Europe supports Swedish micro-entrepreneurs through Ponture AB

Business, Finances, Start Up

Today, 96% of companies in Sweden consist of sole proprietorships or small businesses, which are also the most overlooked businesses in the capital and loan market. Now, Swedish loan market place and financial institution Ponture AB has signed a guarantee agreement with the European Investment Fund (EIF). The deal, with backing from the EU’s programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI), will allow Ponture to provide up to SEK 145 million in new lending to about 1.000 underserved Swedish SMEs.

Under the agreement, the EaSI guarantee financial instrument covers up to 90% of Ponture’s lending, whose microloans are expected to have a positive effect on society. The guarantee, which also enables Ponture to offer favorable loan terms, is aimed at providing microloans to three groups: women, young entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs with a migratory background. The loans range from SEK 10,000–250,000. The deal benefits from a guarantee funded by the European Union under the Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI).

Hamed Ordibehesht, CEO and founder of Ponture.

“Small entrepreneurs are not prioritized today in the Swedish capital and loan market. They rarely get access to loans from established banks, even though the financial foundations show that they should be able to get credit”,

“We are for Europe, what Grameen Bank was for Bangladesh. Just because we live in a high-income country, it does not mean that there are no need for microloans. It can be for the local pizza baker who wants to hire an employee or the carpenter in Norrtälje who needs to buy materials before the first customer invoice pays his.”

Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for Economy said:

“This European Investment Fund guarantee for Ponture will help around a thousand small businesses in Sweden to grow their activities. Today’s entrepreneurs are tomorrow’s job creators and they are key to Europe’s recovery and future prosperity. I particularly welcome the fact that this support is concentrated on businesses founded by women, young people and citizens with migrant backgrounds.”

EIF Chief Executive Alain Godard

“The decision to support Ponture, financial considerations aside, is also based on the strong social impact the platform has on society,”

“The central mission of the EIF is to support SMEs around Europe with all the means we have at our disposal, but there is also a social dimension to that. Ponture is one of the first private financial intermediaries in Sweden to focus on providing financing to businesses founded by people with a migratory background, as well as on female entrepreneurs and young starters. This makes this financing all the more important from a social cohesion point of view.”

Ponture is a young company but has already managed to attract a number of people with a decades of experience from the financial sector. Chairman of the Board is Carl-Viggo Östlund, who has previously been CEO of both the mortgage institution SBAB and Nordnet Bank AB.

“This market segment has great potential and could sustain a healthy business. The next step for us is to expand our borrowing capacity further to be able to help more entrepreneurs,” says Carl-Viggo Östlund, Chairman of the Board and founder of Ponture AB.

“We know that for every person who goes from governmental support to work, we get a positive societal effect of approximately SEK 350,000 per year. We will monitor the impact of our loan by measuring how the loan has affected the company’s sales and number of employees,” adds Hamed Ordibehesht.

The European Investment Fund (EIF) is part of the European Investment Bank Group. Its central mission is to support Europe’s micro, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) by helping them to access finance. EIF designs and develops venture and growth capital, guarantees and microfinance instruments which specifically target this market segment. In this role, EIF fosters EU objectives in support of innovation, research and development, entrepreneurship, growth, and employment.

Ponture is a fintech impact company that develops and offers financial services to small companies. Ponture has been appointed an impact company by the Norrsken Foundation and has been selected to participate in Mastercard’s Lighthouse program. Ponture was founded by Hamed Ordibehesht and Rodrigo Garay. Hamed has previously worked at Ericsson AB as Head of Solution Development. Rodrigo has founded the rating organization Accountability International, the recruitment company Diversitas and runs the think tank Working for Change. Ponture is registered with the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority.

The European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (“EaSI”) aims at supporting the EU’s objective of high level employment, adequate social protection, fighting against social exclusion and poverty and improving working conditions. The Microfinance and Social Entrepreneurship axis of the EaSI programme provides support to financial intermediaries that offer microloans to entrepreneurs and micro-enterprises or finance to social enterprises. The objective is to increase access to microfinance, which includes microcredit i.e. loans of up to EUR 25,000, in particular for vulnerable persons and micro-enterprises. In addition, for the first time, the EU is supporting social enterprises through the provision of guarantees to financial intermediaries for granting loans of up to EUR 500,000. The microfinance and social entrepreneurship support is currently being implemented through the EaSI Guarantee financial instrument, which enables financial intermediaries to reach out to (potential) entrepreneurs that would not have been able to access  financing otherwise due to risk considerations. It is also being implemented through the EaSI Capacity Building financial instrument, aiming to reinforce the capacity of financial intermediaries in the areas of microfinance and social finance through equity investments; and the EaSI Funded Instrument, which provides senior and subordinated loans to microfinance institutions and social enterprise lenders to boost on-lending to micro-enterprises and social enterprises. The European Commission has selected the EIF to implement the EaSI financial instruments.

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