Steven Uster is Co-Founder & CEO of FundThrough, an online invoice funding platform giving small businesses access to the working capital waiting in their unpaid invoices.
Launched in 2014, FundThrough quickly became one of Canada’s leading FinTech start-ups, today funding millions of dollars in invoices every month to businesses across the country.
Before starting FundThrough, Steven was an investment banker in New York at UBS and Centerview Partners. Steven has an MBA from The Wharton School and a Bachelor of Commerce with Honours from McGill University, where he was a Loran Scholar.
How would you describe your job?
I help take small business owners’ minds off their cash flow, so they can invest that time back into running and growing their business.
Fundthrough is an invoice funding platform, meaning we work to solve cash flow gaps. I work with small business owners who don’t want to wait thirty, sometimes ninety days to get paid through invoicing. We believe accessing working capital should be simple, and up until recently it has been a pain-point and growth barrier for many business owners. Cash flow is still the number one hurdle to growth for business owners in North America.
My role also heavily involves connecting with leaders from the financial community, including banks and FinTech, to improve the industry as a whole. I’m often involved in panels and guest speaking at events to help further educate entrepreneurs on their financial options.
What’s the ‘elevator speech’ for FundThrough?
FundThrough helps small businesses access working capital by advancing funds from outstanding invoices. Owners are able to control cash flow and grow their business without worrying about late or delayed payments. Growth could mean improving facility, hiring, buying equipment/supplies, fulfilling new orders and more.
Our online funding platform connects to Canadian banks and top accounting platforms like QuickBooks, Freshbooks and more. We believe access to working capital should be easy for businesses with happy, paying customers. FundThrough has provided millions in capital each month to thousands of small businesses since founding in 2014, and we’re helping more businesses every day.
How did FundThrough get started, and how is it different from companies that do similar things?
We co-founders (including partners Graham McBride and Deepak Ramachandran) were no strangers to the financial challenges threatening small business. We’ve built businesses before, separately, and we regularly experienced that cash flow is this under-appreciated, under-supported challenge facing owners everywhere. Luckily for us, we had decades of financial career experience between us and could cope, but not every business owner does. We were in a position to do something about it. So we built FundThrough.
How are we different? Well, some amazing FinTechs in this space have innovated on models like crowdfunding and microloans. We’re the short term working capital platform for SMBs – we based our platform off of the “invoice factoring” model.
It’s a simple concept that’s actually been around for thousands of years, but hasn’t been adapted for the modern small business owner. Traditional factoring can be intrusive, difficult to setup and doesn’t offer much control to the borrower.
We had to make significant changes to the traditional factoring model. FundThrough works in the background so our customers’ customers never know we’re involved. We offer early repayment, so owners have control over not just advancing, but over the entire cash flow cycle. We’re fully paperless and digital, meaning owners can access capital anywhere and anytime. We’re also transparent with our fees and pricing – we ask a single weekly fee on top of each repayment.
Can you offer examples of some that have used your services?
Businesses from all industries can leverage FundThrough, and that’s deliberate. As long as they regularly invoice their customers for payment, and use accounting software and/or online banking to run their business, we can assign a funding limit to their account and begin funding invoices.
Our client base is vast because we can support all types of ventures. We see entrepreneurs from the food and beverage community looking to expand their product lines, home and commercial contractors who need capital to start the next job, professionals, recruitment and consulting agencies, light manufacturing and many more.
We love sharing other entrepreneurs’ success stories overcoming business challenges. These aren’t small wins; they make a difference in the community. We share these successes to inspire other owners to consider their options when up against a growth obstacle. It’s amazing to watch owners read and relate to these stories online – they’re helping companies grow.
What’s some entrepreneurial advice you’ve learned?
It’s always about the people. Lean on your customers, your own employees and your team of advisors (including your family) to learn and develop. Nobody works in a silo, and it’s important to connect with people to solve challenges you otherwise couldn’t solve on your own.
Know your lane. There are so many partner opportunities out there. It can get overwhelming, and that can stagnate decision-making, and the ability to execute strategically. While we partner with accountants, accounting platforms, banks, FinTechs and other business partners, we’re actually very deliberate about who we select as a partner. They need to add value to our customers in a measurable or cultural way for us to consider spending time building out the relationship.
Establish and respect your team values. At FundThrough we’re lucky to have a fantastic team that weathers the ups and downs, because we regularly talk about our challenges and our successes openly.
They’re not always easy conversations, but it’s easier having a difficult conversation in a supportive environment, than having a crisis to deal with from the middle of nowhere.