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Forum offers entrepreneurs ways to use technology to access capital

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U.S. Sen. Cory Booker brought important issues for small business owners to his forum.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker brought important issues for small business owners to his forum. - (AARON HOUSTON)

The forum was about ways to get capital for a small business, but technology was a vital watchword Friday in Newark, as U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) hosted a roundtable discussion called the New Models to Improve Access to Capital Summit.

“As much as we complain, and rightly so, about the tightening capital markets and no access for small businesses, there are actually a lot of alternative means with which to get loans now with the aid of technology,” Booker said after the event held at Rutgers Business School. “… There are options out there for entrepreneurs and, so, what I want New Jersey to really know is that, don’t give up if you’re being denied from a traditional bank because there’s other folks that have a much better process of getting more capital out there.”

Many of these alternative types of financiers made up the panel at the summit, which included everyone from direct lenders and the creators of online lending platforms to advisors who counsel businesses on the best ways to qualify for loans.

One key speaker was U.S. Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, a member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet who talked about the ways the SBA works with companies to help them get funding and her hopes going forward.

“I’m looking very much forward to working with Sen. Booker on ways that we can do things, through executive action or through legislation,” she said during the forum. “But we need to make certain that we are looking toward the future and being inventive.”

RELATED:Booker's latest forum offers entrepreneurs capital lessons

That look toward the future included panelists who addressed cutting-edge topics such as peer-to-peer lending, alternatives to credit scores, how interest rates vary across nontraditional loans, online ways to connect would-be borrowers with nontraditional lenders and the theme of the day: the massive challenge of gaining access to capital investments.

Panelists included:

  • Jay Savulich, managing director of programs, Rising Tide Capital;
  • Jeff Bogan, senior vice president, Lending Club;
  • Justin Renfro, associate manager of business development, Kiva Zip;
  • Noah Breslow, CEO, OnDeck;
  • Paul Quintero, CEO, Accion East;
  • Rohan Mathew, president and CEO, Intersect Fund;
  • Rohit Arora, co-founder and CEO, Biz2Credit;
  • Steve Allocca, head of credit, PayPal;
  • Robert Frohwein, CEO, Kabbage;
  • And David Nayor, president and COO, BoeFly.

One particular lesson the panel wanted to impart was that some nontraditional lenders don’t necessarily want to know scores and statistics as much as they want to know their customers, Mathew said. Sometimes, character and networking can be just as important as data, Renfro added, because nontraditional borrowers may need to rely on nontraditional selling points when they seek out capital.

Another lesson was the idea of communication, whether that was talking with a counselor from the SBA or an organization like Savulich’s Rising Tide Capital, or just spending time with peers.

Quintero, like Booker and many of the panelists, urged the entrepreneurs and students in the audience to build connections and get relevant advice even as they seek out funding.

 “There’s a lot of support up until the time you start your business,” Quintero said, adding that “No one knows your pain like the person in your seat.”

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Eric Strauss

Eric Strauss

Eric Strauss is the digital content editor for NJBIZ. He has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as well as for a number of websites. You can contact him at erics@njbiz.com or @acerimrat on Twitter.

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