The start of a new year is a time to look forward and plan, but it also offers the perfect opportunity to reflect on the challenges and opportunities of the previous year.
2020 was a tumultuous year in many ways, overshadowed and defined by the emergence of CoVid-19, an event that changed the world irrevocably and meant that even the best-laid plans had to be jettisoned completely or, at the very least, reconsidered and restructured. Like the rest of the world, EstateGuru suffered from the fallout of the lockdowns and the resultant economic challenges, but I am proud to say that we stayed strong under pressure and emerged with our values, our business model and our place in the world reaffirmed.
Major events and developments
The first part of 2020 was spent planning for our first-ever crowdfunding equity round. We wanted to give ordinary users a chance to own shares in EstateGuru and chose the UK based platform Seedrs as our partner. After many months of planning and preparation, we were hit broadside by the emergence of the Covid crisis just as we were ready to get going. Rather than postpone the raise until later, we decided to trust in our business model and maintain our belief that our users would support us. We were handsomely rewarded. By the end of the round, we had raised over three times the minimum investment amount, raising a total of €914,536 from 1102 investors.
Elsewhere we undertook the major development of integrating the Lemonway payment system on our platform. This was done with an eye on the future, and will make it easier for us to meet regulatory requirements in European countries we plan on expanding to.
New countries, new people
At the beginning of 2020, we had set ourselves the ambitious goal of fully launching in two new countries by the end of the year, and we had decided on Finland and Germany.
We officially launched in Finland on 29 September, having appointed Matti Vansen to head up our operations in the country. This came after more than a year of laying the groundwork. “We’ve been actively talking to Finnish entrepreneurs since August 2019 and we’re confident that the Finnish market is ready for a modern operator such as EstateGuru. We wish to bring the benefits of alternative financing to a broader audience and offer a true alternative to the conventional loan market that may often be perceived as stiff and bureaucratic“, commented Vansen at the time.
As Europe’s largest economy, Germany had been on our radar for quite some time. On November 19 we were finally able to announce our launch there. Nicola Picone heads up our operations in the country, and he had this to say: “Alternative finance is gaining popularity in Germany. According to a recent study, 84% of alternative lenders are expecting the number of originations to increase. EstateGuru will certainly be an attractive option to choose from. And we believe that we can add quality and flexible financing opportunities for SMEs“.
We are expecting German and Scandinavian deal flow to surpass the Baltics during 2021 and enter two more markets this year.
Elsewhere we were honoured and privileged to welcome Gabriella Kindert to our supervisory board as an independent member. She brings over 20 years of international experience in managing investment portfolios over the cycle for leading institutional investors while creating and successfully launching several new, innovative private market investment strategies.
The topline numbers
In the aftermath of the initial phase of the Covid crisis, where our lending volumes dropped due to investor uncertainty and caution, we started to rebuild some fantastic momentum, to the point where each month during the autumn we were breaking another record, with the year ending on the ultimate high of €18,3 million funded in December and an extraordinary €120,2 million funded over the entire 12 months. This represented a 400% growth from April to December. Our group revenues also grew around 70% in 2020 reaching €4,7 million.
In terms of investor numbers, 2020 was also a banner year, with a record number of new investors joining EstateGuru – 53% growth in numbers when compared to 2019. These new investors helped us rack up a record day of investments on 20 November with a total of €2,2 million invested and close to 8000 individual investments made. This was more than the Nasdaq Baltic (to make a humble comparison with other asset classes) and is something we are rightfully proud of.
We are happy to observe that our platform now receives over 100 000 unique visitors per month, passing Funding Circle, Rate Setter and Zopa – the three biggest lending platforms from the UK.
Eleven fantastic people joined our team to help you towards financial freedom we all deserve! That means we now have 54 employees in total.
In spite of hectic times, the default rate on loans has also remained stable at 2.6% from facilitated loans and, because of the strong recoveries by our risk team, our investors have still not experienced any capital losses. The defaulted and recovered loans have earned our investors about 10% return instead.
We finished the year by taking the runners up spot in the AltFi Awards in the People’s Choice category, which served as the perfect affirmation that our users love and trust the platform.
I look forward to more spectacular growth, exciting developments and, most of all, happy investors and borrowers during 2021.
All the best for the new year
Co-founder and CEO