Alternative lender Linked Finance has doubled its annual lending to Irish businesses to €200m in less than two years as it tries to ‘stay one step ahead of the banks’.

t reported strong demand for retail, transport and construction loans this year, and is on track to lend 45 million euros to small and medium-sized businesses in 2022, more than double 2020 levels.

The platform foresees up to 100 million euros in annualized loans in 2024, as banks leave the country or tighten their lending conditions.

“Crossing the €200 million lending milestone clearly demonstrates the success of a simple and fast SME lending model,” said Chief Executive Niall O’Grady.

“This is particularly important when banks are too slow for SMEs or leave the country altogether. Our platform regularly connects Irish SMEs with retail lenders who recognize their huge potential and want to invest in it.

Linked Finance is a platform that connects investors – including retail investors and institutions – with businesses in need of cash.

There are over 28,000 registered lenders on the platform, some investing as little as €50, and it has provided loans to over 3,300 small and medium-sized businesses since its launch in 2013.

Companies that have used the platform include Rolling Donut, Kokoro Sushi Bento, Lolly & Cooks, Murphy’s Ice Cream, and Irish Fairy Door Company.

Borrower Andy Byrne of the website said the lender had helped him boost arts and crafts supplies and schoolbook stock to meet homeschooling demands during the lockdown.

This year, Linked Finance increased its maximum loan amount to €500,000 and introduced a new cash advance feature, allowing merchants to use their daily cash from card payments as a source of funding.

Regular customers account for 57% of business loans.

The platform’s lenders have earned more than 19.4 million euros in interest since its launch.