Fintech startup Clearco raises $215 mln in SoftBank-led funding

OAKLAND, Calif., July 8 (Reuters) - Clearco, a fintech company that offers capital to startups, said on Thursday it raised $215 million in an equity funding round led by SoftBank Group Corp's (9984.T) Vision Fund 2 as it accelerates its international expansion.

The company, based in New York, London and Toronto, was started in 2015 by Canadian entrepreneurs and investors Andrew D'Souza and Michele Romanow. Romanow, who is on Canadian reality TV show "Dragon's Den" where entrepreneurs pitch ideas for an investment, said she heard proposals again and again for funding for marketing and inventory.

"I remember talking to Andrew and I was like, why are founders using the most expensive capital in the world to do something that really has a fixed return?" said Romanow.

The two came up with the idea of funding startups and being repaid with 1% to 20% of the revenue until they recuperate the entire investment, plus another 6% to 12% depending on where the money is spent.

So far they have provided $2.4 billion to 5,500 founders, said D'Souza.

E-commerce, mobile app and enterprise software companies with $10,000 or more in monthly revenue can apply for up to $10 million by just plugging all their financial accounts into Clearco's system which analyzes the data and suggests where to spend the money for the greatest benefit.

Clearco said this model has led it to fund eight times as many companies headed by female founders as traditional venture capital firms last year. About 13% of Clearco's funding went to companies headed by Black and Hispanic founders versus 2.6% for traditional venture capital firms.

The founders declined to talk about the latest valuation, but in April Clearco raised $100 million for a valuation of just under $2 billion.

Reporting by Jane Lanhee Lee; Editing by Richard Chang

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.