WHU General

Full Speed Ahead for Online Retailers

WHU start-up "fulfin" provides promising high-growth start-ups with easy access to loans

He is an entrepreneur, graduate of the Kellogg-WHU Executive MBA program at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management and co-founder of the fintech fulfin: Nathan Evans. His company strives to give young enterprises in online retail a perspective for quicker growth. Contrary to this, traditional credit models have often proven themselves to be too ponderous and were not able to keep up with the fast developments of a start-up in its early stages.

Quick decisions, less bureaucracy

"We are very proud of the fact that some of our clients have received a positive credit decision from us before they even received the confirmation of a first appointment with their bank advisor," fulfin co-founder Nathan Evans is pleased to say. It quickly becomes apparent that at fulfin things happen at a different pace. The fintech specializes in providing online merchants and Direct-to-Consumer Brands with effortless working capital. In addition, fulfin offers solutions to help e-commerce entrepreneurs better manage their liquidity and inventory. After all, speed is what matters most when it comes to financing in order to prevent online sellers running into liquidity problems and also to enable them to take advantage of the momentum when they enter the online market with an innovative product. "E-commerce companies need to be able to purchase products quickly and invest in performance marketing. At that point, fulfin helps them scale their business on their own terms," the company founder adds.

Financing solutions for digital natives

The business model of traditional financial institutions increasingly lacks the ability to provide suitable loans for young and rapidly scaling e-commerce start-ups. "Our focus on e-commerce gives us a competitive advantage over providers who take a one-size-fits-all-approach. At fulfin, the entire application process is fully digitized. We make heavy use of APIs to simplify the application process and clients receive a decision two days of submitting a complete application. In short, it is everything our digital native clients have been asking for," says Evans, describing the speedy process. Even for other fintechs, this processing speed is hard to match. Young founders have requirements that demand modern offerings.

Good times for e-commerce and fintechs

The criteria for credit are much less restrictive than typically encountered at the bank: the company must be based in Germany, existed for at least three months, and generating at least 5,000 euros in revenues each month. For larger customers, fulfin offers loans up to 250.000 euros and one year.

Especially in difficult times, when traditional banks are more reluctant to lend to start-ups or confront them with significantly higher hurdles, fulfin wants to provide them with fast, flexible, and fair liquidity. For young e-commerce businesses in Germany, this is positive news. Moreover, WHU alumnus Evans believes that Germany is better positioned than one might initially think when it comes to fintechs: "Germany is a leading destination for fintechs in Europe. Of course, the UK still dominates fintech with half of the top 50 fintechs by valuation being based there. Germany, however, is second in the rankings with seven companies."

A highly supportive network

Before Nathan Evans founded fulfin with his business partner Fredi Gruber in 2018, the entrepreneur, who had already gained years of experience in investment banking in London, Munich, and Zurich, took part in the Kellogg-WHU Executive MBA program at WHU. In 2011, he graduated from the program with experiences that he is glad he did not forgo: "The professors in the program are world-class, which is reflected in the rankings, and I found my fellow students were equally impressive. Successful entrepreneurs and corporate leaders from all domains came together to make each module an exciting and unique learning experience in a truly global environment." The unique network still impresses the fulfin founder today. It has provided him with support on numerous occasions in the past. "I treat the Kellogg-WHU network as my extended brain and often reach out to colleagues, who are experts in their field, for insightful and valuable feedback on both life and business topics. For fulfin the network was critical with regard to fundraising, expert advice, and both direct and indirect recruiting.”

E-commerce – an idea whose time has come

Fulfin does not see its product as a replacement for equity or even fully for long-term bank loans, but rather as a valuable contribution to the funding mix of an early stage and revenue positive online business. In this way, fulfin seems to have its finger on the pulse of the times. As early as 2008, the Händlerbund, Europe's largest online trade association and e-commerce network, called for the consistent development of the entire e-commerce industry to take account of the rapid increase in the volume of online sales. The COVID-19 pandemic has now given this development an additional boost. "Our business has benefited from the strong growth many of our customers have experienced as shopping has moved online and also the fact that other lenders have become even less reachable and capable of processing applications," Evans says. Fulfin itself, however, relies on fundraising campaigns like the one launched in January – a step that is often not necessary for its customers due to the lending. "To build fulfin we have had to invest heavily in tech, legal, and product and will continue to do so to build a large and relevant business. The companies we finance are generally in the e-commerce branch and need working capital for short term investments."

Nathan Evans is convinced that e-commerce will replace brick-and-mortar retail on a larger scale sooner or later. In the US or the UK, these trends are already much more visible. "I don't believe that the closure of large stores or impersonal chains will be a serious loss for our cities and towns. I'm much more curious to see how e-commerce retail will shape them in the future."     

Although he lives in Munich, Nathan Evans still regularly visits the campus in Vallendar as part of the lifelong learning program at WHU and has an unambiguous conclusion: "With the support of a strong network and the favorable climate for innovative ideas in general, it is a great time to be a fintech founder in Germany!"