small business finance

New services tackle small business finance challenges

The technological revolution that has empowered small businesses in so many ways continues to produce new solutions to all types of financial issues, from finding financing to accepting online payments and finding professional guidance without paying a small fortune.

Here are a few of the best new sites and services seen recently at Finovate, a showcase for financial technology innovation.

Faster, smarter, cheaper payment tech

Zooz: Zooz’s 3.0 technology empowers e-commerce merchants with easy-setup, user-friendly checkout modules that provide a consistent look and feel for any online platform from which a customer may choose to shop—Web, smartphones, or tablets. Zooz works with most popular payment gateways, and in the United States they have partnered with FirstData to offer competitively priced payment processing.

PayWith: Payments can help generate new sales with PayWith’s mCards—basically, virtual credit/rewards cards on smartphones. MCards are linked to existing Mastercards, so merchants don’t have to install new point-of-sale technology, but incorporate rewards programs that can encourage repeat sales. Merchants, meanwhile, gain access to analytics based on mCard usage.

VerifyValid: VerifyValid has partnered with Deluxe Corp. on a new electronic check offering that allows small and mid-sized businesses to send and receive online payments from checking accounts, which eliminates costs associated with printing and mailing paper checks or using credit cards. Receiving checks in a secure lockbox is free; creating them costs as little as $35 a year and 50 cents per check (for up to 25 checks). It takes only minutes to setup your checking account online, and the interface mimics the familiar look of a paper check.

Verity Valid’s electronic check technology lets merchants send and accept payments from their checking accounts, using a familiar paper check interface.

DoubleBeam: DoubleBeam’s mobile payment technology also lets merchants offer customers the option of paying by check using their smartphone. DoubleBeam’s tools (which merchants can add to their iOS or Android apps using the company’s SDK) lets customers create e-checks by photographing a blank paper check and their photo ID. E-check payments cost merchants a lot less than credit card swipes.

Spreedly: Spreedly securely stores credit card data for merchants who want to accommodate repeat customers and/or subscription payments. Spreedly isn’t a payment gateway—it works with more than 50 of them in more than 70 countries worldwide. But even if you aren’t interested in Spreedly’s service, you might want to check out its free Gateway Index, which can help you evaluate gateways, not just by fees but by reliability (how often payments are declined) and volume. Data comes from both Spreedly and the online store service Shopify.

spreedly
Spreedly’s free Gateway Index lets merchants check out fees and performance data on the more than 50 payment gateways the company’s credit card-vaulting service supports.

FinanceIT: FinanceIT empowers merchants to offer point-of-sale loans to their customers. Their new iPad app makes applying for such loans easy, with immediate approval for qualified customers. While FinanceIT currently offers its technology in Canada only, it expects to start U.S. operations in 2014.

New financing options

Lighter Capital: Lighter Capital incorporates CRM data into its loan decision algorithm, so companies with few assets but good sales track records and prospects have access to funding that traditional financial institutions cannot offer.

QuarterSpot: QuarterSpot reduces the costs of borrowing for small businesses by amortizing the interest as the loan is paid off.

BizEquity: How much is your business worth? The answer can influence everything from sale price to ability to borrow, but traditional appraisal methods can be expensive. Using cloud-based automation, BizEquity provides detailed valuation reports for much less than you’d pay for a report based on traditional methods.

BizEquity’s valuation reports include optimistic and pessimistic estimates of a business’s worth, along with an expected figure somewhere in between.

Unleash: Unleash offers a cloud-based chief financial officer service for businesses too small to hire a CFO. Using data from your Web-based QuickBooks or Xero small business accounting service (with plans to support additional services down the line), Unleash delivers reports with actionable intelligence about your business’s financial health.

Unleash’s virtual chief financial officer service analyzes data from popular web-based accounting services to alert small business managers to potential finance problems.

SimpleVerity: Many small businesses are too tiny for traditional credit bureaus to track. SimpleVerity uses proprietary analytics and social media to track down the information needed to produce a credit report on any small business in America.

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