Finance Everywhere

How a partnership between Clearco and Cart.com embeds financing at the ecommerce platform level

  • Clearco, formerly Clearbanc, is working with Cart.com to provide revenue-based financing to ecommerce businesses.
  • The solution combines capital with ecommerce software, technology and services to set itself apart from other ecommerce lenders.
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How a partnership between Clearco and Cart.com embeds financing at the ecommerce platform level

Clearco, a Toronto-based company that provides capital to ecommerce businesses, has announced a partnership with Cart.com, an ecommerce-as-a-service firm, to improve financing options for ecommerce companies. Through this collaboration, Cart.com’s customers would be able to access Clearco’s financing services from within the Cart.com dashboard.

Owners of ecommerce businesses can choose one of three different funding options, ranging from $10,000 to $10 million, which they will receive within 24 hours. They can also access up to $1 million in inventory support to help meet initial costs and free up cash flow.

Clearco uses a revenue-based financing model, which means business owners don’t need to give up equity or control of their company. “You’ve worked hard to build your business – you should own 100% of it,” reads the announcement post on Clearco’s website. Instead of giving up shares of their company, business owners repay the funds from future revenue, and can choose what percentage of their daily sales would be shared with Clearco.

At the other end of the bargain, the collaboration will provide Clearco’s portfolio of over 5,500 companies with access to Cart.com’s ecommerce platform. Founded in September 2020, Cart.com has grown rapidly and raised over $140 million in funding. It currently provides over 2,500 brands with ecommerce software, fulfillment capabilities, multichannel marketing, and customer service, which can now be used by Clearco’s customers to help build and grow their online presence.

The two firms say they share a common vision to democratize ecommerce by providing easier access to the critical resources needed to scale an online business – such as capital and domain-specific expertise – which have so far been monopolized by established giants in the space such as Amazon and Shopify. “Like Cart.com, we envision a world where founding a business is accessible to everyone, and where founders can access essential capital without having to jump through endless hoops,” said Andrew D’Souza, co-founder and CEO of Clearco. 

But how does Clearco and Cart.com’s offering try to distinguish itself from its competitors in the ecommerce lending space? According to Omair Tariq, Cart.com’s co-founder and CEO, a key differentiator is that this lending solution is offered as part of an integrated ecommerce-as-a-service model. This means that as soon as businesses receive financing, they simultaneously get access to a repository of technology and services with which to leverage their new capital, including ecommerce software, marketing and growth insights, customer service, and fulfillment capabilities.

“Although many founders are able to secure financing, they don’t always know how best to utilize their new resources strategically in order to generate great ROI,” said Tariq. “Together, Clearco and Cart.com are the missing link: we provide technology and expertise to ensure that when brands receive capital, they can use it effectively through software and services that are specifically designed to accelerate growth in ecommerce.”

A growing number of ecommerce platforms now recognize that offering integrated financial solutions is an effective way to boost conversion rates. In particular, there is a growing trend of ecommerce platforms like Amazon, Shopify and eBay incorporating lending solutions into their services, with credit scoring models based on AI and machine learning.

Mike de Vere, CEO of credit underwriting firm Zest AI, says that a critical factor these platforms need to consider is whether their underwriting models are compliant with fair lending laws and free of bias. “Tech firms need to put a ton of work into ensuring their models don’t perpetuate racism or break any laws,” he said. “When built properly, AI- and ML-based credit models can be more equitable and less biased than a human. But relying on them for high-stakes decisions such as loan underwriting requires a lot of care and rigor.”

For its part, Clearco’s D’Souza claims that the firm’s revenue-based capital offering uses a bias-free, AI-driven underwriting model, which has enabled it to reach a much higher percentage of female founders and people of color than most venture capital firms. Last year, while global funding for female founders dropped by 27 percent, Clearco funded eight times as many female-led companies as the industry average. The firm also allocated 13% of its capital to companies founded by Black and Latinx people, compared to only 2.6% allocated by traditional VC firms.

“In order to remain truly bias-free, our technology never looks at demographic data on who a founder is,” said D’Souza. “Instead, our algorithm looks at basic business metrics like revenue, margin profile, sales growth, and web traffic to make all funding decisions.”

Founded in 2015, Clearco brands itself as the world’s largest ecommerce investor. A few months back, the firm changed its name from ‘Clearbanc’ in order to signal its “move beyond capital” and reflect its broader commitment to helping ecommerce businesses grow, according to co-founder Michele Romanow. The firm also announced a $100 million Series C equity funding round in April, bringing its total valuation to nearly $2 billion.

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