Two innovative online investment startups, one in Ohio and one in California, are teaming to expand each other's reach.
(short for Social Mobile Lending) and CircleUp
, based in San Francisco, are among the newest places where smaller investors and company owners can meet to do business. They both offer alternative financing and investment opportunities outside of traditional banking and investment arenas.
Through SoMoLend, a peer-to-peer lending site, entrepreneurs can borrow up to $35,000 through the secure, patent-pending platform. Borrowers create a profile and loan application through the SoMoLend site. SoMoLend is the brainchild of Cincinnati attorney Candace Klein, also founder of Bad Girl Ventures
, a micro-financing organization geared toward women-owned businesses.
CircleUp is a similar platform, but for businesses willing to also offer equity in their companies. Co-founders Ryan Caldbeck and Rory Eakin, who have backgrounds in finance and business consulting, launched CircleUp in April. CircleUp focuses on retail and consumer businesses.
"We work with companies that have tangible products on the shelf, and are looking to scale their businesses," Eakin says.
The companies' founders met through their mutual work in supporting the recently approved federal JOBS Act. Among other things, the law allows non-accredited investors to invest or spend small amounts of money to businesses with some restrictions. The legislation was vital to the growth of sites like SoMoLend and CircleUp.
"CircleUp is one of the first players in this space," Klein says. "We found ourselves in the same places; we were approached by some of the same investors. When 30 people tell you tell you should be talking to someone, you start to listen."
Initially the partnership will be more informal and consist of both companies referring potential investors and companies to one another, depending on which funding mechanism works best.
"We have complementary services, and want to work with SoMoLend because we were looking to partner with a great company with similar technology and services," Eakin says.
Eventually, the companies plan to serve investors and business owners through a single site, sharing resources on the back end.
"We have a strategic alliance, with an eye toward aligning as many products and services as possible," Klein says.
By Feoshia H. Davis
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