Andrea Reynolds Swoop Funding
Swoop Funding is a technology platform that matches SMEs with funding. Here, founder and CEO Andrea Reynolds describes the challenge of leaving a steady job, and the tactical decision she made to apply for the Competitive Start Fund (CSF).
What is Swoop Funding?
Swoop is a one-stop shop for businesses seeking finance. Our user-friendly tech platform simplifies and speeds up access to loans, grants and equity funding across Ireland and the UK. We integrate with multiple data sources to help our customers build their business profile quickly and be instantly matched to funding. Our customers also have their own financial dashboard to keep up to date on their financial and liquidity metrics and we alert them when they become eligible for new funds. Once we match to the right funding we manage the application process so that our customers can focus on building their business.
Taking the leap
I started my career as a chartered accountant at KPMG and I was very happy there, but I come from an entrepreneurial family and I think it was a natural next step for me. I grew up watching my father take an idea and build a well-known supermarket brand that employed hundreds of people. I found that to be so inspiring.
Challenges in the first year of business
Leaving the comfort of a great salary and clear career path to the great unknown was quite challenging. People say that working in a professional services firm can be stressful but running your own business is worse. Being a founder of a business can be lonely and regardless of what is going on, you need to be positive and calm for the rest of the team. But when you come through the challenging times it makes you feel like you are earning your business stripes and that motivates you to keep going.
Seal of approval
Winning the CSF was the first major step in bringing the business to life. It was about more than the investment. I had other investment options but tactically I wanted to be part of the Enterprise Ireland programme. Winning that seal of approval and being able to shout about that to investors and other stakeholders has been extremely valuable. I work a lot in the UK and across the EU in general and Enterprise Ireland has a reputation for being best-in-class. To be able to say we were selected to receive Enterprise Ireland CSF funding has been incredibly valuable.
What key piece of advice would you give someone considering applying for the CSF?
If you don’t succeed the first time, make sure to do a feedback session with the assessor and then try again. I had applied previously and there were some tweaks required to put a stronger case forward. When you are so close to your project there may be things that are obvious to you when answering the questions, but you have to remember an assessor is reading your application with no previous knowledge and may not get the full value of a particular point if you are not crystal clear about it.
Make sure that you use the full-time allocation when recording your interview. I also wouldn’t use a pre-determined script to answer the questions but allow your answers to flow naturally. The first time I applied I had some of my colleagues record the answers with me. We had pre-agreed who was answering what and had written out our answers. I felt it was a disaster! We were so focused on getting our answers “right” that I am sure we came across as lacking passion. The second time I did it by myself with no notes and spoke from the heart. That’s when it worked.
What’s next for Swoop Funding?
We launched MVP (www.swoopfunding.com) in May this year and we have already completed €3 million in funding for our customers in Ireland and the UK. We also won a global Fintech competition in June called the Open Banking Challenge. It was a challenge set by the 9 major UK banks where they selected 12 winners to receive £100,000 so that we can build out our tech to enable integration to the Open Banking platform. Parallel to this development we are continuously improving the platform every month and we are growing our customer base through partnerships with Hiscox Insurance, Virgin, the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales as well as growing our community directly. Our aim is to be the go-to platform for every business looking to raise money or save money.
Interested in applying for the Competitive Start Fund for International Entrepreneurs? Find out if you’re eligible and how to apply here.