If you’re a small business, you don’t need to be told that small businesses were hit harder than large ones during the financial crisis. Bank loans, especially those for less than $350,000, dried up. Small businesses—especially Main Street firms—couldn’t get the money they needed to maintain cash flow, hire new employees orpurchase new inventory or equipment to grow their businesses.
But, as the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. “Emerging online players are filling the void left by many banks, and pushing innovation within the banking sector in the same ways in which other online upstarts such as Amazon.com changed retail and Square has changed the small business payments business,” wrote Karen Gordon Mills and Brayden McCarthy in The State of Small Business Lending: Credit Access During the Recovery and How Technology May Change the Game (PDF), a Harvard Business School working paper.
Whether online or offline, alternative lending caters to customers who need cash but might not qualify for traditional bank loans. It’s even attracting some small businesses that would otherwise qualify for a cheaper traditional bank loan but don’t want to deal with the traditional hassle. In these cases, some businesses determine that the flexibility that comes with alternative lending is worth the extra cost.