Online boost for small businesses
A Northern Ireland company has pledged to introduce finance-hungry businesses to investors via a new online platform.
CoFunder (NI) says it will make it easier for small enterprises in the region to borrow money, while at the same time offering good returns for people wanting to invest.
The company is marketing itself as the first in Northern Ireland focused solely on the increasingly popular "crowdfunding" model - whereby borrowers can seek finance from a large pool of funders, who in turn can pick which ventures to back and at what rate.
At the launch in Belfast, chief operating officer Aidan Doherty said the arrival of the Financial Conduct Authority-approved company was timely, given the reported difficulty some businesses continue to experience accessing finance through more traditional banking routes and the historically low interest rates on offer for investors.
"With the finance required by small businesses to invest and grow their business proving hard to come by from the banking sector, crowdfunding has been steadily growing outside of Northern Ireland in recent years and this growth is expected to continue," he said.
"CoFunder (NI) Ltd aims to create a new generation of funding in Northern Ireland by enabling creditworthy businesses with funding requirements to connect directly to lenders with available capital, thus removing the reliance upon the restrictive lending practices and high costs associated with bank funding. All on a completely transparent, flexible, fair and open platform.
"In addition, funders can obtain interest rates which are better than the minimal rates currently offered by banks and institutions, and through CoFunder's system can choose their own desired return on investment based on their interpretation of risk."
The website will enable businesses to raise funds from £5,000 to £100,000 through small contributions from a large number of funders in the form of individuals or companies who can each invest anything from as little as £50 to a maximum of £2,500 in a single venture.