing players weren't really serving the market well," he said of the support services to the microlending businesses.

The products, he said, were very expensive and "they often didn't provide the features that small lenders needed."

LoanCirrus, which coined its identity to play on the so-named wispy clouds, was created to fill that gap, the businessman said.

While the product is available to any size firm, Claire has taken a particular interest in smaller operations as these companies often don't have capital to expend on software provided by large outfits, he said.

STILL SCOUTING

"Our product is ideal for start-ups," he said. As an example of the packages offered, he said clients pay US$99 per month for however long it takes them to land the first 100 customers.

Registered in September 2016, the company operates virtually with nine team members and is still scouting for software engineers.

"We expect to continue that way for some number of years perhaps for if/when we go public," Claire said. However, there are no plans to go public with the company any time soon, Claire said, adding that first "we plan to grow".

FirstAngels is a network of 28 investors, 21 of whom are individual investors. Seven Associate/corporate members. Eight of its 28 members are women.

Some 15 FirstAngels members have so far made investments in the five companies, totalling over US$600,000, the group said.

Since its inception, FirstAngels has received over 250 applications, hosted 14 pitch events at which 26 ventures have sought funding. It currently has a pipeline of five investments that are going through the due diligence process with a view to completing the investment process by March 2017.

The other four outfits backed by the Angel investor group to date are DRT Communications, BookFusion, Billodex, and Turner Innovations.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com