Crowdfunding is part of the wider world of participative financing. Look&Fin is an intermediation platform specialized in crowdlending. It allows individual investors to invest directly in small structures carefully selected by an intermediary: Look&Fin is the intermediary between lenders and borrowers.
Today, Look&Fin is the leader in crowdlending in Belgium and is also present in France and Luxemburg. Since its creation, the company has experienced a 100% growth yearly and has collected more than 140 million euros by financing more than 430 projects.
In this podcast, we welcome Dominique Wroblewski, COO of Look&Fin, who goes into more detail about the history and development of the company.
- Chapter 1: the entrepreneurial experience in 1 figure
- Chapter 2: the genesis of the business idea
- Chapter 3: confirmation of the business idea
- Chapter 4: getting started
- Chapter 5: take-off
- Chapter 6: the future
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The marketing idea to be retained absolutely
To start the development of Look&Fin, the founders used roadshows. These events lasting a few hours, allow entrepreneurs to sell their idea to an audience of investors using a sales pitch. For Look&Fin, this approach allowed them to ensure the presence of lenders before launching on the crowdlending market and thus convince SMEs of the viability of their platform.
1.5 million euros were collected in 19 seconds. This figure best symbolizes the lightning success of Look&Fin’s entrepreneurial venture. This is even more impressive when considering that this structure depends on private investors.
From Dominique Wroblewski’s point of view, the magnitude of this amount can be explained by two elements:
- On the platform side, the strong financing capabilities proposed by Look&Fin;
- And on the market side, the interest of individuals and companies in crowdlending. Therefore, this reflects the high demand for this fintech segment. Moreover, crowdfunding is a good way to assess the market appeal of one’s product or service (as we have seen during our podcasts with the co-founders of 900.care and Typewise).
Look&Fin owes its business idea to its founders Frédéric Lévy Morelle (Dominique Wroblewski’s partner) and Olivier Bélanger (historical shareholder of Look&Fin).
Both came from the world of finance and had the idea to create a bond market for unlisted companies and allow SMEs to contract “mezzanine debt”.
As a reminder, mezzanine debt, also known as junior debt, has two particularities. The first is that it allows the creditor to benefit from a credit at a much higher rate than on senior debt, i.e., debt contracted with banks. The second is that it does not offer any guarantee; contrary to senior debt, it is thus a riskier investment for individuals.
Before the arrival of Look&Fin, it was complicated for individuals to access such loans. The steps for such operations were previously quite complicated, costly (in time and money), and therefore, too unprofitable for the smaller customers.
Streamlining and tailoring the mezzanine debt process to make it more profitable and accessible is Look&Fin’s added value.
However, we are not talking about a demand not met by the market players. The founders of Look&Fin realized that some foreign structures were already acting as intermediaries between small portfolios and small companies.
This was notably the case of LendingClub, an American player in the community credit market (or P2P lending), which was then experiencing a great dynamic. By observing the good results of this kind of company, the founders of Look&Fin became convinced of the success that the crowdlending market promised them.
It’s a little like in many other professions or companies. You come up with an idea, and you tell yourself that you have a unique idea and that it’s the best one, and if you look around a little, you realize it, and it’s often in the Anglo-Saxon countries that the idea exists directly or indirectly.
Without a previously structured investment fund, Look&Fin left it up to individual investors to invest directly in SMEs. This is precisely where the problem arose during the first months of this crowdlending platform. It was necessary to convince small companies to commit to a partner without an investor portfolio while prospecting individuals without having customer files to propose. Moreover, Dominique Wroblewski said: “It’s a little bit like the dilemma of the chicken or the egg”.
Therefore, the company’s first files were more in the order of roadshows with circles of investors to explain the concept behind Look&Fin. By doing so, the founders could build a growing awareness of their structure.
This started a virtuous circle of growth for Look&Fin, as the platform’s awareness made it more financially stable. As a result, the monthly payments are increasingly coming into the pockets of individuals, who now see Look&Fin as a safe and very advantageous investment. Investors are now entering into a repeat buying process: they feel that the new gold rush is happening on Look&Fin.
The Saint-Aulaye was one of the very first projects of the company. This Brussels bakery was able to bring them a lending capacity because of the brand’s local recognition. Dominique Wroblewski considers it a chance to work with them since they gave confidence to the project and the Look&Fin platform.
Look&Fin then went through its seed phase, with significant financing capacities and a more than positive balance. It was now time to go out and find projects. And it was a successful mission for this structure: it has realized 100% growth almost every year since its launch.
This development of Look&Fin has not been made possible thanks to its marketing resources but word-of-mouth. Borrowers and lenders have passed the word to each other to allow the company to build on a solid foundation.
For Dominique Wroblewski, the take-off is not seen through the company’s annual figures but rather through its structuring.
Although it is initially easy to absorb the growth with a very artisanal approach, it is eventually necessary to think about something else, to see further, and structure the crowdlending platform by imagining more efficient processes.
This year, Look&Fin has passed the 100,000 individual loan contracts mark. Such a number implies ensuring the proper repayment of the lenders, which represents a lot of work each month. To manage this workload as well as possible, this means adopting semi-automated, if not automated, processes.
For the year 2022, Look&Fin’s ambitions are as follows:
- Maintaining its growth rate
- Reaching 100 million euros of financing
- To obtain a European approval
- Develop its activity in a new country (and several countries for the years to come)
The current monetary situation can mean opportunities for crowdlending and Look&Fin.
The first of these opportunities is the drying up of funding. On this subject, Dominique Wroblewski tells us about the launch of a new product, jointly developed with the Belgian regions. The principle is to allow companies to contract junior debt, creating profitability on tax credit for the lenders. Here, Look&Fin was able to appropriate a product not used by local investors to distribute it more actively within the regions.
The second of these opportunities could well be the rise in interest rates. Dominique Wroblewski sees inertia in savings; he feels that rates tend to rise on the borrower side before they rise on the lender side. Knowing that the search for good files to put forward remains a complex and time-consuming task, this rise in rates looks like an opportunity for Look&Fin.
A podcast to help you develop your start-up
The “Entrepreneurship and Marketing” podcast traces the different stages in the life of a promising start-up. By identifying the critical elements of success at each phase of the start-up’s development, we help you find solutions for your company.
The podcast is divided into chapters of 4 to 6 minutes. Each chapter is dedicated to a specific theme or development phase. You can listen to the entire podcast or choose to listen to only a part of it by directly selecting the one that interests you the most. You can also find the video version of the interview on our YouTube channel.
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