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“I would love to see Linked Finance as a serious alternative to bank financing ………

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“I would love to see as a serious alternative to bank financing and funding hundreds of SMEs on a regular basis…There are over 200,000 SMEs in Ireland and it would be great if LinkedFinance were an option for all of them.”
We talked to Kingsley Aikins, Chairman of LinkedFinance, to get his view on the situation facing Irish SMEs and why this type of financing model is ideally suited for their needs. He explains why he got involved with this new business model: “I have always had an interest in the area and like the concept of ‘collaborative commerce’ so when Peter contacted me about his idea I was immediately interested. I have always loved the quote attributed to Victor Hugo ‘stronger that the tread of mighty armies is the power of an idea whose time has come’ and, having been involved for the last year or so, I truly believe it is an idea whose ‘time has come’. He recognises that there are challenges facing Irish business at present, and that this is not unique to this country, “The great challenge facing Irish companies and especially SMEs is getting access to money and working capital in particular. This is not unique to Ireland and it is interesting to see how crowd funding has ‘exploded’ over the last few years. A Deloitte study recently claimed the market would reach $3 billion in loans this year globally.” Elaborating more on this trend, Kingsley describes how he has witnessed the positive effects of this type of lending in other places throughout the world. “I don’t have direct experience but have watched how peer to peer funding has had such an effect on the developing world through organisations like Kiva and the Grameen Bank and the concept of ‘a fortune at the bottom of the pyramid’ ie small and tiny enterprises regularly and reliably paid back their borrowings. There are over 400 companies in this space in the US alone.” There is a strong notion of community tied up with the ethos behind LinkedFinance, and Kingsley cites how the Irish concept of ‘meitheal’ is very much evidenced in this, “Linked Finance is tapping into some very old and traditional Irish concepts such as ‘meitheal’ and the co-operative movement which was started by Sir Horace Plunkett and had enormous influence internationally and particularly in the US. At one stage there were over 800 co-operative organisations in Ireland.” The whole area of Diasporas and how countries, organizations, regions, cities, companies and individuals can build networks for mutual advantage is a focus and passion for Kingsley, “I see wonderful potential here for Diaspora communities to use this model to help small businesses in their country of origin… I see peer to peer crowd funding in general and LinkedFinance in particular being a wonderful way for Diasporas to get their funds to a wide range of SMEs and quickly. Irish people around the world have supported Ireland philanthropically over the years and this is the next evolution of that trend.” In terms of his vision for this business, Kingsley outlines how he sees it progressing in the years to come, “I would love to see LinkedFinance as a serious alternative to bank financing and funding hundreds of SMEs on a regular basis and giving a return to the lenders better than they would get leaving their money on deposit. I would like to see LinkedFinance offering Diaspora members an efficient, effective and profitable way of helping their homeland and making a return in the process. Kingsley Aikins, Chairman LinkedFinance, May 2013

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