Over forty northern companies recently got some air to do business again thanks to the Corona Bridging Loan (COL). NOM provided the loans on behalf of the national government, amounting to more than ten million euros in the meantime. And there is more in the pipeline.
Nearly one hundred applications, of which about forty were accepted. The COL, which has been available for application since the end of April, is well used in the Northern Netherlands. Startups are it, scale-ups too, as are innovative SMEs and family businesses that do not have relationships with the bank. From numerous industries and sectors, with different customer bases and idiosyncrasies. But with one big similarity: covid-19 hit hard.
,,When you see the amounts we are allowed to lend, you cannot but conclude that this loan was badly needed by the northern business community. And still is, because the COL is still open for new applications, until October 1,'' says Rob Drees, fund manager at the NOM. ''It is an emergency instrument for companies that have run into financial problems due to the covid-19 crisis. The loan should provide a temporary bridge to "break-even" or the next round of funding. As an entrepreneur, you must be purely affected by the virus and the measures. This is not a loan for companies just to be able to be a little more spacious.''
Quarter of a million
On average, a company borrowed 250,000 euros, but larger amounts were also lent, in those cases in combination with co-financing. In the first year, the applicant pays no interest (3%) and repayment, after that there is a repayment period of two years. ''Although that term can be extended to a limited extent.''
The blow was great last spring. Corona and the measures being taken to contain the virus brought - and are bringing - many companies into trouble. In haste, an aid package was put together to address the highest needs. One of its components was the COL. Implementation was left to the Regional Development Companies, so in the case of the Northern Netherlands the NOM, in cooperation with Techleap.
Two to three weeks
,,That was an intensive and hectic process. A good portal had to be created in a hurry, nationwide uniform agreements had to be made, standard contracts drawn up, employees aligned. All to help the business community as quickly as possible. A unique experience actually. Within two to three working weeks, applicants have the money in their accounts. If they get approval.''
This is by no means true in all cases. More than half of the applications were not given the green light. Drees: "Usually because we concluded that the company in question was not doing well even before the crisis, or that the future prospects were too poor. In that case, Corona was no more than an extra push. The COL is and remains a loan that you obviously have to be able to repay.''
The COL imposed more restrictions. For example, it is explicitly intended for companies that cannot get funding through other means - read: the bank. So startups and scaleups, but also family businesses, which are not used to getting money through the bank or raising shareholders.
,,I notice that the entrepreneurs are happy and relieved to have resources so quickly to continue, to develop further. Even more interestingly, I see that it does something for the mindset. Entrepreneurs regain faith and confidence in the future. They get the space to make plans.''
That the implementation of the COL runs through NOM is actually logical. Checking applications, screening companies, outlining future prospects, helping entrepreneurs move forward; that is what NOM has always done. For the next round of grants, NOM has a slightly different role. Drees: ,,What is left in the pot now will be distributed at the national level. But northern companies should definitely continue to submit their applications. We obviously do our utmost for the companies in the North. That is what we are there for.''