Chris Lay is CEO of Endeavour, based in Seal Beach, CA. Chris came to factoring in an unusual way – after a PhD in Neurobiology followed by experience in startups and investing. Chris learned about factoring while seeking a high risk/high reward investment opportunity for a group of investors, and was so taken by the model that he jumped into the industry and launched Endeavour with a partner.
What’s special about Endeavour?
We’ve got an esoteric niche of factoring government contractors for defense, the intelligence community, and space. I started my career as a DARPA-funded Graduate student and my partner worked at NASA. We saw firsthand how slowly the government pays its contractors. And a lot of these companies can’t get traditional bank loans – if a bank is FDIC-insured, it can be a conflict of interest to loan money to the same entity that’s insuring them. In the intelligence space, if there’s classified work involved, banks won’t touch it.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is learning about the amazing technology that people are creating. I love the idea that there are people putting together really innovative solutions in support of national security. For example, we recently connected with a talented Operator who is utilizing proton entanglement for quantum key encoding…in space! Not only is this intellectually totally fascinating, but if we’re able to support their mission in some very minor way, that’s really inspirational.
Also, we earmark 50% of our profits to go back to charities that support veterans, their communities, and their families. Increasingly, this is the reason we get up in the morning.
What do you wish was different about factoring?
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of negative baggage that goes along with the term “factoring.” We barely even use the word – instead, we offer an Accounts Receivable funding product. We’ve found that the under-35 generation is open-minded and wants to hear what’s available. But when I talk to our older client base, for better or worse, they see factoring as a “last resort”-type of financing. Some of our industry peers have loaded in various and sundry fees, overcomplicated everything, and basically made it look like a super high interest loan. If there was a way to hit a reset button and double down on how and when factoring should be used properly, it would do wonders for our industry’s general reputation.
What do you think the future of factoring will look like?
This trend of decentralized finance using blockchain technology is a democratization of finance. Companies no longer have to go to their traditional banks for financing. They can go to these crowdfunded marketplaces and sell their assets there. It’s just fascinating to me that people are realizing there are all these alternative solutions out there, factoring being a fantastic one. Clients can work with a small factor, build a relationship with them where the factor understands the client’s business and can make funding decisions quickly. It’s a much better way to leverage assets, and it’s becoming an increasingly well-recognized tool in clients’ arsenals.
I can envision a factoring company like ours issuing an ICO (Initial Coin Offering) – a “FactorCoin,” if you will. There’ll be no notice of assignment. No need for securing flow of funds. None of this reserve and recourse jargon – it all goes away with the blockchain since it’s a public ledger that’s immutable. The client will have perfect comfort and visibility. The mechanism to do business will be so easy, understandable, and ironclad. Contracts would even get slimmed down. So many inefficiencies and frictions in this process would be revolutionized.
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
I’m a fan of Jocko Willink, a former Navy SEAL. If you haven’t watched his TED Talk, you should. He says, “When things are going bad, there’s going to be some good that’s going to come from it,” and “We all have a tendency to avoid our weaknesses. When we do that, we never progress or get any better.”
What do you do for fun outside of work?
My wife and I have been married for six years, and we’ve got two boys, four years and 19 month old. We love being active, and depending on the season, we’re teaching our older son to surf or snowboard. The little one will be next!