Automation and predictable cashflow are keys to accessing and leveraging funding
The funding landscape is constantly changing, with new programs being introduced, others closing, and requirements varying frequently. It can be difficult for companies seeking funding to match programs to their planned projects, as well as keep track of available funding. Understanding how to present and position projects can create additional challenges, resulting in some companies not applying for or claiming the funding they are eligible for. Facilitating access to programs, funding data and information through automation can accelerate innovation and growth, allowing companies to launch more projects while streamlining the funding process.
Once claims or applications are submitted, having to wait for the funds can affect cashflow. Financing funded projects upfront enables companies to continue their daily operations while investing in new initiatives.
Fundingportal is the leading provider of digital solutions to help businesses source, apply for, and receive grants and incentives funding, while Easly’s online application process facilitates growth through non-dilutive advances on SR&ED and grants financing. This week, Fundingportal discussed the future of funding with Andrew Kareckas, Easly’s Executive Vice-President & General Manager.
What is the biggest change you are seeing when it comes to the funding landscape?
The amount of money and the number of programs. The presence of COVID-19 alongside the federal government’s policy goals has created an extremely strong stream of investment in innovation. Looking ahead, we foresee challenges in deploying these funds, both in terms of timing and in finding enough projects that meet the relevant criteria.
What are Easly’s clients most concerned about when it comes to government funding? What are their biggest challenges?
Tax credit refunds like SR&ED and grant programs reimburse recipients on a schedule that is either driven by the tax year or driven by the capabilities of the entity making the disbursements. Money generally does not flow according to the needs of the business or the project in question. Steady, predictable cashflow is the lifeblood of any business, especially growing ones, and our clients work with Easly to provide this very thing.
What is the biggest misconception around claiming or applying for funding?
We often hear business owners say “I have other priorities” but we strongly believe that maximizing government incentives is worth the investment of your time. In many cases multiple grants and ITCs can be stacked to provide a major injection of capital. Applying for and receiving these funds requires a fraction of the effort it takes to do an equity raise. I would also argue that maximizing these programs increases a company’s valuation – and this should be part of the growth strategy for any qualifying business.
Who is the typical client benefitting from Easly’s services?
Any business receiving tax credit refunds or grant funding that can benefit from better cashflow will benefit from working with Easly. We see ourselves as the last mile in government funding – solving the ‘how’ and the ‘when’. If your business gets innovation tax incentives or government grants, we can help you turn that into consistent cashflow to operate your business.
What impact does financing SR&ED claims upfront have on helping companies innovate and grow?
Having their SR&ED refund available on demand allows businesses to make use of a capital asset that is traditionally off limits until roughly 6 months after their year-end. That money can be used to hire new staff, accelerate projects, pay overhead, etc. For companies that reinvest the funds in SR&ED eligible work, the refund grows by 4x the cost of borrowing.
The market is clearly ready to reap the benefits of technology enabled financial services.Andrew Kareckas, Executive Vice-President & General Manager, Easly
What impact is digital transformation having on the funding process?
Easly is a platform. We use technology to enable our application, underwriting and funding processes. While we are on the leading edge, the market is clearly ready to reap the benefits of technology enabled financial services. Business owners get their money faster and on their terms. As this progresses, traditional institutions will adapt and catch up to the market leaders. Ultimately, users will get better customer service and faster returns.
How is Easly using automation to make funding more accessible?
Clients apply at fundeasly.com in under 30 minutes. We use a variety of tools and our platform to process initial applications within 48 hours. From start to funding, we are experiencing 3-10 days. To put this in context, traditional lending takes several weeks at best, and frequently takes months. We use automation to speed up our application and underwriting processes, focusing our efforts on providing terrific customer service.
How much awareness do Easly’s SR&ED clients have regarding the grants available for their projects?
We talk to a lot of people in businesses of all shapes and sizes. Roughly half of them have a good understanding of what funding is available, and half are not as well informed. One of the unintended benefits of working in this space has been to make Easly an unofficial ambassador for grants and ITCs. We believe in these programs and genuinely want Canadian innovators to have what they need to succeed. We do a lot of educating, and frequently refer our clients to experts in the consulting industry and to resources like the FundingPortal.
What percentage of Easly SR&ED clients would you say are also applying for grants?
Nearly all our clients have taken advantage of one program or another. Roughly half of our clients stack multiple programs into the same project, especially SR&ED with either SDTC or supercluster grants.
The application process is at present a hurdle when it should be an accelerator of funding.Andrew Kareckas, Executive Vice-President & General Manager, Easly
How are you seeing automation and digital transformation transferring over to the grant space?
This is a new space. The first frontier has been to make finding grants a more ‘applicant friendly’ experience. Institutions like Fundingportal have consolidated programs and application criteria in one place that is easy to use and cost effective to access. The next step is to automate the application process. There is a lot of variance in application complexity and both government and industry would benefit from simplifying this. These funds need to get into the hands of recipients. The application process is at present a hurdle when it should be an accelerator of funding.
At what point in the grants process does Easly step in? Do you finance only the government portion or the company’s contribution as well?
There is no wrong time to bring Easly in. We can work with a single program or the full range of programs a business is using, resulting in better cashflow. By leveraging all programs, Easly can finance the ‘owner’s end’ of the grant AND accelerate the ‘government’s end’ of the grant.
What types of grants do you prefer to fund?
We like to fund grants where we provide value to the business and to government. When the grant cashflow is not already optimized, Easly wants to help. There are certainly situations where the funds are readily available when they are needed, but most businesses can benefit from having those funds sooner.
What trends are you seeing in the U.S. that are relevant to Canadian companies?
By far the biggest trend is the incredible economic rebound we are seeing in many parts of the world. This includes significant government funding as well as better market conditions. Canadian companies can take a cue from their U.S. counterparts and use this opportunity to be aggressive and grow their businesses. It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur.
What advice would you give to companies not currently maximizing their funding potential?