When Andrea Reynolds arrived at 10 Downing Street to give a presentation to top British officials, she was too caught up in the moment to see the historic symmetry.
Hatt will set up Swoop Funding to source hundreds of millions in credit for small firms five years before the London-based Longford-born fintech entrepreneur will take over.
But like her father before her – former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds – she was more than happy to present hard facts to the British government.
“Your SME grant system is completely fragmented. You’re wasting £12bn (€14bn) a year. Each job you create costs £1m,” she told the senior business team of then-Prime Minister David Cameron, who, they say, were unaware that she was the daughter of the former Taoiseach. They were impressed.
The experience gave him the confidence to move forward with an idea that would eventually become Swoop Funding in 2018, which uses open banking protocols and data technology to match SME customers to a variety of funding sources.
Swoop has raised €10m in funding for itself in recent weeks – the firm is valued at €30m. It’s on the verge of rapid expansion, says Reynolds. It has facilitated over €600m and over €80m in grants, mainly in the UK but also in Ireland.
That figure is growing at an annual rate of 450 pcs right now and the firm has agreed a partnership with small business body Ismay to provide its members with a funding finder tool through Swoop’s technology platform. It has also launched its service in Canada, USA and Australia.
But, perhaps fittingly, it was his presentation of Downing Street nearly a decade ago that got the ball rolling.
She had left a solid position working on corporate finance with major clients at KPMG’s London office a few years ago to advise on raising funds and government grants for smaller firms, but was disappointed with the process.
At a business event she met with Downing Street’s then Director of Communications and explained the extensive research she had done: “Public sector money is not being used efficiently and SMEs cannot find it. You need a technical platform to bring it all together,” she told him.
“You seem very confident. Come to Downing Street and tell us more,” the communications director told him.
Later, former Prime Minister John Major would remember that the room in which he gave his performance was the same room in which he first met his father – a meeting that eventually led the pair to become close friends and give them important moments. Will inspire. Downing Street Manifesto Ayan paves the way for peace in the north.
Reynolds himself was a long time She would stand up and give a pitch: “Even at age 10, I stood at the box with Mike outside church on Sundays,” she says.
But even though his father held various ministerial positions and the office of the Taoiseach during his childhood and adolescence, first and foremost, he always thought of him as a businessman and entrepreneur, particularly at the C&A in nearby Edgeworthstown. His building of the D Foods Plant.
“He was a casual politician. He joined in to make sure Longford was not a place we had no choice but to emigrate. ,
But his ability to make connections with people – a defining aspect of his political personality – also made a huge impact on him: “He loved life and could ‘do it’. He kept everything simple and I liked him. He liked about
“I remember when he got the job” [as Taoiseach] He told us ‘I am going after peace’. And I remember him saying ‘of course I’ve known from showband days or from C&D’ or whatever. He brought everything back to normal relationships. ,
Of course, there were a lot of political controversy and difficult headlines, not least when his alliance with Labor broke: “I remember someone telling him at the time, ‘I don’t know how you’re coping with pressure’. He said ‘Well, if you ever had a business, and you didn’t have the money to make payroll at the end of the week, it’s pressure. It’s nothing in comparison.’
She herself had no ambition to enter politics: “You almost have to go into politics, not knowing what lies ahead of you. You know a lot when you’ve seen the other side of it. What I love about technology now is that you can do something to make people’s lives better without going to Parliament. I think my dad would have become a tech entrepreneur if he was just starting out.
After boarding school, she studied economics at UCD before joining KPMG in Dublin as a trainee accountant, then moving to its corporate finance division in London. She loved it but she had other interests as well.
“I decided to take a year off to write music but then KPMG gave me flexible time, working three days and writing music for two days.”
But ultimately Reynolds decided that the world of large corporates didn’t offer the entrepreneurial spirit she was hoping to find.
She went on to help mentor and raise funding for an innovative spinout from the McLaren Formula One team, where she learned about the funding landscape of grants, tax credits, equity investments and borrowings.
The experience gave him an important realization: Every type of funding proposal requires the same basic data.
“It was wrapped up differently depending on who the funding provider was. I also started to realize that business owners, especially innovators, weren’t necessarily as financially literate as you’d believe. Too much There was a disconnect between all the business owners and their numbers.”
She could see a need within smaller companies for the corporate finance advice she used to give to larger companies at KPMG. The idea of Swoop was born.
“I met two people at Google who wanted to make a game and I did a barter with them. I raised money for their game and they made me their prototype.
She brought Swoop co-founder and COO Ciaran Burke on board. He previously created a platform to match creative employees with employers like Sky News and Channel 4.
Matching small businesses to funding sources wasn’t all that different and Burke managed the product side while he built relationships with the funding providers himself.
The arrival of Open Banking in the UK in 2018 opened up competition to lending and brought huge opportunities for the new firm, which was founded that year with new protocols.
“We can collect a SME data and surface information for them about where they can save money, where they can borrow money, where the next grant is available for them. So in effect, we become this virtual CFO.”
The idea was ratified when Swoop won a competition by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, in collaboration with nine UK banks, to find ideas that could use open banking for SMEs.
“This meant that nine banks were mandated to operate with one fell swoop for at least three years. This was our first step to get on the map. Banks started seeing open banking as an opportunity, so they were looking for partnerships with fintechs.”
The Royal Bank of Scotland was particularly impressed and awarded Swoop £5m from a fund set up as part of its own bailout. That award, and many more after that, effectively replaced a seed round for Swoop, increasing it from six to 60 employees, 20 of whom were in Dublin.
She says the timing was perfect. The growth of alternative lending options has changed the market. She says finance has become borderless and data driven.
“We’ve done deals in Germany, we’re about to close deals in Belgium and we just funded five deals in Spain this week, even though we’re not in Spain. We don’t have a website there. But we’re there. Financing the deals.
“The world is getting smaller when it comes to funding, and that is great news for Irish SMEs.”
And yet, she says, there is a sense of hopelessness about funding in Ireland.
“All I hear is ‘Terrible news, Ulster Bank is going. KBC is going. The market is shrinking. There is less competition.’ But that’s not what I see. Banks may not be playing as much in the credit market, but I’m actually seeing options expand rather than shrink.
“With super niche products there are new financing products coming out all the time, for example for someone who has just started a business with no credit history to borrow enough to run their first production run. wants.”
Ireland, he says, has been Swoop’s toughest market to date.
“The Irish market is the most conservative market we have experienced so far and the least mature in terms of open banking.
“I don’t think Open Banking has really gotten here and I don’t think there is any sense of how valuable it is to serve SMEs.
“Working to create an alternative finance market. More competition means more options for businesses and improved competition with banks. And it helps banks because it means small businesses will survive and later for them.” Will be good customers.”
Despite his concerns about the market here at this time, Reynolds remains ambitious about the amount of lending in the Irish market.
“We worked incredibly hard to work with them and show them the value we bring to our SME customers, but also by pulling all the data together and bringing in complete applications that meet their criteria.
“Our audacious target for Ireland is €100m. It is slow burning but we have been here since 2018 and we are not going anywhere. We want to unlock some of the liquidity that exists for Irish SMEs.”
She says the new partnership with Ismay will help. Smaller firms may be more comfortable getting funding through an organization they know and trust.
And a conservative approach to funding is no reflection on the talent out there: “Irish businesses stack up very well. Management of Irish businesses is stronger than in other countries.”
Reynolds’ father once famously said that Ireland needed peace above all as he did his part in working on it.
She passionately believes that external finance can increase productivity for Irish firms and is determined to bring the strength of her own personality to accomplish that task.
“We’re trying to do two things,” she says. “Improve awareness and demand among SMEs and then prove to the suppliers of finance that this is indeed a healthy market to be active in.”
Can you remember any advice that has stood out to you in your career?
The one that sticks with me the most is dad telling me “always go with your gut”.
Then I went to one particular bar with my gut and he was like “Are you sure?” I told him, “I know it’s not convenient to mention it right now, but you told me to go with my gut.” “Fair enough,” he said.
And I have gone through life doing exactly that. Some asked how it felt for KPMG to go out on its own.
Or how it felt to start a tech company when I wasn’t a techie. To be honest, I never really thought about any of these things.
So if I were to advise someone about their career, I guess I would have to say “go with your gut”.
Founder and CEO, Swoop Funding
between Ireland and the UK but London is home
Married to music producer Jamie Petrie (who wrote the d:ream ’90s classic Things Can Only Get Better). Four stepchildren aged 21 to 31.
Elementary school in Longford, secondary school in La Sainte Union in Bangher, co-offee and economics at UCD
Traction: Hold on to Your Business by Gino Wickman
“Music is a big part of my life. I’m a traditionalist and love the Rolling Stones, Bowie, all that. But my stepson is a recording artist and is very good at rap and emerging music from the London scene, so I Really getting into that. My family’s house always had an open door policy and so do we, so he and his friends come over and record their albums, which is great.”