Please welcome MainVest, a community-driven financing solution for small business owners

Lerer Hippeau
· 3 min read

Meet MainVest, the latest addition to Lerer Hippeau’s portfolio.

HQ: Boston

Cofounders: Nicholas Mathews, Ben Blieden, and Felix le Dem

The problem: Main Streets across the country are lined with national chain stores, banks, and a handful of local businesses — breweries, coffee shops, bookstores, and restaurants. These small businesses have accounted for more than 60% of job growth in the U.S. over the last few decades and offer a great deal of value to their local communities. But their traditional financing channel (home equity loans) is increasingly out of reach because fewer people are buying homes. This cultural shift has created a strain on aspiring small business owners who consistently identify access to capital as the biggest obstacle to launching their venture.

MainVest’s solution: MainVest was created to help communities invest in local businesses. The company unlocks funding for neighborhood brick-and-mortar stores like boutiques, cafes, theaters, and more that serve the community and offer value in more ways than one. Through innovative financing tools — including revenue sharing notes and equity-alternative revenue notes — MainVest lets local investors in on a piece of future sales while offering businesses a more flexible financing solution than a bank loan or equity investments.

Origin story: An early Uber employee, Nick Mathews launched and grew Uber’s operations in Boston and on the east coast. On the heels of Congress’s recently-formed Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, Nick and Ben Blieden, who holds a CFA and has spent years working in small business valuation, saw an opportunity to apply the new legislation to their local community in a meaningful way. They teamed up with Felix le Dem to build MainVest as a tool to jump-start small businesses, starting in New England, by empowering entrepreneurs with new financing options.

Why we’re betting on it: Home ownership has fallen since 2008, meaning fewer entrepreneurs have the opportunity to collateralize small business loans with home equity. But with the passing of the Jobs Act in 2016, the current $613 billion in U.S. small business loans can now be financed by debt crowdfunding.

MainVest fills the gap and matches local investors with local businesses. With a collective background in local marketplaces and pricing small business loans, the team is well-suited to scale this hyper-local solution nationally. We’re excited about the experience that the MainVest team brings to bear on this market and the positive impact that supporting the launch of in-demand businesses will have on local communities.

Our take: As early-stage investors, we’re strong advocates of entrepreneurship and its inherent economic value. But we also understand that institutional investment is not the right form of capital for most companies. Local consumers are often both the best predictors of a community’s need for a particular business and the key drivers of that business’s long-term success. MainVest, which enables those consumers to support the launch of local businesses, is a powerful tool that can help not only address the lack of financing options available for entrepreneurs, but to also empower consumers throughout the process. It’s a clear bet on the long-term value of local entrepreneurship and local networks, and one we’re proud to support.

Check out careers at MainVest.

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Lerer Hippeau

Lerer Hippeau is an early-stage venture capital fund based in New York City. As founders and operators ourselves, we see returns in relationships.

Lerer Hippeau

Written by

Lerer Hippeau is an early-stage venture capital fund based in New York City. As founders and operators ourselves, we see returns in relationships.

Lerer Hippeau

Lerer Hippeau is an early-stage venture capital fund based in New York City. As founders and operators ourselves, we see returns in relationships.