A place to startup

| August 17, 2018

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One of the startups that has sprung from Chalmers University of Technology and our venture creation company, Chalmers Ventures is TRINE. The business idea is to make it possible for people to invest money, and do good at the same time. At Chalmers University of Technology, entrepreneurship is at the heart of everything we do. To us, it means something more. It means openness, co-creation, and flexibility. It means tackling real issues, trying out brave new ideas, and making a difference to the world.

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Treasury management at SMEs - Still too neglected?

Article | August 18, 2021

Treasury management or more generally Supply Chain Finance management is still a neglected topic at many SMEs. While large international corporations make the investment into expensive treasury management solutions (often part of their ERP solution) and even setup their own In-House Banks, this is considerably more difficult for the mid-corp segment and even more so for the smaller segment of the SMEs. Often SMEs lack the funding, time and expertise to deploy those platforms and often those platforms lack the flexibility required by an SME. Nonetheless in this globalized competitive market with fast moving cash, even SMEs are in need of an effective treasury management. Every SME has its own specific challenges, due to its specific payment cycles and cash reserves. Nonetheless most SMEs (estimated to about three-quarters) still do their treasury management via (complex) Excel sheets, requiring a lot of manual effort. This gap forms a big opportunity (in Europe SMEs account for more than half of all gross value added) for incumbent banks and Fintechs to offer easy and user-friendly tooling for this. In recent years, more and more Fintech players try indeed to provide an answer to this gap, often via SaaS platforms, which connect easily to the customer’s banks (via Open Banking APIs) and for which the setup cost is limited. The gains for an SME in optimizing their treasury processes can be very substantial. A good treasury management can reduce costs in multiple ways: Reduce working capital by reducing the time to collect money from customers, by reducing inventory and/or by paying suppliers only at the payment due dates. Reduce unpaid invoices by a better follow-up and good debt collection techniques Reduce penalties (such as administration costs or late-payment interests) due to late payments and indirectly also improve the relationship with suppliers. Reduce effort (resource workload) for financial management, like the follow-up of payments of incoming and outgoing invoices, automated generation of payment instructions for incoming invoices… Optimized cash management allowing to keep on your current account only the required cash amount to run your business, thus allowing to invest excess cash, but also to avoid requiring short-term debt when too much cash is invested (and blocked in medium- to long-term assets) Reduce foreign currency costs and exposure risks by keeping the right reserves of foreign currencies, applying hedging (like swaps or options) techniques, correctly taking forex rate fluctuations into account in future cash flow predictions… Reduce transaction commissions for bank transactions, by selecting the right banking products, but also by using the right banking partner(s) (especially for international foreign currency payments big price differences exist between different banking parties) Reduce cost of fraud by improving control, transparency and accountability via a pro-active, automated monitoring of all cash flows, allowing to detect anomalies as soon as possible … This can be achieved in multiple ways: Setup and optimize the processes and tooling with the help of specialized services companies (like e.g. the offering of BelPay) Setup or acquire software solutions (often in the form of SaaS offerings, i.e. Treasury in a Box) for cash & liquidity management, like invoice generation and follow-up (including invoice and payment matching), debt collection, incoming invoice processing (including payment), cash pooling, cash forecasting/capital planning… These software tools allow a more pro-active treasury management and reduce manual effort by automating certain steps in these processes. Examples of such platforms are HighRadius, Gtreasury, CashForce, Kyriba, Nomentia, Monite, Pair Finance, AiVidens… But there are also more specialized tools, offering only a specific service, like debt collection (e.g. Virteo, recovr, Pair Finance, TrueAccord, CollectAI, CollectionHub, inDebted, Attunely…), digitalization (through OCR) of paper invoices (e.g. Tangentia, Contract.fit, Metamaze, Klippa, SimpleOCR…), expense management (e.g. Payhawk, Rydoo, Expensify, Spendesk, Pleo, Circula…), account aggregation and payment initiation (e.g. Isabel 6/Ponto)… Capture revenue by allowing customers to pay for products or services in a way that is most efficient for them and for the SME, allowing to increase sales, but also to ensure the best possible payment ratio. This includes solutions like digital onboarding and management of Direct Debits (e.g. via Twikey or DigiTeal), including a Pay button (e.g. via Twikey or POM) in invoices which allows to pay the invoice with a pre-filled credit transfer, card payment or other payment option, integration with PSPs (like Adyen, Mollie, MultiSafePay, Ingenico, Stripe…) for online payments, digital invoicing allowing to combine invoicing and payment (e.g. PEPPOL platform or offering invoices with immediate payment option via UnifiedPost, ZoomIt or Doccle), "Buy Now, Pay Later" solutions (like Klarna or AfterPay) or new solutions like PSD2 Payment Initiation or the upcoming new scheme of SEPA Request to Pay (SRTP). Improve integration between accountancy software (and/or accountant) and the cash management solutions and associated bank accounts. Solutions like Silverfin, TOCO, Yuki, OkiOki, Billit, Furoo, Clearfacts, Billtobox, sevDesk, Candis… can provide (a part of) a solution to this. Usage of solutions for cash management (e.g. international cashpooling, sweep accounts…) and more general treasury management services offered by banks to their customers. These can be incumbent banks or new Fintechs, which specialize in the niche of serving SME customers. Examples are Tide, Qonto, Azlo, Arival, Fyrst… Reducing costs of international payments and forex transactions via new Fintech offers, like XE.com, TransferWise, CurrencyTransfer.com, WorldFirst, iBanFirst, Ebury…, but also via specialized software tools, like Kantox, FiREapps, Money Mover, Acumatica… Get cheaper financing via specialized credit institutions and banks (e.g. OakNorth, CapitalBox…), by issuing commercial paper (short-term paper) or long-term debt, via crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending (e.g. Funding Circle, Auxmoney, LendingCrowd, Iwoca, Look&Fin, Crowdcube…), via Credit Lombard loans or inventory-based loans (e.g. Finventory) or via invoice factoring (e.g. Edebex, Previse, Optimum Finance, GapCap, BlueVine, BillFront, Crowdz…). There are also more and more marketplaces and comparators assisting SMEs to find the best financing option, e.g. Funding Options, BusinessComparison, Crowdz… Improve risk management (like currency risk, interest-rate risk, market risk, credit risk, counterparty risk…) via trade finance, like bank guarantees (cfr. Ebury), via better authorization and fraud detection mechanisms (detecting patterns and anomalies) or by better assessing counterparty risk (e.g. DueDil, InsideView, PitchBook…) Apply tax optimizations, by optimizing for different tax regimes worldwide and also optimizing for tax deductions (like e.g. generate revenue on entities which have collected losses in the past) Clearly the Fintech market for SMEs is in full evolution, but still quite immature. As a result dozens of offers exist, making it very difficult for SMEs (which was one of the reasons in the first place they work with Excel) to select the best and right offering(s) for their company. As such there is a big market for consultancy and other services firms, specialized in helping SMEs to improve their treasury management processes.

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The Best Ways to Support Other Small Businesses Right Now

Article | June 21, 2021

The U.S. small business sector accounts for two-thirds of the country’s net job growth and 44 percent of economic advancement, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. However, despite their crucial role in the economy, small businesses have also fared among the worst in this pandemic. In fact, of the small business owners who report lower sales due to COVID-19, 30 percent are unlikely to remain open without government assistance, suggests the Federal Reserve Bank. If you’re an entrepreneur or business manager, then you know just how difficult these uncertain times are for the small business community—not to mention, how vital it is to help each other out. No matter the number of resources or influence at your disposal, there are many ways you can provide a helping hand. Use these simple ideas and strategies to support your fellow small business owners right now.

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Your New Post-Pandemic Business vs. Your Previous Career

Article | August 3, 2021

About 4.3 million new business applications were filed in 2020, almost 1 million more than in 2019, with 51% of these owners citing that they started their business out of an economic need, and 33% said they started a business because they lost their jobs. Another reason we are seeing so many post-pandemic businesses? Corporate burnout. For those fortunate enough to have the means to start a business, this idea of reducing stress in their lives was a blessing in disguise. Many felt they were on the way to escaping the pre-pandemic, high-pressure corporate environment to now taking their passion and interests and converting them into a small business.

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Back to School for Small Businesses: Marketing, Finance and Legal Tips and Tools for New and Established Small Business Owners

Article | August 3, 2021

Finance: Make sure you are on top of bookkeeping from the beginning. Good bookkeeping and accounting are the foundation of a healthy and thriving financial future for your business. I would highly recommend meeting with some of the Start Small Think Big experts to hone these skills earlier than later. Lastly, be super clear about your business plan and how you look to make money from your business and make passive income, along with how to scale. Preparation is truly the key to success for thriving businesses. Marketing: You must do the work to discover your why. Building this foundation helps to develop your brand voice and messaging. Without this core, your business can crumble because it lacks the firm foundation on which it needs to stand. You will attract the right customers and team if you stand firm in your authenticity and why. Secondly, I would advise getting to know your customer to understand how to speak to that particular group. You want it to feel natural and not like you are selling to them. The more you truly learn about their passions and wishes, the more you will best be able to fulfill their needs. Legal: Protect your intellectual property as soon as you have the financial backing to do so. I would also highly recommend becoming a legal business entity of any sort. Doing so helps separate you from your business in any legal ramifications because becoming an LLC has made me feel protected and legitimized.

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ProNet Solutions is a leading provider of technology management solutions for community banks. We offer a comprehensive suite of IT services, with all the benefits of a fully-integrated, internal IT department and tailor our services for each banks’ IT environment needs.

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