Finance startup Bond Street issues loans to small businesses, many of which have less-than-ideal credit, and it's hatched a plan to stand out in the crowded online lending sector.
On Tuesday, the New York City-based company announced a partnership with co-working giant WeWork. Starting this month, WeWork's community of more than 30,000 clients -- including cemented businesses, as well as scrappier startups -- can now apply for discounted loans through the Bond Street platform.
Members still have to meet the company's aggressive terms, though: Each must be raking in at least $200,000 in annual sales, and they have to have been operational for at least two years.
"We've been big admirers of WeWork and their mission to support small business owners," says Bond Street co-founder and CEO, David Haber. "Beyond the shared workspace, we think about what they're doing as building a community."
"We're looking to provide services through our membership that add value to their [startups'] experience while they're at WeWork," says Eric Gross, WeWork's global head of business development, referring to the partnership. The company has also partnered with TriNet, inDinero, and Chase, to offer healthcare and human resources, accounting, and payments processing services to their clients.
While Gross wouldn't disclose how many WeWork companies would actually qualify for Bond Street loans, he says that the number is "meaningful."
All companies approved for a loan through Bond Street are guaranteed to receive their capital within less than one week, as opposed to the weeks or months they'd typically have to wait by going to a traditional bank. The average Bond Street loan size is $180,000, with interest rates starting at 6 percent. WeWork clients get a 33 percent discount on the standard (3 percent) origination fee.
Interestingly, Bond Street is rolling out an advisory service for those members, much as a robo-adviser (say, Wealthfront or Betterment) would offer automated advice on asset investments. The company, which has ballooned from just 7 to 18 employees since June, aims to host physical office hours at each of WeWork's 55 locations before the year is over.
"[Support] is something that underpins the larger mission for Bond Street," explains Haber. "It's something that technology has enabled, and that most people would never get from a typical financial institution."
To be sure, competition in the online lending sector -- which includes OnDeck and Lending Club -- is steep. Typically, these businesses describe their loans as faster and more readily available to customers than bank loans, because they leverage technology to evaluate risk on a number of factors, as opposed to relying solely on credit scores.
Face-time is something that Haber hopes will attract customers to Bond Street specifically. "Long term, the real differentiation is the customer experience," he says. He nods to Bond Street's slick web design, and the "simplicity" of the online application, which takes fewer than ten minutes to complete.
It also doesn't hurt that WeWork, which first launched in 2010, is a coveted "unicorn" venture, presently valued at $10 billion.
Thus far, Bond Street has attracted the attention of high-profile investors, including Momofuku founder David Chang, Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk, and Spark Capital. In total, the business has raised about $112 million in debt and equity financing since its founding in 2014.
Haber did not disclose the total amount (or size) of loans that the business has issued to date, but he projects doing $100 million worth of loans within the next 12 to 18 months.