On February 10, the Small Business Administration (SBA) launched an online tool that provides small business owners seeking capital with increased access to SBA lenders. With Leveraging Information and Networks to Access Capital (LINC), “SBA is entering the online matchmaking businesses,” said SBA Adminstrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, speaking at the National Press Club last week. “Only the date we’re arranging is with a lender. Online services that pair lenders with borrowers now make up a multi-billion dollar industry. We’ve all seen the TV commercials where the home buyer goes online and is delighted to find banks competing to finance her house. Well, small businesses lending is the newest frontier for these matchmaking services.”
LINC will roll out in waves. It will begin by connecting small business owners with nonprofit lenders that offer free financial advice and specialize in micro lending, loans in SBA’s Community Advantage program, and real estate financing. In the longer-term, SBA will look to add more traditional banks that offer an even wider array of financial products.
After filling out the form, a potential borrower’s answers will be sent to every lender in that person’s county, as well as to other lenders with a regional or national reach, according to an SBA press release. Once lenders have reviewed the information that matters most to them, they’ll respond within 48 hours. It is hoped that LINC will expand the banking choices open to small business owners by using technology to help them gain access to a larger number of institutions, in the end improving their access to capital.
“A positive ‘hit’ won’t ensure you’ll receive a loan, but it will put you on a fast track, because lenders will have pre-screened your application and affirmatively reached out to you,” Contreras-Sweet said at the Press Club. “If LINC doesn’t produce an immediate match, we’ll connect you with a local SBA adviser for loan consulting. This is how technology can help government evolve to solve 21st century problems.”
LINC is part of SBA’s modernization agenda, and in the spring the agency will roll out “SBA One,” which is a “total automation” of the 7a loan application. “It’s like Turbo Tax for small business lending and signals the end of our reliance on the fax machine and paper forms,” Conteras-Sweet said. “The future is upon us, and the SBA is proud to be leading the way.”
At launch, 124 lenders across SBA’s lending programs are participating in LINC, operating in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.