Crowdestor review

Crowdestor’s overview

Crowdestor offers real-estate and business loans. Their interest rates are usually in the 14%-20% range, for durations varying from one to two years. A partial buyback guarantee A buyback guarantee is a guarantee provided by the platform or a loan originator.
If repayment of a loan is delayed by more than a given delay (usually 30 or 60 days),
the platform or loan originator will buy back the loan. The guarantee may cover only
part of the capital, or in a much more interesting case, both the capital and accrued
interests. As the conditions vary from one platform to another, it’s very important
to check this point.
is provided through a warranty fund.

My opinion on Crowdestor

Crowdestor’s enhanced projects description and borrower’s credit report are a huge step forward in terms of investors information. Indeed, it’s now possible to reliably evaluate the risks of a given loan.

However, several aspects of the platform still have to improve. First, the lack of project status has to be addressed quickly. Also, the platform should improve its overall transparency (by disclosing global statistics regarding delayed/defaulted loans) and communication. Finally, the solidity of the recovery process remains to be seen.

Overall, if these concerns are addressed, I’m very positive regarding Crowdestor’s future.

Detailed ratings

Actual performance

My returns have gone down because of the leniency period during the Covid-19 lockdown; I also have several delayed repayments.

Loans liquidity

There are many new investment opportunities each month, which allows a large portfolio diversification.

Reporting

Reporting has slightly improved with the most recent upgrade to the website. However, the lack of a status report for the portfolio is very problematic.

Transparency & reliability

Communication and transparency have improved, but the management and reporting of delays/defaulted loans needs to be much improved.

Website ergonomics

Crowdestor‘s website is basic but works well.

Crowdestor’s pros & cons

Pros

  • High interest rates
  • Financed businesses belong to diversified sectors
  • Partial buyback guarantee through a provision fund
  • Projects are added very regularly
  • Availability of a standardized scoring model and detailed financial information for new loans

Cons

  • High-yield projects sell out quickly
  • No secondary market or early exit
  • Poor statistics on delayed / defaulted projects

Loans characteristics

Loans duration

Medium-term : one month to one year

Long-term : more than one year

Loans kinds

Business

Real-estate

Minimal investment

€ 50

Buyback guarantee

Buyback guarantee available

Currencies

EUR – Euro

Overview of Crowdestor’s loans

Crowdestor allows investors to lend money to SMEs. Interest rates usually range between 14% and 20%. The loans durations also vary greatly; they can be as short as 3 months and as long as 24 months.

The diversify of the financed businesses is one of Crowdestor’s great strengths. Here’s a sample of the borrowers :

  • A drum school
  • An hotel
  • Several forestry exploitation
  • A construction company
  • A mobile game development studio
  • A warehouse
  • Several hostels
  • Transportation companies
  • A car rental business

Most borrower are located in Latvia; however, among recent projects, there were also :

  • a bar in Moscow
  • an indoor beach volleyball center in Estonia
  • two resorts in Cambodia
  • a transportation company in the UK
  • a kart track in Belgium
A subset of Crowdestor's active projects in late November 2019
A subset of Crowdestor's active projects in late November 2019

Most loans yield interests monthly, although there are some variations. Investors who want a regular cash-flow should check the projects descriptions carefully !

This loan only starts yielding interests after 6 months
This loan only starts yielding interests after 6 months

Minimal investment amount used to be € 100 per project, but has been lowered to € 50. However, unlike CrowdEstate, the invested amount doesn’t need to be a multiple of € 50. This allows you to reinvest interests faster !

In the future, there will be a stronger projects segmentation, so this minimal investment is likely to be different from one project to another.

Another interesting aspect is that interests are computed from the day you start investing, instead of the day when the project is completely funded. And even if the project doesn’t get successfully funded when the deadline comes, you still get interests for the period between your investment and the deadline !

Several projects were funded in several rounds, which is a common practice; for example, the “hostel renovation” project was first granted a € 200,000 loan, then a second loan for an amount of € 450,000 a few months later.

Loans volume

Until Spring 2020, there were usually several new projects coming each week. During the Covid-19 epidemics, Crowdestor has announced expansion plans, which are detailed below. This has lead to the company focusing on building an automated scoring model for loan applications; while it was developed, few new projects appeared on the platform.

Most of them were initially issued by loan originator Monify, before being bought back by Crowdestor.

Now that the first phase of the SME automation is live, one can expect the loans volume to increase, as they are automatically processed.

The amount needed for each project is usually rather small (around € 100,000 – € 200,000), so they get funded rather quickly. However, there are also a few very large financed amounts; indeed, several loans reached € 950,000. On the other hand, the capital for the loans issued by Monify was commonly smaller than for previous projects. One of them, granted to a temporary employment agency, was as small as € 1,391 !

Again, thanks to the automated application process, smaller loans should become commonplace.

Buyback guarantee

In late February 2019, Crowdestor announced the creation of a buyback fund. It will be used to reimburse part of the invested capital in case the borrower defaults. The initial amount was € 50,000; it grows thanks to a commission on new projects.

In early July 2020, it stands at € 360,000. The platform originally expected to reach € 100,000 at the end of 2019; thanks to the large volume of loans funded, this amount was reached much earlier !

Initially, Crowdestor’s website didn’t provide much information regarding how the buyback fund will work. It turned out that it only covered a marginal fraction of the invested capital.

Fortunately, the platform decided to clarify and actually improve the rules governing this fund :

  • It got renamed from “Buyback fund” to “Provision fund”; this new name is clearer, as a buyback fund usually implies a full capital reimbursement in case the borrower defaults.
  • The new rules are now published on the platform’s website.
  • More importantly, it now takes into account the expected default rate (at worst 10%); this will lead to an increase of the amount distributed to investors. Actually, it will be ten times higher than using the previous formula !

In order to illustrate how it works, I’ll use the example given by Crowdestor. Let’s assume the total amount of outstanding loans is 20 million; the 10% default rate gives a defaulted amount of 2 million. Thus, if a project amounting to € 100,000 defaults, the reimbursed capital will be 5% of the provision fund (as € 100,000 is 5% of € 2,000,000). With the current provision fund level, it means that € 18,800 will be available.

Of course, these computation don’t take into account the amounts recovered from the borrower.

Platform’s transparency and reliability

Although things are headed in the right direction in terms of transparency and communication, there’s still a lot of room for improvement – especially in terms of reporting -.

Crowdestor’s background and team

Crowdestor was founded in Janis Timma and Gunars Udris in 2017. The platform is registered in Tallinn, Estonia but their offices are in Riga, Latvia.

Janis Timma is an expert in energy sector – he’s CEO of the Latvian Cogeneration Association -. One of his early projects was actually crowdfunded on CrowdEstate before he founded Crowdestor !

Artur Geisari, who’s also the CEO and co-founder of loan originator Monify, joined Crowdestor as Head of SME in Spring 2020.

Crowdestor now employs more than 20 people. A recent improvement in terms of transparency is that the composition of the whole team is now disclosed on the platform’s website. Weirdly, there isn’t a direct link to their LinkedIn profiles, but their work email is provided.

There’s no financial report publicly available. An unaudited report was provided to potential investors when Crowdestor raised money to funds its growth in Spring 2020. It shows a small profit for 2019, while the platform expects a loss for 2020 and 2021 due to large investments and new hires. The platform plans to release reports audited by a big accounting firm starting next year.

In total, the platform has financed loans for an amount close to 40 million euros. More than 15 000 investors are registered on the platform.

Loans descriptions

A long-standing critics towards Crowdestor was the lack of information regarding borrowers. Indeed, in spite of the sometimes long projects descriptions, many investors complained (rightfully) about the lack of financial information regarding the borrower. It was thus hard to evaluate the risk of investing.

However, with the launch of the SME automation in August 2020, investors now have a direct access to the borrower’s financials. And even investors will little financial knowledge will be able to use Crowdestor’s rating in order to assess whether a given loan matches their risk appetite !

Crowdestor's first automated SME project

For investors, the two main advantages of automated loan application processing are :

  • A unified evaluation for borrowers, with detailed metrics allowing investors to assess the risks
  • The ability to scale easily, which should increase the loans supply and thus improve the liquidity

A detailed explanation of the credit scoring model is available on Crowdestor’s website. I’m a bit skeptical regarding the claim that 500 databases are used for scoring, though. Indeed, as a former IT, I realize that connecting to outside databases or web services can be painful; I’m thus very surprised that Crowdestor’s IT team managed to connect to so many databases in a matter of months.

Let’s start by examining the “key metrics” grid; it contains extremely useful information.

Key borrower metrics on Crowdestor's project description

Borrowers are assigned a rating. The rating scale ranges from AAA – which indicates a very high credit quality – to E – for defaulted or soon-defaulted companies -. Loan applications resulting in a rating from AAA to C are considered fundable, while lower ratings result in a rejection.

The standardized company rating gives an indication of the probability of default. For the highest rating (AAA), it stands below 1%; for the lowest fundable rating (C), it stands between 12% and 16%.

The exact default probability computed by the model is available. When multiplied by the Loss given default (which indicates the likely capital loss after a default), it indicates the expected capital loss. In the screenshot above, it’s around 7%. As the interest rate for this project’s investors is 28.5%, the average return for this loan is expected to be above 21%.

Of course, this will hold only if the model is correct, and for sufficiently diversified portfolios. A 78% capital loss on a poorly diversified portfolio is indeed likely to be a catastrophe. What I really appreciate with the availability of these statistics is that they help realize the actual risk of the portfolio.

The description also contains a summary of the borrower’s financials. I regret that until now, they’re only available for the year 2018.

Borrower's financials

As can be seen on the above screenshot, a link to public information on borrowing company is provided (and the financial report is available for download). For Latvian companies, Lursoft is used.

Finally, the credit report provided to the borrower is also available for download as a PDF. With the exception of a few confidential information which has been redacted, it’s the same report that’s provided to the borrower after a loan request.

It’s 15 pages long, and although part of it is already available on the project’s description, it also provides new information.

Among these, the effective interest rate charged to the borrower – which includes Crowdestor’s commission. For example, for the latest “Meat factory” loan, the interest rate for investors is 28.5%, but the final interest rate for the borrower is 40.7% !

Actual interest rate for borrowers can be very high

We can also assess the company’s financial health, as we can see how it stands compared the industry average for several meaningful ratios :

  • Gross margin
  • Profit margin
  • Debt/equity ratio
  • Current ratio
  • Quick ratio
  • Inventory turnover
  • Collection days
  • Revenue per employee
Evaluation of the borrower's financial health

Overall, I’m really impressed by the credit report. If Crowdestor’s scoring model is correct, it will be an invaluable tool for investors to pick up the loans matching their risk profile !

In addition to these automated SME loan requests, Crowdestor plans to keep on accepting what they call specialized projects. They’re typically larger and less standard than SME projects. Past projects such as WarHunt (movie production), Dystopia : Rebel Empires (mobile game development) are likely to fall in this category.

A negative aspect of the platform is that it’s impossible to check projects before they open. This leads to a FOMO (fear of missing out) effect, and many investors invest their money blindly.

Also, once a project is totally funded, the description is only available for investors who funded it (although Google’s cache may help with that).

Reporting & statistics availability

Crucial data such as delayed loans currently aren’t currently visible in the dashboard. Indeed, the platform currently displays zero portfolio overview. Investors thus need to rely on a shared projects list to track delayed repayments ! This topic leads to a lot of frustration for investors. The issue should be addressed by the platform during the summer.

Public statistics such as total loans volume or number of registered users are available. I hope that they will add a portfolio overview visible by everyone, in a way similar to EstateGuru‘s statistics.

Track record

If Crowdestor is a great platforms for borrowers, the platform’s track record is still unclear. Indeed, many loans were supposed to be repaid in Spring 2020, but the coronavirus crisis has delayed most loans reimbursements. Fortunately, most borrowers started repaying again in June 2020, with the exception of those in sectors such as exhibitions, concerts or fashion who were granted an additional delay.

Reimbursement for one particular loan – a fertilizer company – has been delayed for more than two months. It has caused a lot of concern among investors for several reasons. First, the delay is very large compared to the loan’s duration (3 month). Also, the loan amount is rather large, as it’s close to one million euros. Finally, the reason given by the borrower for the delay was AML/KYC (Anti Money Laundering / Know Your Customer) procedures; these are the same reasons invoked by several scam platforms in the past to justify large delays. Fortunately, the relevant documents proving that the delay was caused by a genuine reason were provided to Crowdestor’s team, which has somehow calmed down investors.

Out of 280 funded projects, an unofficial count lists around 25 delayed projects; that’s around 10% of the total. It’s interesting to see that this figure roughly matches Crowdestor’s expectation for defaults. I wish that Crowdestor would follow EstateGuru‘s example and publish a regular status update of the late loans (and recovery process when necessary) !

Communication & support

In terms of communication, things have obviously improved in 2020. Crowdestor’s CEO Janis Timma now communicates a lot, either on Crowdestor’s unofficial Telegram channel, or on the platform’s official Facebook page for investors. Unfortunately, having several communication channels means that news are spread between several communications means – not to mention the noise inherent to Telegram or Facebook groups -.

I wish the platform used their blog to communicate instead of these channels; it would probably be more efficient. Fortunately, they seem to have realized this; for example, the new rules governing the provision fund were published on the blog as well as sent by e-mail (in addition to Crowdestor’s Facebook group and unofficial Telegram group !).

Finally, messages from borrowers are usually transmitted to investors by e-mail as soon as they’re available.

Update from a borrower regarding a loan's schedule

Of course, the lack of communication from few borrowers is still very frustrating. Several investor expressed their dissatisfaction regarding the lack of information regarding delays, although it was clear that the borrower knew ahead of schedule that he would miss the repayment deadline.

In addition to these messages, most e-mails from Crowdestor will be announcements of new projects. It’s possible to opt-out of these notifications from the Profile screen.

It’s possible to get in touch with Crowdestor by phone or e-mail.

At some point, I sent an e-mail to the support as my account’s balance was incorrect. They quickly replied that this incident was being investigated; when I logged in the following day, my balance was back to normal. However, I regret that they didn’t get in touch to notify me that the problem got fixed.

Impact of Covid-19 outbreak on Crowdestor

The Covid-19 outbreak had many impacts on Crowdestor. Although several of them will have a negative financial impact on investors, this crisis also lead to positive consequences in term of communication.

First, the platform announced the introduction of a three-months leniency period in March 2020. As a consequence, all loans repayments are deferred until the end of June 2020. A poll was conducted among investors in order to decide how to handle the delayed interests. Unfortunately, the votes cast by investors didn’t lead to a very definite outcome. As a result, different decisions were taken depending on the borrowers.

Here’s a sample of the decisions taken by the platform for sectors which were heavily impacted by the crisis :

  • The projects in tourism industry were hurt very badly by the crisis. As a result, the recovery period was extended for 3 more months. Interest rates for the recovery period will be paid in September, when repayments resume. Borrowers will be able to request an additional fundraising campaign. Loans repayments from borrowers in the luxury goods sector will follow the same rules.
  • In the exhibitions and entertainment sector, the loan itself will be extended for 9 month. Interests for this extra period for will half the initial interest rate, and will be paid at the end of the loan period.

In other sectors, consequences are less dramatic and don’t require an extra recovery period :

  • Companies in the energy the energy sector will repay interests for the recovery period along with the next scheduled repayment.
  • Borrowers in the transport industry will pay back the interests for the recovery period at the end of loan period. The same applies to consumer and leasing loan projects, or food and beverage industry as well as advertising.

Of course, this is just a theoretical schedule. It remains to be seen whether borrowers will be able to actually make repayments.

The second consequence was a large decrease of the loans volume. The number of available loans and their amount have both decreased. However, in June there were many new small projects (below € 50,000) from Monify’s portfolio each week.

The third consequence of this decreased activity was that the communication from Crowdestor has improved a lot. With less requests from borrowers, the platform’s management finally has some free time to deal with investors’ questions – a welcome change -. The platform set up a dedicated Facebook page for investors, and the management is now active in Telegram channels. The result is a much better communication on projects statuses.

Crowdestor’s expansion plans

In Spring 2020, Crowdestor announced an equity campaign. Although the details were confidential, what can be revealed is that the platform plans to expand and automate their processes.

Indeed, while Crowdestor’s management was praised for being hard workers, the manual processing of loans requests didn’t leave them a lot of time for the much needed communication towards borrowers. Moreover, it made it very hard for the platform to scale up and increase the loans volume.

In late April 2020, Artur Geisari (the CEO and co-founder of loan originator Monify) joined Crowdestor as Head of SME. In a letter to Crowdestor investors, he cited “automated, and standardized SME lending” as a new direction for Crowdestor.

Finally, in August, the first phase of the automation process was unveiled. As we’ll shortly see, it brought many improvements in terms of risk assessment. It is currently available to companies located in Latvia and Estonia. Other countries are expected to be available in the coming months. Currently, the target countries are Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, Italy, Ireland, Slovenia and Slovakia.

Another visible impact of the equity campaign is that the platform’s team has grown a lot – both in IT and finance-related fields -. Indeed, 13 new employees joined the platform, which has more than doubled the employees count.

Further planned developments include the availability of a secondary market, as well as a auto-invest feature.

Platform’s features

Early exit

Early exit NOT AVAILABLE

Investing methods

Manual investing

Manual investing at Crowdestor

Upcoming projects are usually visible on the platform a few days before they’re available (between one day and two weeks ahead of time). Unfortunately, as already mentioned, investors can’t access the description before the funding actually starts.

Although most recent projects required a few days to be totally funded, several got funded in a matter of minutes.

One missing feature would be the ability to filter out projects where the investor already invested in a previous funding round.

Auto-invest

it’s currently not possible to invest automatically. A section named “Auto-invest” is present on the platform, but it leads to a “coming soon” page. In summer 2020, when the SME automation was launched, the platform confirmed that this feature is still planned. However, no timeline was provided.

Secondary market

Unlike CrowdEstate, Crowdestor doesn’t provide a secondary market. There’s no early exit mechanism either; as a result, you won’t be able to sell your investment early. As of August 2020, the secondary market is expected to be available in 3 to 6 months.

Website’s ease of use

Languages

English, German, Spanish

Funding methods

Crowdestor’s registration process

Signing up at Crowdestor is straightforward, as is often the case for crowdlending platforms.

KYC is now handled by Veriff, which I consider the most user-friendly identity verification service available.

During the registration process, investors have to define a PIN code in addition to the password; it will be required when investing. Another safety measure is the optional use of Google Authenticator.

Account funding and funds withdrawal

Website’s design and ergonomics

Crowdestor‘s website is simple but well designed.

One negative, though, is the very low session duration. Indeed, after the attacks on the platform’s website in July 2020, sessions expire very quickly.

Sessions are now extremely short, which forces users to login frequently

Available languages & translations quality

Crowdestor’s website is available in English as well as in German and Spanish. The English translation is great.

I previously wrote that there was a Portuguese translation, but either I was wrong or this featured was removed.

Reporting

I initially found Crowdestor’s dashboard too crude to be useful, as it lacked many useful features. Fortunately, with the website’s redesign in November 2019 came a new and improved dashboard. It’s now easy to evaluate the diversification of your portfolio, see the incoming payments for next month, or marvel at the growing profits chart – which actually became a flat line for 3 long months in Spring 2020 because of the coronavirus -.

Of course, as repeatedly pointed out in this review, the absence of a status report is very problematic.

Documentation

Crowdestor’s documentation could be improved. Indeed, while the FAQ A FAQ is simply a compilation of Frequently Asked Questions is rather complete, breaking it down into sections would make it much more readable. Moreover, apart from the FAQ, there’s very little documentation available.

Actual performance of my Crowdestor portfolio

12,60%

At the end of August 2020, the XIRR for my Crowdestor portfolio was 12,60%.

With zero interest received for three months in Spring 2020, the performance of my Crowdestor portfolio took a large hit. However, most borrowers started reimbursing again in late June, so my returns started increasing.

Don't hesitate to read my most recent crowdlending portfolio review for detailed platforms performance comparison as well as historical performance.

Portfolio creation date

I created my Crowdestor portfolio in February 2018.

Crowdestor's main competitors

For a detailed comparison of the different real-estate and business crowdlending platforms, check out this article.

Crowdestor's facts & figures

Location

Tallinn, Estonia

Founded in

2017

Number of investors

15,762

Loans amount financed

€ 38,539,748

As of August 2020

Who can invest at Crowdestor

  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • You must have an active bank account in one of the European Union or EEA banks.
Crowdestor FAQ

In conclusion...

For investors who want to invest in speculative loans, Crowdestor is an excellent choice. Also, thanks to the implementation of the credit score, even more conservative investors will be able to find loans which suit their low risk appetite.

In both cases, it's crucial to build a sufficiently diversified loans portfolio in order to reduce the impact in case a borrower defaults !

Disclosure

Please note that this review may contain affiliate links. It means that I will earn a commission if you decide to invest after clicking through the link – at no additional cost to you, of course -. Please understand that I have experienced all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the commissions I make if you decide to invest through my links.