Vyze, an Austin fintech startup that helps retailers give consumers more financing options at checkout, raised a $13.1 million Series C investment led by Austin Ventures, the company announced Thursday.
New York-based Starvest Partners, which was in on Vyze’s Series B, also contributed to the deal — as did newcomer Fathom Capital, which was created by a former Austin Ventures associate John Komkov. As part of the Series C deal, Ken DeAngelis, co-founder and general partner at Austin Ventures, will join Vyze’s board of directors.
“We think of our platform as democratizing financing for everyone.”
The funding comes a little over a year after Austin Ventures and StarVest Partners led Vyze’s $13 million Series B. The company, initially called NewComLink, has now raised $48 million since its founding in 2008.
Vyze is a platform that connects retailers with a variety of lenders to make it easy for customers to get quick lending options such as store credit card accounts, installment loans and lease-to-own at checkout. The Home Depot, Miracle Ear and NordicTrack are among its business partners. Vyze says its tech is used in 2,000-plus stores in the U.S., and the startup is targeting the roughly 350 mid-to-large-sized retailers that make the bulk of the American retail market.
Traditional retail financing programs, which often involve only one lender, reject 50 percent of consumers’ applications in the store — and about 75 percent get rejected online, Vyze CEO Keith Nealon said.
“No single lender is going to satisfy the needs of a retailer for their customers,” he said.
Vyze, which has about 45 employees, believes that it’s playing a crucial role in unlocking access to credit for consumers, which, in turn, can help consumers unlock their own potential.
“I often joke there’s white collar, blue collar and no-collar folks. I come from the no-collar background,” Nealon said. When he took over as CEO at Vyze in April 2016, he researched how access to financing impacts people’s lives. He said he learned that many of society’s wealthiest have easier access to financing to get the things they need to be successful. And lenders, in large, have skewed some of the best financial products to the affluent.
“We think of our platform as democratizing financing for everyone,” Nealon told me. “We believe we’re making a difference.”
The fintech and lending spaces are increasingly crowded as traditional banks and new tech startups find new ways to offer financing, credit score-building and creative payment schedules. While Amazon has gotten into small business lending, and new lenders continue to emerge, Nealon said Vyze is well positioned.
“It seems to me, every month I read about a new lender that’s targeting a new segment and they have a new financial services product… but any lender, existing or new, is really supply on our platform. They aren’t our competitors,” he said.
Vyze is somewhat insulated from competitors by the complexity of its business — working with loan origination and point of sale, and having the vast majority of communications, reporting and analytics happening on its platform. With each lender, Vyze has to ensure it complies with that lender’s regulatory requirements, which can vary state-by-state.
“It’s not an easy business to get into,” Nealon said. “We’re asking the biggest banks in the world to do business with us… so we get audited by them before they’ll say ‘yes.’ So we have to punch well above our weight to satisfy their needs.”
Nealon, along with Vyze’s investors, say the startup is beginning to see high-trajectory growth. The company declined to reveal revenue figures. But it says it has more than doubled its retail client base in the past year and increased the volume of financing happening on its platform by 700 percent.
“Vyze is bringing much needed innovation to the retail financing market with a platform that optimizes the entire industry, similar to a service like Airbnb in the lodging industry,” Chris Pacitti at Austin Ventures said in a news release. “Building out this type of optimization for a marketplace is not a trivial task, but Vyze is now at the point where network effects are starting to yield the exponential growth promised by the model.”