Brooklyn startup Payfully, is using a time-tested business practice to solve one of the gig-economy workers’ biggest problems: lack of cash flow.
Factoring — the purchase of unpaid invoices from businesses.
This startup has developed a platform that allows Airbnb hosts to sell unpaid bookings for cash. Using the solution, hosts receive the money in their bank account in 24–48hrs instead of waiting weeks or months for the guest to check-in and get paid.
Airbnb hosts find themselves facing similar problems so most of the time, the funds advanced are used to renovate a property to increase its value, invest in another property, book a trip, pay an unexpected bill or simply buy an extra bed or coach without the need of maxing out their credit cards.
Payfully profits from the transaction because it buys the invoice at a discount. That enables the company to take a fee for factoring out of the final payment from Airbnb. The company uses its own algorithm and Airbnb-booking data to determine the amount of the fee.
Airbnb is the perfect testing ground for Payfully, because the short-term rental solution is notoriously slow to pay for bookings. Its users wait even months to get paid. Sometimes hosts find themselves with lots of bookings and an empty bank account. Having to wait for the Airbnb payments makes life difficult for hosts like Graham Seymour from Boise, Idaho.
“Payfully takes the guesswork out of hosting; I love being able to have access to funds when I need them, especially if I need to make accommodations for a guest,” Seymour said.
Payfully started with a classic flash of inspiration during a walk on a New York street. Cofounder Alberto Sheinfeld was strolling and listening to his friends; who were Airbnb hosts, griping about slow payments when he got the big idea.
That casual conversation gave the tech-industry veteran the basic idea for Payfully. To make it a reality, Sheinfeld turned to his Venezuelan friend and fellow Luis Scull Baptista. Scull raised money in venture capital while Sheinfeld built the platform. After finding a third partner; Daniela Birnbaum to manage operations, the trio opened an office in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and hired a small team to make the idea work.
“At the beginning we thought the service was perfect only for millennials and freelancers but that’s not the case,” Birnbaum said. “ Property managers and corporations have also joined the platform and made requests for larger sums of money to improve their business cash flow.
In addition to professionals, many retirees have taken advantage of Payfully’s factoring. Birnbaum estimated that several hundred hosts ranging in age from 21 to 69 have used the service from all over the country. Most of Payfully’s users are hosts with listings in Florida, Colorado, New York, Washington State, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Texas and California.
The typical Payfully advance is around $3,000 but long-term users can get much more. The company’s proprietary underwriting algorithm is able to identify the most profitable hosts and advance them more money.
The team has built relationships with other businesses that cater to Airbnb hosts such as property managers and cleaning companies. In most of the cases, hosts need to pay for cleaning and management prior the guest arrives. Therefore, it is convenient for these services that Payfully provides the payments to the hosts in advance so they can also get paid for their services on .
Payfully prides itself as a customer centric company because it tries to provide a 24/7 customer service. That can become a real challenge for a company with a small team. Fortunately, the company has been successful.
“Their team (all the way up to the Founder/CEO) are accessible, sharp, and responsive — just like the platform itself,” Airbnb host Graham Seymour said.
The next challenge for Payfully will be expanding its factoring beyond Airbnb hosts. The team has identified another group of networks with cash flow problems and hopes to make Payfully available to them by the end of the year.