Resources for Buying and Selling Online Businesses

Get Inventory Funding Without Taking on Debt or Giving Up Equity


Sean De ClercqSean De Clercq is the CEO of Kickfurther, a successful crowdfunding platform. Throughout his entrepreneurial career, Sean’s driving goal has been to create a solution to one of the most difficult problems that businesses face: funding the production of their inventory. Fittingly, Sean created Kickfurther to fund inventory for direct-to-consumer and major store brands such as Target, Amazon, Aldi, and more.

In addition to running Kickfurther, Sean also works as an Entrepreneur Mentor at Rutgers Business School.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [03:15] Sean De Clercq talks about designing an inventory asset marketplace that connects businesses
  • [07:13] What funding an investment looks like with Kickfurther
  • [12:33] Why maintaining a healthy ecosystem correlates with a healthy marketplace
  • [16:51] Sean discusses qualifications and funding options for businesses
  • [21:18] How an entrepreneurial spirit can help brands grow

In this episode…

As a product business in today’s market, where can you access funding for new inventory to fulfill purchase orders and invoices? If you’re unable to secure funding through traditional sources, how can you build your brand?

Sean De Clercq and his team at Kickfurther created a cash-flow-friendly solution for product entrepreneurs. With inflation creating a ruckus in the marketplace, it can be daunting for entrepreneurs to acquire loans. Sean helps people turn their cash into physical goods, which are then placed on consignment with growing product businesses. If you’re a brand owner and need inventory without taking on debt, this episode is for you.

In this episode of the Quiet Light Podcast, Joe Valley sits down with Sean De Clercq, CEO and Co-founder of Kickfurther, to talk about growing a company by 80% in 2022 through consignment funding. Sean discusses funding and connecting businesses, the ins and outs of co-op financing, and future goals for Kickfurther. Stay tuned!

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:07

Hi folks. It’s the Quiet Light Podcast where we share relentlessly honest insights, actionable tips, and entrepreneurial stories that will help founders identify and reach their goals.

Joe Valley  0:32

Hey folks, Joe Valley here. Thanks for joining me for another episode of the Quiet Light Podcast today. I’ve got a guest on that was on about a year and a half ago was named Sean De Clercq. He’s from a company called Kickfurther, if you are an investor, and you want to invest in a multiple, multiple varieties of e-commerce businesses, take a look at Kickfurther as a funder, if you are a brand owner and need inventory and you want to get access to funding for more inventory without taking on debt or giving up equity. You’ve got to look at Kickfurther. Sean’s success story is really, really impressive. We talked about that, in terms of the arc of the company and what they’re doing, where they are now how they did in 2022. They were up 80% in 2022 of our previous years, and they’re not a young company, relatively speaking there. I think he launched it in 2017. I think when he was said he was a young guy. He’s 36 years old now really, really impressive. That’s a really, really impressive backers as well. Definitely take a listen, both in terms of learning what it’s like to run a company that is growing at this pace, and also as an option for you as an investor or as an option for you to gain funding for your inventory without taking on debt, or giving up some of your equity. Here we go. Sean, welcome back to the Quiet Light Podcast. How are you?

Sean De Clercq 1:50

Very good, Joe. Glad to be back.

Joe Valley  1:52

It’s been a while and you had a busy year in 2022? Did Yeah.

Sean De Clercq  1:56

Yeah, banner year for Kickfurther more growth in 2022 than ever, ever before.

Joe Valley  2:02

Total percentage, top and 50%. So

Sean De Clercq  2:07

what’s really exciting for me, like sitting from the seat of the CEO is what we grew our GMV and our revenue by 80%. But at the same time, we grew our gross profit by 187%. So my life has gotten a lot better and less stressful than the last 12 months.

Joe Valley  2:25

That doesn’t happen often. Congratulations. That’s fantastic. So Kickfurther this got a bit of a different model than most other inventory growth capital lenders type of thing. Can you summarize it for the folks that don’t know about you yet?

Sean De Clercq  2:38

Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, we touched on this last time. But what makes us Kickfurther very unique is we’re not a lender. So we don’t issue loans. We don’t do anything like that. We actually operate as an inventory asset marketplace. So businesses, specifically product businesses that we’re working with today, right, you need stuff to sell, right physical goods, and it’s, in most cases, you have to pay a factory to make the stuff before they’re gonna give it to you and you can start selling it, you know, if you haven’t been able to negotiate terms or something like that. And so what we’ve designed is a pretty, I think, I think, a pretty nifty solution where, you know, you’re connected to an entire marketplace of people who are willing to buy that stuff from the factory, and then we leverage a consignment contract. So that inventory, those assets are placed on consignment with a product business, as they sell through the inventory, it triggers that underlying consignment, and then they pay the people that funded it and actually own the inventory back portion of the proceeds.

Joe Valley  3:37

So even though your investors own the inventory, your client, the brand owner would have possession of it at the three PL or at Amazon or wherever they store their inventory, right.

Sean De Clercq  3:45

Yeah, exactly. Yes. Produced and placed on consignment with them. So

Joe Valley  3:49

this is interesting from from sort of two angles, right. So the audience is full of buyers and sellers and investors as well. You’ve got obviously the brand owners, the buyers that would use your services that grow their business as well, the current owners, but investors too. Am I am I am I right there because the people that are buying this inventory, providing the funding for the inventory, are earning a return on their investment through kicks rather. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Can you detail that?

Sean De Clercq  4:15

Yeah, absolutely. So essentially, they’re buying the inventory. They take it on their balance sheet. The people that are you know, the funders, we call them inventory funders or buyers. And what they earn in exchange is as a consignment profit. So essentially, the inventory is placed on consignment with a business, the business doesn’t have to pay for it on day one, right. So it’s a very cashflow friendly solution for product entrepreneurs. So $0 cash out of pocket for the product business, they get the stuff when they sell it, it triggers that underlying consignment contract. We monitor Kickfurther monitors the inventory, and then we invoice as the inventory sold, ACH debit and then distribute the inventory proceeds the sales pro rata to to funders, and you can imagine it’s like typically about one and a half percent consignment profit per month is offered to the funders in exchange for buying that inventory and placing it on consignment. So if you think like, takes about four months to sell through inventory, you buy $100 of inventory, you might expect to earn $106. In total, when the inventory sells through.

Joe Valley  5:22

What’s the success rate for the funders? How much of them are losing money?

Sean De Clercq  5:29

That’s a good question. So I can tell you is our platform dollar adjusted loss adjusted IRR. Actually, I should call it annualized consignment profit is 15%. So that’s including the deals, the inventory that gets lost, that gets pulled back put through a liquidation channel and cash returned to the funders. And there are some cases and this is something I’m working to solve right now. Where if you come onto the platform, there’s like a overall of a six and a half percent cancellation rate, but we get a lot of the that money paid back even when it Co Op is canceled. There’s some situations right now, if you only want to put like 5000 bucks to work against inventory, you can only get into like two or three or four coops. And that’s like, not good, right? We really want people to be able to get access to 30 or 50 consignments at the same time. So that’s something I’m actively working to solve for our customers.

Joe Valley  6:29

So as the funders, you want to spread your risk, essentially, not have it in in one or two brands, but in

Sean De Clercq  6:35

30 brands. So that’s another way of asking the question. So a good funders that have the best returns the best earned the most profit have made outsized bets on certain coops, so they find someone they’re like, this guy’s this business is a winner. I like working with I recertify, for instance, right. And when they come up, they have 123 good experiences. And then they start doubling, tripling quadrupling their participations in the groups that they find to be winners. And for us, if a business is ever canceled, and they’re they no longer they essentially return the inventory of the platform. They’re not allowed to fund any future inventory consignments through Kickfurther. So essentially, what the best, like smartest folks, right are people that have some kind of visibility or knowledge or, you know, are bringing something to the table where they’re able to kind of like, identify great brands to work with, or great inventory that is well priced and is going to sell and the markets hot, you know, to be honest, I’m not in the minds of these funders. So I can’t tell you exactly what goes into their decisions. But but there are some folks that have significantly outsized profitability,

Joe Valley  7:49

what kind of access to the, to the brand owners information do they get in order to make a decision to fund that particular investment?

Sean De Clercq  8:00

So there’s a comment section where you can ask any of the businesses, you know, questions when they launch and usually, you know, our funding period is usually around like a week or so. So there’s, there’s times usually there’s time for you to get some comments back. But we’re also happy to facilitate introductions, right? We know, for certain funders that want, like a, like a, that have certain questions that that might not want to be publicly shared on a comment board. Right? We’ve made introductions to the entrepreneurs so they can ask their questions directly. For a period in 2018. We were doing webinars for every single coop, but we stopped doing that because it was kind of a bear to facilitate that all, you know,

Joe Valley  8:47

yeah. Given the volume that you’ve done, man, that that would be nearly impossible. What have you funded about 1000? purchases, or I don’t know what you call them? You’ve done about 1000 investments, or you’ve facilitated them? Yeah. Is it 1000 At this point,

Sean De Clercq  9:02

man, I mean, we’re probably close to 2000. And at this point, like I said, we had an 80%, growth year in 2022. So things really started ripping, how’s

Joe Valley  9:11

How’s I mean, I know, we’re only you know, a few weeks into 2023. But what’s your outlook for 2023? Given the economic conditions and things of that nature?

Sean De Clercq  9:19

So what’s super interesting with the economic conditions is they really affect everybody else more than they affect us. Right? So if you think like a lender that’s like borrowing from a bank, right, in order to like lend against a portfolio, as the interest rates go up, and as the bank charges them more, like there’s probably a business that used to be profitable for them to lend when they could borrow at 2%. Now they have to borrow at six and that business isn’t profitable anymore, right? So something as the pricing of middling interest costs come up, right, like the risk aperture narrows for our competitors, right? Because they they have to adjust for that risk and that additional cost somewhere, and so we see in this market, and it’s also happened in 2022, right after the pandemic, that there’s just a pullback, right? You see, like wave flyers, laying off people clear COEs laying off people just broadly across the market, what you see is a reduction in support for product entrepreneurs as you head into, let’s say, choppy market conditions. Right? And what’s interesting for us is we don’t operate in that way. So we are not borrowing debt, right? The fact that interest rates have gone up, yes, there’s some theory that like, there’s like, the next best alternative has improved, right? For our funders, where before you put your money into a bank account, it earns 0%. Now you put your money into a bank account, it earns What, like 1.85%, or 2%, or something, right? So it’s a little bit better. But it’s still way worse than inflation, right? And so it’s like, if you have cash sitting in a bank account, you definitely don’t want it to sit in that bank account for 2023. Right? Because it’s going to be worth less by the end of this year than it’s worth today. And the funny thing about inflation, what is inflation means it means the value of goods is going up over time, right? Like the socks you buy today are going to cost more tomorrow, right? That’s the theory of an inflationary environment. And so giving people the opportunity to turn their cash into physical goods, which are then placed on consignment, with growing product businesses. That’s like winning market conditions, as far as I can see, for the Kickfurther marketplace.

Joe Valley  11:27

Yeah, I think it is for sure. So from the brand owners perspective, talk to me about the benefits of the Kickfurther model versus other growth capital models that are out there, and you know, people that you some might call your competitors. Yeah.

Sean De Clercq  11:45

So I would say definitely, there’s others that solve the problem, the solve the same problem, we’re solving just with a very different solution, right. So pretty much everyone else out there is doing some type of lending, or loan, right, which means that every single time you take on one of these, like debts, Merchant cash advances, small business loans, whatever it is, it’s this, like equity erosion event right on your balance sheet. So you get $1,000 of cash, you have to pay back $1,200 as a liability, right? You just eroded $200 of owner’s equity, up until the point that you turn that cash into profit, right? Like buy inventory, turn it back into profit, and then you build your equity up on the balance sheet again. So it’s bad for a couple of reasons. One, for physical product businesses, it’s just like cash flow is king. Right? So our solution is the only one in market that I’m aware of where you can have your next production of inventory funded without paying an additional dollar, right, like $0 cash out of pocket, you get that next lot of inventory in your warehouse so that you can start selling it. That’s extremely powerful. And even like good loan to value ratios, or maybe like north of 50%, but there’s nobody that’s funding 100% Cost of Goods, the way that Kickfurther is right, as far as I know. Yeah, that

Joe Valley  13:04

just just a consignment aspect of it is so attractive from a cash flow perspective for brand owners when they want to grow. Yeah, cuz they’re not, they’re not committed, I talked to somebody recently that made an investment bought a company that you know, with a with a 10 year loan and a fixed payment, and you know, things have taken a downturn and making the payments on that investment is a bit of a challenge for them. What happens if, you know, I, as a brand owner, and selling on consignment, and it just takes me seven months to sell through instead of for nothing, or it’s just costing me a little bit more, because I’m holding that note longer or that can do on that consignment longer? Is that the case?

Sean De Clercq  13:47

Well, so what we were there are additional fees. And what we asked our businesses to do, like if we have to provide servicing on a coop for seven months instead of four, that increases our cost. So there are some additional fees for processing a co op that goes beyond the expected selling period. But in most cases, we’re very happy to like my goal is not to run a fee based company, right? So those fees exist to really try and incentivize people to stay within their expected selling timeline, right. But what we normally do is we’ll say, Listen, if you true up your payments to your users, right, they had their assets placed with you for seven months instead of for four months, right? If you true up the users Kickfurther is willing, in 99% of cases to waive almost all of the other fees, right. So our our concern is mostly mostly in maintaining that healthy ecosystem to make sure that the marketplace stays healthy. Now, if you’ve returned inventory, and you’re like, I give up right, I have no idea how I’m gonna sell this. We don’t allow future participations on the marketplace.

Joe Valley  14:49

So what happens in that situation? So that I give up I’ve got, you know, $3,000 worth of inventory $30,000 worth of inventory. Do you sell it off? Do you Do you abandon it? Do you write it off? What happens? The investors or the funding partners, shrug the shoulders and write it off or what happens?

Sean De Clercq  15:09

So they get the cool thing is that they get to decide, right? So we will the first thing we do is we get the inventory back and we count it as Kickfurther. So how much of how much inventory actually exists? Right? Did they return 30 grand, whatever inventory that’s not returned to Kickfurther in sellable deliverable condition is due as if it was sold, right. So if it’s destroyed in a fire, if, you know, they sent it out as a free sample to a buyer, they gave it away as a Christmas gift, right? whatever circumstance, right? If we don’t get the inventory back, it triggers the underlying consignment. Now, let’s say we do get the inventory back, we counted it sellable condition, and we go out to the buyers and we say to them, Hey, you just purchased you own, like 50 T shirts, and we’ve got them here, right. So if you want, and buyers have done this, they’ll take delivery of the inventory that they funded, and all they have to do is pay shipping, and they get the inventory at a cost of goods, right the manufacturers price, which, you know, if you’re buying a few 100 bucks, and you’ve got Christmas or holidays or something coming up, like not a terrible outcome for the people that are buying more inventory there. I haven’t seen anyone take delivery of multiple pallets in one of these situations. So those guys more typically are taking a liquidation option where we put it through a liquidation channel. And that’s where they’re taking a real haircut on the original cost of goods.

Joe Valley  16:29

Okay, so what’s it take from a brand owners perspective to qualify for funding through Kickfurther.

Sean De Clercq  16:36

So our we’re typically looking for businesses that are I think the minimum we have today is $400,000 of trailing 12 months of revenue. So it’s around there, we are looking for businesses that have a bit of a track record. So around $400,000 of revenue, you know, preferably digitally native. So the more access we can get to data through, you know, like digital banking or things like that, the easier and smoother the process will be. And physical goods. So we have to work with physical goods, that’s the way consignment works. We currently are doing pretty much everything with the exception of regulated products. So think anything that requires a license to Sell Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and frozen and refrigerated products, right? Again, like the downside scenarios and liquidation. It’s super expensive to ship and store frozen stuff in comparison to other goods. And then the last category is perishables, right? Like we’re not currently working with stuff that goes bad in a couple of weeks, because, again, it’s just not as strong of a fit for our consignment model.

Joe Valley  17:48

What about geographic limitations? Are you lending to anyone anywhere in the world? Well, and I know you’re not lending, I’ve still got to get my terminology, right. You’re working with people that are you know, if they’re in you know, Tbilisi, Georgia, or Portland, Oregon, lemons, they’ve got a business that’s successful with a track record, you’re comfortable with it.

Sean De Clercq  18:08

So currently, geographically in the US, right? So we absolutely have have global aspirations for the marketplace. As far as we can see, there’s no reason we can’t scale it anywhere. But currently, we operate in the US, but we can fund manufacturing, that happens anywhere in the world. So if your factories in India, China, Haiti, Europe, whatever, we’ve worked with factories all over the world,

Joe Valley  18:30

what’s wrong with our, you know, friends up north, the Canadians? Come on? They’re good people. Why? Like, why can’t my my cousins up there use Kickfurther?

Sean De Clercq  18:40

Ah, Canada and Mexico, because of NAFTA are probably like the first countries will expand to, and you know, no slight to any Canadians, but I think like, Canada’s population is roughly the size of New Jersey. So it’s like, yeah, exactly. It’s like a lot more work than the than the size of market that it adds. So we’ll get there. They’re definitely our friendly neighbors, but probably a 2024 kind of thing.

Joe Valley  19:05

You’re just focused on, you know, 80% growth in the last 12 months and making sure that your gross profit is, you know, higher than that and running the business right to take care of your people that you’re able to serve OSI so that,

Sean De Clercq  19:18

yeah, I mean, like, when you look at it, we funded What $58 million of inventory last year in America, like, what is that 100th of 1% of the inventory that gets like, bought and sold in America in a year, you know, so it’s like, what, we’re not even a grain of sand on the beach. That is the American market today. So we just have so far to go with what we’re doing today, in this one unified, you know, market of America, that we’re we’re very focused on that. And then international expansion, you know, once we can copy and paste the model, it’ll just be copy and paste into all the other countries.

Joe Valley  19:53

a grain of sand. Great analogy. Look, Shawn, you look like a young guy. You’re full of energy. So how did you come up with this concept? And how far do you plan to take it? How big do you think Kickfurther can be?

Sean De Clercq  20:07

So I came up with this concept. So I’m an entrepreneur at heart, I was running my own product business eight, nine years ago, before I started Kickfurther. And I pretty much just slammed my face into this inventory funding wall was like enough that I was like, Wow, this seems terrible. And there’s no good solutions, it was pretty much killing my business. And so I essentially created the inventory funding solution that I wish had existed when I was growing my own product business. And we’re just expanding it from there in terms of, you know, how far do I see this going? I mean, I think I think we’ve got a better solution for product entrepreneurs than anyone else. And typically marketplaces that Win Win really, really big. Right? And so it’s like, if you were to ask me, what do I see chick further doing in? You know, we just did our vision meeting. So in 10 years, I hope that we’re doing about $10 billion of inventory funded through the platform in any given year, I’d like to take this global, I’d like to take it to the public markets, eventually, I’d like to go public, you know, so those are my aspirations as CEO, I think, even if you think about $10 billion of inventory through our marketplace a year, that sounds like a lot from 58 million, it is a lot. It’s still like 1/3 of a percent right of global commerce. It’s insane how big the world is that we’re growing into, right? And so there’s just so much for us to do to make an impact to really affect entrepreneurs all over the world. And for me, like, Yeah, it’s awesome. We have, you know, 300 businesses on the platform today that we’re helping right at somewhere around there. The more the merrier, right? And for me, it’s like it keeps me going every single time you talk to an entrepreneur, and they’re like, I wish that this had existed. Like, I wish I found you guys five years ago. So I could have been using you since I started, right. That’s like, that’s worth all of the other stuff that goes along with entrepreneurship, you know?

Joe Valley  22:12

Yeah, it’s funny thing. You know, you’re helping people. And by doing a great job helping people, your business is growing well. So you’re helping yourself and your investors as well. And I do assume you have investors. Is that Is that correct? You raised money to launch this?

Sean De Clercq  22:26

Yeah, we did. I didn’t come from a VC background. But I got super lucky. So we connected with some really great folks, including John Donovan invested early. He’s been an advisor. He was the CEO of Lending Club up until the point that they IPO. We have built high invested in 2016. He seated Canva. Wish, was a co founder of treasure data. Seated zoom rang the bell on the Zoom IPO. Tim Draper invested in 2017. And most recently, Tom Golisano, who founded paychecks invested in January of 2021. So we’re very fortunate to be supported by really an all star board and and a really great group of interested investors.

Joe Valley  23:11

It’s it’s it’s, it’s an impressive what you’ve done. It’s impressive the number of people that you’re serving, and and the folks that believe in you, and I’ve invested in you as well. So kudos, congratulations. Pretty, pretty damn impressive given. Look. I don’t want to be an ageist here, Shawn, but you’re so much younger than me. I was just scrolling around at your age, right? I’m looking at. I’m looking at your LinkedIn profile. I can’t even tell exactly when you graduated college. But I know that I was just goofing around until I was about 29 years old. I don’t think I had my first real job that lasted more than six months till I was 29. So really, really impressive with what you’ve done. Congratulations. I know you’re quite a bit older than that, but very, very impressive. Congratulations on your success.

Sean De Clercq  23:58

Well, that’s the trick. I didn’t graduate college. So that’s why you can’t find that info.

Joe Valley  24:02

But yes, yes. I see Rutgers University down here. But, you know, I

Sean De Clercq  24:07

spent some time there. And it says, Yeah, spend some time there. But ya know, I, we started Kickfurther when I was 27. And here I am. 36. It seems, you know, crazy. A lot of time has has transpired. But it’s been awesome. I definitely am very different from who I was when I started the business. Right. And like, I think that that’s kind of like, as long as you’re comfortable that things are just always going to be different. They’re going to keep changing, right? And you stay on top of it. Like that’s the trick with entrepreneurship, I think, do you

Joe Valley  24:37

see yourself being the CEO that can take it to 100 million in in revenue

Sean De Clercq  24:45

100 million. So my goal is to kind of Bezos this right. There’s not a lot of people that do it, but it’s like take it to IPO. Make sure it’s on super solid footing, right? Maybe run it as public company CEO for about 10 years, and then find a successor right So that’s kind of what I’d like to do. And I hope I can do it

Joe Valley  25:04

Big games. I would I wouldn’t be surprised if you pull it off congratulations Thanks, Joe. How do we How to folks learn more about Kickfurther? How do they check it out as a funder and as a brand owner that need some money for inventory?

Sean De Clercq  25:17

Yeah, we were pretty active on social now. So please feel free to reach out that’ll definitely find the right person if you contact us on any of our social media. And if you’re ready to dive in, you know, And you should be able to find what you need there. Knock on wood. It’s all working.

Joe Valley  25:34

Awesome. Well, thanks for coming on again. Sean. Good to see you.

Sean De Clercq  25:37

Awesome. Thanks very much, Joe.

Outro  25:40

Today’s podcast was produced by Rise25 And the Quiet Light Content Team. If you have a suggestion for a future podcast, subject or guest, email us at [email protected]. Be sure to follow us on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.

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