While it’s true that the cost of virtual storefront can be less than a Main Street location, you still need cash for team members, software, marketing, and inventory. When is the right time to invest that’s safe and allows for growth? If we don’t have the right cash flow timing, how can we overcome this obstacle?
Our guest today is Oz Merchant, VP of Customer Success and Support at Viably, and he has a solution.
Today’s episode of Deal Closers is hosted by Izach Porter, brought to you by WebsiteClosers.com, and is produced by Earfluence.
Oz Merchant, Viably: Traditional banks and stuff can lend to brick and mortar just because they actually real assets that they’re collateralizing. Banks know how to underwrite that. They can say, okay, yeah, there’s, you can have a, a business vehicle. You’ve got some products in, in your store. You’ve got racks, you’ve got, fixtures. There’s hard things that I can basically sell off to recoup my money. Digital world, traditional banks have tough time with that. They don’t know how to underwrite that. They don’t have a model around underwriting future receivables.
Izach Porter: All right, you’re listening to the Deal Closers podcast, brought to you by websiteclosers.com, a show about how to build your e-commerce business to be profitable, scalable, and one day even sellable. I’m Izach Porter, and on the show today we’ll talk about one of the biggest barriers to growth in the e-commerce space: funding.
While it’s true that the cost of virtual storefront can be less thana Main Street location, you still need cash for team members, software, marketing, and inventory, and when is the right time to invest? That’s safe and allows for growth. Basically, how can we overcome this cash flow obstacle? Let’s bring in our guest today, Oz Merchant from Viably. Hey, Oz, how you doing?
Oz: Hey Izach, appreciate you guys having me on.
Izach: Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, in the intro I kind of talked about cash flow and the challenges that e-commerce, operators can face. And, you know, it’s something that, that we see a lot as we get ready to sell companies as, as the companies that have access to capital are able to grow more quickly and, and ultimately exit for better multiples.
So give us a little bit overview. What, what is Viably, how does it work? What does it do?
Oz: Sure, sure. So Viably is essentially we’re, you know, we’re digital banking solution for e-commerce sellers, you know, we’re giving them the capital they need as they start scaling their e-commerce stores. and as they scale that, they’re gonna need different tools for planning their, their, their business, how they can scale that, as well as having the capital to make those types of, decisions. Whether that’s, investing more in inventory, whether that’s investing more in advertising, potentially payroll if they’re gonna scale and hire, VAs or full-time employees.
So just having the, the capital and an understanding of the, the overall financial health of the business to say, okay, how do we grow this? And can we have a place to see? what’s happening inside the business holistically. So, you know, Viably is essentially kind of connecting into all these different systems from your Amazon, eventually into Shopify and all your other marketplaces, plus your banking, and over time even your accounting platforms.
So having all this data provides us kind of intelligence to do the funding as well as provide some insights into planning and forecasting your business.
Izach: Okay. All right, so I’m a, I’m an e-commerce operator. I need funding, obviously inventory is a, is a typical, a funding need. What other types of things are you providing funding for? Is it, is it really just based on inventory and how are you coming up with the, the lending decisions, how much you’re gonna lend to a particular customer?
Oz: Sure. You mentioned kinda brick and mortar in the beginning there. Typically brick and mortar, you know, you, you’re gonna have inventory costs, but the other big chunk is payroll costs. For e-commerce sellers, it’s primarily inventory and advertising. And that’s the, the biggest hit, most of these, sellers are taking to kind of scale and grow their business.
So as you’re kind of looking at growing, okay, how do I buy more inventory? If I can have the buying power to get the, the inventory I need when I need it, as well as gonna buy in enough volumes that I can get pretty good margins, then the, then, you know, the business overall becomes profitable. the other piece is, okay, getting the inventory is one thing.
How can I actually sell it? That’s an area that sometimes people forget on Amazon. It’s like getting the, the picking the, the product and getting it here is just 50% the way of the journey. You still have to be able to position the product, get it out there so that people want it, and, get enough good reviews that people keep wanting to buy more of it, or that it’s, enticing enough for others to keep buying it.
So there is kind of that whole journey on e-commerce that needs to be the, you know, the capital to make it successful and make kind of the decisions that you need to for your business. Like one of the changes we’re starting to see is, Amazon just announced they’re changing kind of how long they’re keeping the storage. So typically was like six months, and now it’s going down to three months. And that’s changing how sellers to run their business.
Oz: Are they now either picking different types of products to so that it moves quicker? Or they’re exploring, okay, I need to basically take on the, the cost of doing storage and, and doing maybe working with three PL or having my own warehousing facility myself? So I need to be able to finance those type of business decisions.
Izach: Okay. All right. So how are you evaluating companies to make these decisions. Like how are you vetting them to make sure you’re lending to companies that can afford to repay the debt, and what do the repayment terms look like and what are the loan sizes? You know, just kind of walk through that part of it.
Oz: So first off, we’re not loaning, anyone, any money in the sense that we’re, this is not a typical loan where there’s no APRs. Essentially what we’re doing is we’re basically financing future receivables. So we look at the overall health of the business. Does it in a good spot, meaning there’s good cash flow, there’s good sales taking place, and based on that, okay, what’s the likelihood that those, that journey will continue, that you’ll keep getting those sales and based on that saying, okay, if the sales are coming in, we can potentially finance a portion of that. And as those sales come in, in the future, you’ll basically settle your books with us. And for all of that, you’re basically paying a flat fee. So the criteria probably is one where we’re at right now is primarily, are you on Amazon? And if you are, then are you doing about 10,000 or more per month.
Oz: So, and that’s really for working capital. We are, we’re gonna be also launching the ability to have access to your cash that Amazon’s typically holding, for you every 14 days. So you’ll have that instant access as well.
Izach: Gotcha. All right, so using kind of a velocity of sales model to predict how much cash flow. The company, basically, you’re accelerating that cash flow cycle for the company with this, with this model that you’ve got.
Oz: Exactly. So, you know, there’s different types of sellers, right? So there’s, if you’re a private label, you need that money, for a, a period of time to basically put a down payment, get the inventory in, and then sell it, and then also have enough capital to that if you’re just gonna take a couple of cycles for the sales to come in, as you start generating that revenue to pay back or basically have the cash flow back.
So basically you have that, whether that’s 45-day window or, or 90-day window, whatever that is depending on your product, you need to have enough capital to get the product in and sell it and actually make recoup some of that money. Arbitrage is a little bit different. Or if you’re wholesaling where you need the capital kind of on a every month basis, the more capital you have, the more you can buy today and start selling and, and recoup that money that make those profits.
Izach: Okay, so you will, you will finance resellers, folks who aren’t selling their own brand then, correct?
Oz: Yeah. We’re looking really just kind of the, the health of the overall business. If you can basically sell on Amazon, whether you’re selling arbitrage, whether you’re reselling, whether you’re doing your own brand. It’s really because we’re not tying it to inventory, the capital is based on the health of the, the sales.
So if that revenue is there, we’ll we’re, we’re gonna finance you. And based on that, you know, make whatever the right decision is for you, whether that’s, buying more inventory, doing more ads, hiring folks, opening up new markets, launching new products, whatever is the right move for you.
Izach: Gotcha. And then what are the repayment terms for these, these advances? Or, or you’re just collecting the receivables and, and so is, is it like a factoring setup or, I’m just trying to understand what the, what the kind of transaction flow looks like.
Oz: So, yeah, typically they’re a, as you’re getting the Amazon payouts, we’re, you’re paying back a portion of that. So that can range anywhere from five payouts to, to seven payouts. So it can be, you know, a couple months to three months or so as you’re paying that back, depending on, you know, what you’re needing, how long you’re needing it for.
Izach: Okay. And then you said there’s a flat fee. If I just think about that fee in terms of a percentage, what, you know, how do you, how do you kind of calculate the cost of this solution?
Oz: Yeah, it’ll typically range probably like five to 8%, depending on the terms, however long, you know, the, there’s always a relationship with, kinda length of time and, and how much capital. So if you’re needing it a longer time, then the brace will be a little bit, the feet will be a little bit higher.
Izach: Okay, so one of the areas I’ve seen sellers get into trouble with, mostly on the inventory finance side. Yours is, your product is different cuz you’re, you’re really financing future receivables. But I’ve seen challenges if the business slows down, so if the, if the sales volume slows down, and the repayment is based even on a percentage of sales.
You know, that takes a month or 60 days to reset. And it can be hard for business with sales volatility to manage the, the cash flow requirement on the repayment. So, how do I think about that in terms of what Viably offers and are you flexible with companies that kind of have some volatility in their sales and, and how does that process work?
Oz: That’s a good question. So let me give you, I guess, a background, on Viably a little bit more. So, you know, we initially launched with a kind of banking foundation. And then on top of that, we introduce funding options. Where we’re headed to now is there’s a whole software layer we’re building on top of that.
So essentially the software layer is allowing you to start planning and understanding what’s the cash flow of the business. So one of the things we’re doing as we’re making these decisions, because we’re plugging into Amazon, we’re plugging into banks and stuff, we’re getting to see historical data and see, okay, what’s, how much seasonality’s there in your business?
Uh, when are the, the peaks and valleys? And based on that, also say, okay, what’s potential forecast? Say you’ve got a target. I want to grow from 1 million to 2 million this year. Okay. So how do you plan to achieve that? You know, are you gonna be opening up new markets? Are you gonna be launching new products?
And based on that, are you looking to flatten out some of the seasonality in your business? so we’re, there’s kind of a, a discussion around to say, okay, how do you plan to grow? cuz we have kind of the data historically and some of that applies to the future. Some of it is looking at that and saying, okay, I’m gonna do things a little bit differently cuz if I do more of what I did last year, I probably won’t grow, but maybe 20, 30%. But if I make some new decisions, I can really double my business.
We’ve seen a number of customers that have been doing that, you know, three, four years running. It’s just, keep doubling their business. So there’s ways to do that, you just have to have enough data to start making those type of right decisions. So we want to empower different sellers to say, okay, here have the data. And, and a meaningful way to say, okay, how do I run the business? Where, what do I have flexibility in? Where can I grow the business? What kind of decisions can I make and what’s that impact gonna be?
Izach: What kind of analytics does Viably provide for cashflow and finances to, to founders? You know, what, what are the key data points that, an e-commerce business operator should be looking at when they’re thinking about their cash flow and using, you know, using Viably as a partner?
Oz: One of the key things is, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of reports you’re getting from Amazon if you’re selling on Amazon, but that’s giving you just a, a bit of a silent picture. it’s not giving you the whole holistic, you know, what is the actual business perform, how is it performing? And a lot of sellers are selling not only in Amazon, but they’re on Walmart, they’re in, eBay, they’re on Shopify, so to have, and, and they’ve basically got all these different dashboards, but they’re all what I call channel specific.
So Viably kind of sitting outside of those and kind of aggregating that data essentially can give a much more holistic, perspective of what’s happening in the business. you know, where are you hiring consultants and how’s that factoring into your bottom line? Maybe you’re adding different VAs throughout the year. What’s that impact on the bottom line?
So looking at kind of the, the bigger picture and then from a data standpoint, you know, we’ll have All the inventory information in looking at the seasonality of the business and then being able to map that over to doing actual planning and forecasting inside the app to say, okay, if I stay exactly like I am, this is what kind of the projection is. If I say I’m gonna go launch a product in q2, then this is the impact I have.
And maybe that’s still okay. Then maybe it’s okay. Well, you know, if I could launch this product in Q2 and buy even a bigger volume. what’s the impact? Okay, well here I notice that, I’m gonna go, in, in the red essentially. So the app, you know, when you’re looking at it, it’ll start telling you exactly that month. You’re gonna hit a cashflow where you’re basically negative cashflow. So from that perspective, okay, either I don’t make that decision, I buy differently, I choose to kind of operate differently, or I can click a button and say, okay, well if I got some funding here, how’s that kind of put me back in the black and flatten out any the bumps along the way.
Izach: Oh, very cool. All right, so you’ve got, you’ve got cash flow forecasting tools built into the, to the product.
Izach: Very cool. Okay. so you mentioned other, other channels. Are you only financing kind of receivables from Amazon or are you also doing financing for Shopify and, and you know, walmart.com.
Oz: At present, only Amazon. By the end of the year, we’ll probably have Shopify and Walmart as well.
Izach: Okay. Alright, so that’s on the docket for something that’s up and coming. I, I think the solution would work for drop shippers then as well, not, not necessarily just companies holding physical inventory. If it’s based only on the AR is that fair?
Oz: Yeah, really. You know, when, when you look at drop shippers, they essentially o other than the fact they’re not actually holding inventory or carrying inventory, they’re essentially making a sale and then, you know, paying an invoice. So, From the standpoint of the, the health of the business, yeah, the math still works.
As long as there’s consistency in, in the business that yeah, you can sit there and, you know, present a, a product or set a products to consumers who wanna buy it, they’re, they’re paying for it. You’re basically making your payments on time. You’re not defaulting anywhere and the overall business is healthy. All you think is you probably got less expenses. So essentially it could look even better.
Izach: One of the things that I was thinking about that I think would be an interesting use case for Viably is, you know, we at Website Closers, we work with founders who are selling their companies, and because of that, we work with a lot of buyers who are in the process of buying those companies as well.
So if I’m a buyer and I’m going to acquire, let’s just say it’s an Amazon FBA business. what would I need to do to have viably take a look at that company and see how much financing I would be eligible for after I acquired the company?
Oz: that’s kind of where we’re headed, right? You know, we’re starting with folks on, on a journey, and for a lot of those folks that journey concludes with an acquisition and exit of some sort. So, while the product is probably not there yet, it essentially will be over time to say, okay, I can take a look at this business and say, and look at even the decisions that were made along the years.
Because you could have all these different plans that were considered, cuz you’re essentially in the app, you’re getting to build your plans and say, okay, if I run this scenario, What’s the impact? If I run it the scenario this way, what’s the impact? And you essentially have this historical data of all these different scenarios that have been explored to see how they can kind of grow and scale the business.
And then you essentially have the actuals to see, kind of contrast that against, to see, okay, well how, how is it actually executed? You know, at that point, if you’re looking at a point of acquisition, it’s like, okay, if I were to run the same scenarios or similar scenarios and say, okay, this is how much, the business is doing, this is a performance.
And you know, at that point, okay, if we were to open this up into a couple other markets and we anticipate this kind of sales volume, what’s the impact? And you can basically build that scenario out as well.
Izach: Okay, so what are the, what are the inputs you need in order to make a kind of a, a credit decision or a financing decision. So do you, do you, do you get access to, you know, seller central and bank accounts like, Yeah, so the, the, so a, a new client goes in and kind of links up whatever platforms they’re on, and then, and then Viably pulls that data and comes back and says, we can advance you a certain dollar amount. And what’s the, what’s the range of the size of those dollars? Is there a cap on how much you’ll, you’ll lend to a particular customer?
Oz: No, there’s no cap, per se. essentially, you know, there’s probably a, a floor but not a cap, in the sense of, you know, we wanted a certain size business. That’s why we say about, you know, 10K. If you’re doing by 10K a month, then you’re, you’ve essentially gotten to a point where you got some traction.
You’ve either figured out where, whether it’s a particular skew your selling or that you’ve figured out if you’re doing arbitrage or reselling, you’ve gotten some traction. You know, kind of how the business is growing and then it’s like, okay, if I were to take cash and put it into it, like what’s kind of levers gonna kind of pull on to really scale the business.
So that knowledge has kind of been acquired over those kind of early years or early days. There it makes sense to kind of finance; cause you’re essentially taking money to accelerate whatever you’ve been doing right. So from that standpoint, yeah. If you’ve gotten to a point, you’re doing really well and you keep growing, I wanna refer back to kind of what you said. I think in the interest stuff around retail and like brick and mortar.
Traditional banks and stuff can lend to brick and mortar just because they actually real assets that they’re collateralizing. Banks know how to underwrite that. They can say, okay, yeah, there’s, you can have a, a business vehicle. You’ve got some products in, in your store. You’ve got racks, you’ve got, fixtures. There’s hard things that I can basically sell off to recoup my money. Digital world, traditional banks have tough time with that. They don’t know how to underwrite that.
They don’t have a model around underwriting future receivables. So does, you know, a really large business? We’ve talked to some that have gotten to the point where, okay, they’ve, gotten to the point where they’re not only online, but now they’re getting into different, trying to get into Target. They’re trying to get into Wegmans. At that point, you know, they probably can tap into, more traditional banking type, options.
Oz: You know, our, our sweet spot is probably six figure, seven figure is kind of, the sweet spot.
Oz: Just because those are the kind of probably the most underserved and they don’t have as many options.
Izach: Gotcha. Okay, that makes sense. And then just kind of thinking about this from your perspective, how do you or how does Viably know if a new client has three inventory finance companies that are also taking part of the revenue, the business for repayment. Like how, how do you actually know how much debt the company has?
Oz: And that’s the benefit of having all the data. So meaning that once you’re, once you’re plugging in your sell central and your banks and stuff, all that data becomes visible. So you can quickly see who else is being repaid as well.
Izach: Yep. Okay. So you’ll see it on the bank side?
Oz: Exactly. See it on the bank side.
Izach: Mm-hmm. All right. That makes sense. How about some success stories? Do you have any, just kind of, you know, examples of, you know, some case studies or success stories where this has worked really well for, for some of your clients.
Oz: Yeah, the, and, and there’s different types of businesses. You know, we’ve got some that, are, are kind of do traditional product label. I need to scale the business up and, I just need to have enough capital that I can keep, growing, and scaling that business, and that’s, you know, slightly sometimes different than resellers.
What’s interesting coming out of q4, it’s, we’re in the spot where people are starting to do all their planning. You know, they, they made decisions in q4 and a lot of those decisions were decisions they needed to make. You know, one of the things I will say is like, planned capital is a lot cheaper than unplanned capital.
So if you’re getting ahead and saying, okay, I know what I’m planning to do this year, how I’m planning to grow, and I can kind of plug in the data to say, okay, I need cash at this point. To kind of hit the, the numbers I want hit is very different than say is q4. I gotta get some cash so that I can keep buying so that I can keep selling more because the more I can buy, I can sell.
So you’ll take whatever money you can get at whatever price. So if you can be more kind of methodical about it and get ahead of it, you’re probably gonna find that capital becomes a lot more feasible.
Izach: Oh yeah, for sure. Absolutely. Yeah, that’s true. And the, the planning becomes really important. And there’s a lot of inventory financing platforms out there for e-commerce that are, frankly just different structurally than what, than what you’re doing at, at viably. And the cost on a lot of those, facilities is, you know, 15 to 18% on an APR basis, and that that can really cut into margins pretty significantly in this space.
So yeah, you’ve gotta be, you’ve gotta be careful and strategic with your use of capital and make sure that you’ve got, that you’re able to leverage the capital for additional growth and profitability in the business. or you can, you can get upside down on it.
Oz: Exactly. And we’re seeing that, you know, where a lot of folks, if they’re, you know, either they’re wanting to move to private label cause they know the margins a little, a little bit better there. And they’re also looking to, okay, if I’ve been selling on Amazon, how do I move, kind of supplement by Amazon with Shopify because I know that my margins are better there.
What’s nice is amazon gives you the buying power because you get to buy, there’s enough velocity that’s going through, there’s enough volume that allows you to improve your buying power. so if you can basically have a strategy in place where you’re selling on Amazon and you start selling on Shopify, you start getting some of that traffic going, buying from Shopify as well, then you’re basically generating your profitability there, increasing your margins there.
But overall you’re improving your buying power to say, okay, I can buy enough at better rates. I keep increasing my spread.
Izach: That’s a great point. We see a lot of sellers that are FBA only, Shopify only, and then, you know, more kind of omnichannel sellers. And to your point, the advantage of Amazon is the volume of customers that are going there to, for search. and it is a low-cost way to get traffic to your brand.
The challenge with Amazon is the, the fees are high. So the, the traffic is less expensive. The PPC is less expensive, but the, but the fees are high and your margins tend to be lower than Shopify. The challenge with Shopify is you’ve gotta drive traffic to your Shopify site. So a lot of times the companies that have kind of the best, the most balanced business model in my perspective are, are leveraging both platforms efficiently and kind of getting that blended margin profile.
The, the nice thing about Shopify is you get to control your customers more. You get access to that customer data. You can build out email list, you can do SMS, you know, with, with FBA you don’t, you don’t get that data, as a seller. So I think there’s a lot to be said for, for business models in the e-commerce space that have, that have multiple channels of distribution.
Oz: Yeah. And the moment people started looking, you know, started exploring and bringing on other platforms, or start selling on their own sites, go. See if they’re so relied on just Amazon reporting. They’ve really never understood kind of how the business is doing. Yeah, and I’ve, you know, talked to folks where they think one thing, but when we kind of do the kind of analysis, you see, okay, your net is actually far less than what you thought.
Because you just didn’t factor these other things. You, you know, you may have a gut feel about it. in some cases it’s like, oh, I knew I was new, I was profitable, but I didn’t realize exactly how profitable I was. So having the, kind of from a value standpoint to see that kind of more business holistically and say, okay, I’m making this move from Amazon to Shopify, and I’ve got different dashboards for each kind of platform, but how’s the overall business?
Most sellers are like, you know, I’m just kinda heads down everything. I get out, I take a little stipend and I’m just putting everything back in. most people I talk to, like in the first two years, they’re not touching any of it, just putting it back in. That’s probably the right move. But it’s, you know, it’s also good to say, okay, what is that impact that’s having, or maybe I could squeak out 500 bucks a month or $2,000 a month. if I could see the bigger picture and see kinda exactly what’s transpiring.
Izach: Yeah. And, and in fact, a lot of the e-commerce sellers that we work with don’t put significant cash in their pocket until they exit. You know, that’s, that’s the big liquidity event that comes, is they sell the business, they get to liquidate all the inventory with that sale they get, they get to monetize the value of their intellectual property and their brand.
And that’s when they really the benefit of the value they’ve created, you know, over the, over the years of building the business. So that, that’s always, that’s always a fun part for me.
Oz: and I was gonna say just, you know, when you’re looking at Amazon, if you just focus on that, you’re not really getting the true picture of EBITDA. So if you’re looking at it as a buyer, it’s like, okay, what’s the net of the business? and if your seller, if you’ve only looked at kind of all your Amazon reports without looking at the full, total picture of your business, you may have in your mind one multiple and you’re actually gonna find that you’re getting a lot lesson maybe you thought, cause you just in factor are the other aspects.
Izach: Yeah, absolutely. Right. You’ve gotta, you’ve gotta look at the overall operating cost of the business, holistically for sure. So, how can our listeners connect with you and viably and what’s kind of the best way to get, you know, get introduced into your ecosystem?
Oz: Yeah, the simplest way is if you just go to runviably.com, that’s the website. we’re also in all the social channels, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, all at its, runviably. If you wanna reach me partially, I’m on LinkedIn primarily. It’s probably the best way. And just Oz Merchant, /ozmerchant.
And yeah, go check it out. I mean, the, if you’re a seller, It’s figuring out kind of what’s right for your business. You know, whether you’re taking funding as from us or not if you’re using banking with us or not. It’s really, the tools are all there for free. The platform is free for anybody.
And it’s primarily for e-commerce, as we’ve, as I mentioned, cuz we’ve pivoted into that space. So everything is gonna be designed more for e-commerce businesses and, and the connections and integrations that we have are with different e-commerce platform.
Izach: That was Oz, merchant from Viably, which you can find at runviably.com. That’s runviably.com. Thanks everyone for listening to this episode of the Deal Closers podcast, brought to you by websiteclosers.com. If you like the show, be sure to rate us write a review, press the follow button and of course, share it with your network.
If you’re looking for help selling your e-commerce business, be sure to visit websiteclosers.com. This episode was edited and produced by Earfluence. I’m Izach Porter. Follow me on LinkedIn and we’ll see you next time on the Deal Closers podcast.