The Michael Cawley-backed business peer-to-peer lending platform, Linked Finance, says 72 per cent of the SMEs that have used it to raise cash have grown staff numbers on the back of the loans. It estimates this has helped create 2,400 jobs across the 892 businesses.Linked said a survey of its customer base shows average staff numbers at each of its borrowers increased from 10 to 13 after the finance. Its research suggests that about 68 per cent of its customers will hire more staff in the coming year.“Whilst there is a lot of focus on multinationals in the Irish economy, the contribution of SMEs to employment and job creation is often overlooked,” said Niall Dorrian, chief executive of Linked Finance.Linked, which is chaired by former Ryanair executive Mr Cawley, says it advanced total loans on its platform last year of €24.2 million, which was an increase of 155 per cent on the prior year.
The platform matches companies that want to borrow with investors looking to lend, with loans of up to €250,000 available.Strong increaseThe total of loans advanced since its launch in 2013 stands at about €46 million, with about in €3.5 million in interest paid over to lenders. It says it has witnessed “a strong increase in demand” in the first two months of 2018.Businesses that have availed of loans through the Linked Finance platform include Viking Splash Tours, the Irish Fairy Door Company and Murphy’s Ice Cream.Linked Finance’s co-founders include Peter O’Mahony, the investor behind the Laughter Lounge comedy club in Dublin. It has received financial support from Enterprise Ireland, venture capital funds and well-known Irish-US business figures, including Connecticut-based Carl Shanahan, whose other ventures have included the Dunraven Arms Hotel in Adare in his native county, Limerick.