Barclays has led a US$5.5mn series A investment round for Crowdz, a US fintech firm looking to launch a global blockchain-based invoice exchange that provides small businesses with much-needed working capital.

The exchange is targeting the US$9tn global receivables market, which Crowdz describes as “an industry ripe for disruption”.

Other institutions involved in the multi-million-dollar investment round, which closed in May, include Bold Capital Partners, TFX Capital Partners, Techstars Ventures and First Derivatives.

The funding will go towards product development, marketing and sales and hiring new staff, says Crowdz. ​

The Silicon Valley startup launched in 2014 with a digital marketplace product that connects buyers and sellers of a variety of products, including electronics and furniture.

It first connected with Barclays in 2018 as part of the Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars – London, which is where the invoice financing solution was first developed, based on Ethereum blockchain technology.

Once live, the invoice exchange will offer a built-in B2B payment gateway, which Crowdz says allows users to automatically digitise invoices, speed up invoice-payment collections and accelerate the cash-conversion cycle. The exchange will also automatically associate orders, invoices and payments with one another for more efficient settlements. Crowdz describes this invoicing process as ‘metavoicing’.

Additionally, through the exchange’s auction platform, companies will be able to submit their invoices for financing by banks or other accredited investors, such as institutional or angel investors, without filing additional paperwork.

A spokesperson for Crowdz tells GTR that the exchange is now being beta tested, with multiple proofs of concepts underway, including a project with Barclays that is now being rolled out to the bank’s customers.

Crowdz says the invoice exchange is set to go live by the end of the year. Barclays is expected to participate in financing invoices on the exchange.

Although the exchange will be open to all companies, its primary mission is to ensure that SMEs have access to the cashflow they need, explains Crowdz co-founder and CEO, Payson Johnston. He notes that more than 70% of the companies worldwide participating in trade are SMEs.

“At least half of them [SMEs] experience a cash flow crisis during any given year, usually because they have to wait for up to 90 days or more for their invoices to be paid,” he says. “Crowdz helps every type of import/export business, from raw goods manufacturers to distributors of finished products, receive the cash flow they need to survive by providing them with access to the first truly affordable invoice-financing solution for SMEs.”

It is not the first major investment by Barclays into technology platforms to help it serve more of its SME customers. In 2018 the bank gained a significant minority stake in MarketInvoice, Europe’s largest online invoice financing platform.

Barclays said at the time its aim is to give SME clients “seamless access to innovative forms of finance”. As a result of the partnership, the bank’s customers will get access to MarketInvoice’s single invoice finance product as well as broader digital invoice finance facilities. Similar to the partnership with Crowdz, Barclays also plans to fund invoices via MarketInvoice, growing its asset base in the small business segment.