Our Start-up of the Week is Luna Connect, a digital platform for lenders that makes it easier to provide loans online.
Luna Connect’s platform provides banks, credit unions and alternative lenders with the tools they need to accept loan applications online, gather supporting data digitally and use artificial intelligence to automatically process the data and make better, quicker decisions.
CEO and founder Brian D’Arcy has worked in enterprise software and data platforms similar to Luna Connect for the last 15 years. D’Arcy has a background in enterprise software development, data analytics and artificial intelligence, and prior to founding this start-up, most of his career was spent in Hewlett Packard.
“Our focus is the SME lending market,” D’Arcy told Siliconrepublic.com. “There is €40bn lent to SMEs in the UK and Ireland every year.
“Lending to SMEs is high-cost and high-risk. We are using technology to transform this, using data and analytics to improve operational efficiencies and help lenders make better-informed decisions.”
D’Arcy noted that the situation in the US is quite similar, which presents a huge opportunity for his company to grow. There’s also the option of offering his product to customers in the personal and mortgage lending space – markets which are three times the size of the SME lending market.
“Our ultimate goal is that every time you take out a loan, it’s our tech in the background processing it and it’s done instantly,” D’Arcy added.
As banking has become more invisible and embedded in everything we do, he sees a similar future for lending.
“Banks, credit unions and alternative lenders white-label our SaaS platform to provide online loans. Borrowers apply and connect their data online, our real-time algorithms analyse the data submitted, and lenders can make decisions instantly,” D’Arcy explained.
“Manual decisions are replaced with a hybrid of human and artificial intelligence, which reduces risk and loan origination and processing costs.
“We provide the tools a lender needs to deliver online loans with no up-front capital expenditure or expensive integration projects. With just two lines of HTML code, our product can be integrated into a lender’s website.”
The most important tools D’Arcy and the Luna Connect team use in their own work are, perhaps unsurprisingly, Slack and Trello. These help to keep everything running smoothly and keep the team in sync.
When asked about the challenges he has to deal with in business, D’Arcy simply replied, “Customers, customers, customers”.
“It’s what every start-up needs, from your early customer validation through to pilots and your first contracts. It’s all about access to the right customers. In the early days this will come through your network, so you need to put a lot of time and effort into building this.”
However, the supports in the Irish start-up scene can help self-starters based here to overcome these difficulties, according to D’Arcy.
“The supports are very accessible and you need to get out there and talk to them. We have been supported by Enterprise Ireland, NDRC and the PorterShed in Galway. This has given us access to an amazing network of mentors and advisors, and we would not be where we are today without them.”
Things are currently going well for Luna Connect after completing an NDRC programme at PorterShed last year. “It really accelerated our business development and gave us great focus and clarity on what we were doing,” D’Arcy said.
“We are now piloting our product with a number of customers in the SME lending space and working with other lenders to start pilots in the coming months.”
When it comes to funding, the company has its seed round coming up in the second half of 2019. D’Arcy says funding will help scale in the UK and Ireland over the next two years.